Florence Mills (1895-1927), entertainer
Florence Mills House|
Photograph by Harley Jones.
Florence Mills was one of the most acclaimed entertainers of the 1920s, and she used her status as a performer to comment on the nation's racial ills. For a number of years, this four-story rowhouse was thought to be Mills home for most of her tragically short life.
Mills first appeared in the musical "Shuffle Along," a work written, directed and performed entirely by African-Americans. Mill's performances were a marked departure from the all-male vaudeville style which dominated theater of the time, and her acting drew rave reviews. Mills became an international success, starring in later productions in Paris and London. Upon her return to New York, Florenz Ziegfeld offered her a major role in the "Ziegfeld Follies," which Mills, deeply conscious of rampant racial inequality despite her own stardom, turned down in order to participate in an all-Black revue. Mills hoped that her "own success makes people think better of other colored folk," and she was a major contributor to the growth and spirit of the Harlem Renaissance.
Following an illness, Florence Mills died in New York City on November 1, 1927. Over 5,000 mourners attended her funeral at the Mother Zion A.M.E. Church in Harlem and more than 150,000 people crowded Harlem's streets in tribute, the largest funeral in its history.
The Florence Mills House, a National Historic Landmark, is located at 220 West 135th St. in New York City, NY. The property is not open to the public.
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