Arts and Entertainment


Who was Charles Sidney Gilpin?

In 1920 Charles Sidney Gilpin (1878–1930) became the first black to star in a major American play, Eugene O’Neill’s The Emperor Jones. He has been called “the first modern American Negro to establish himself as a serious actor of first quality.” Born in Richmond, Virginia, he received little education. In 1896 Gilpin began traveling with vaudeville troupes, a practice which he followed for two years. In 1907 he joined the Pekin Stock Company of Chicago as a dramatic actor, and in 1916 the Lafayette Theater Company in Harlem. Gilpin played the lead in The Emperor Jones from 1920 to 1924, winning the Spingarn Medal in 1921 for his theatrical accomplishments.


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