Today we have a new very special stage addition in "The Howard Ostrom Holmes and Watson Autograph Collection" with the very first black Holmes and Watson adaption actors.
"Bert A. Williams (1875 - 1922), born in Nassau, Bahamas, played a character named Shylock Homestead, called “Shy” by his friends, in the African-American stage musical “In Dahomey” (1903). Bert A. Williams was a key figure in the development of African-American entertainment, and the first black superstar. In an age when racial inequality and stereotyping were commonplace, he became the first black American to take a lead role on the Broadway stage, and did much to push back racial barriers during his career.
Fellow vaudevillian W. C. Fields, who appeared in productions with Williams, described him as "the funniest man I ever saw – and the saddest man I ever knew." Williams had a partner named George W. Walker (1872 -1911). In “In Dahomey”, Walker portrayed slippery Rareback Pinkerton, opposite Williams’ Shylock “Shy” Homestead.
Jas Obrecht adds, “Among my papers, I have an original program that was handed out during the opening week of In Dahomey. Beneath the cast listing, it describes ‘The Story of ‘In Dahomey’” as follows: ‘An old Southern negro, ‘Lightfoot’ by name, president of the Dahomey Colonization Society, loses a silver casket, which, to use his language, has a cat scratched on the back. He sends to Boston for detectives to search for the missing treasure. Shylock Homestead and Rareback Pinkerton (Williams and Walker), the detectives on the case, failing to find the casket in Gatorville, Fla., ‘Lightfoot’s’ home, accompany the colonists to Dahomey.”
- Research and Article by Howard Ostrom.
If you wish to learn more the life and times of the very first black detective and doctor duo click here for an excellent informative article.
For more autographed photos of Stage Holmes and Watson actors click here.