A DUSKY BEAUTY : MISS AIDA OVERTON WALKER

The subject of this vintage real photo postcard is Miss Aida Overton Walker. The caption above her name refers to her as “A Dusky Beauty”. Seems like a racist title to me. I don’t recall ever seeing its equivalent, “A Pasty Beauty”, on a portrait of a white female performer. Aida Overton Walker (1880-1914) was known as “The Queen of the Cakewalk”. She was African-American and an American vaudeville performer, singer, actress, and choreographer. She has been called the most famous African American female performer of the early twentieth century. She was married in 1899 to vaudeville performer, George Walker. Aida and her husband performed with the highly successful Bert Williams. They were the major black vaudeville and musical comedy act of the era. She was also a solo dancer and choreographer for a number of other vaudeville shows. Aida was well known for her 1912 performance of the ”’salome” dance. Aida was born in Richmond, Virginia and moved to New York City when she was young. She was educated there and received a great deal of musical training. When she was fifteen years old she joined the “Octoroons”, a black touring group. In 1900 she gained national notice with her performance of  “Miss Hannah from Savannah” in the play, “Sons of Ham”.  The song became a major hit. Overton Walker had significant theatrical success with her performances in Dahomey (1902), Abyssinia (1906), and Bandana Land (1908). Overall, Aida was praised by critics and fellow performers. She was financially successful. In 1908 she retired to care for her ill husband. In 1910 she returned to the stage as a solo act. In 1911, her husband died. By 1912, she was on tour again. That same year, she performed on Broadway as Salome. In 1914, Walker died suddenly from kidney failure. Two years before her death, she was performing in white variety theaters. She and Bert Williams were the only Black performers “permitted” to do so. At that time, African Americans were expected to confine themselves to “lower” entertainment such as comedy and ragtime. “High” art, like dramatic theater and classical dance were reserved for whites. Aida helped break that racist tradition. During her career, Aida addressed the issue of racial relations. She stated in an article in “The Colored American Magazine (1905), her view that that the performing arts could have a beneficial effect on race relations. Walker asserted “I venture to think and dare to state that our profession does more toward the alleviation of color prejudice than any other profession among colored people.” She also worked to improve working conditions, and to expand roles for black women on the stage. During the period Walker was performing, female actresses, especially black actresses, were seen as “immoral and oversexed”. Aida wrote “a woman does not lose her dignity…when she enters stage life”. Walker also worked to develop the talents of younger black performers within the framework of refinement and elegance. In 1908, she began organizing benefits to assist such causes as the Industrial Home for Colored Working Girls. This vintage postcard was published by Raphael Tuck, of Paris, France. The photographer of Miss Walker was Cavendish Morton (1874-1939). The National Portrait Gallery possesses 104 of Morton’s portraits. Morton had several careers including electrical engineering, architecture, acting, illustrating, and in the 1890’s he took up photography. He is known for his theatrical photo portraits. His son was a well known watercolor artist. This postcard was postmarked in 1908, The postcard is in good condition. See the youtube video below. It is a tribute to Aida Overton Walker. 

 

Buy this original Vintage Real Photo Postcard (includes shipping within the US) #2841

To purchase this item, click on the Pay with PayPal button below

$38.50

Buy this original Vintage Real Photo Postcard (includes International shipping outside the US) #2841

To purchase this item, click on the Pay with PayPal button below

$47.00

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Use of the term “dusky” is quite common, for blacks but also for many ethnic groups, I’ve seen it used for Egyptian ladies, Eastern European, the Pacific Islands. Interesting that it is a Raphael Tuck card.


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