Mr. Bojangles

The Biography of Bill Robinson
Jim Haskins and N. R. Mitgang
ISBN 9781566491136 (paperback)
Published in August 1999
MSRP $14.00
"Haskins and Mitgang see Robinson plain and make clear his sparkle."
- Kirkus Review
"He was Mr. Show Business himself. His name stood out as sort of a beacon light to all the little hoofers, breaking their hearts out, Saturday's children, who loved the boards, and the lights and the crowds... He was a legend because he was raceless. He was not a great Negro dancer, he was the world's greatest dancer."
- Reverend Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.
"(Robinson's) life story, as recounted by Haskins and Mitgang with complete cooperation from the dancer's family and friends, stands as a moving study in bravery and a melancholy portrait of thwarted possibilities."
- Booklist
Fifty years after his death in 1949, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson is still the most famous tap dancer who ever lived, immortalized in the song "Mr. Bojangles", fondly remembered as Shirley Temple's dancer partner in three of her films, and the subject of a Fred Astaire dance routine, Bojangles of Harlem. Robinson was the first black single dancer to star in white vaudeville circuits, for nearly thirty years as a headliner. Not only did he get top billing at the Palace in New York, he also played command performances for kings, presidents, and lesser folk. His "stair dance" was so widely copied that he sought, unsuccessfully, to patent it. He appeared on radio and television, and played to packed houses on Broadway. And he was the man who added the word copasetic to the dictionary.

Mr. Bojangles , the first full-length biography of Bill Robinson, reveals the charmer, gambler, brawler, athlete, consummate entertainer, freedom fighter and crusader for actor's rights behind the man who pushed past the color barrier in the first half of the 20th century. Haskins and Mitgang, with access to many of the people who knew Bojangles best as well as to his scrapbooks and personal papers, have created a vivid portrait of the man behind the myth, from his birth in Richmond, Virginia to his death and his funeral, where Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, Jackie Robinson and Irving Berlin were among the honorary pallbearers.

Jim Haskins wrote biographies of Scott Joplin, Diana Ross, and Bricktop (also published by Welcome Rain), as well as The Cotton Club and Queen of the Blues.

N.R. Mitgang is a black theatre historian who has served on the executive board of the Negro Actors Guild, and has acted as a consultant for the Smithsonian, Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts, and the New York Archives. He lives in New York.