Developments in the world of Florence Mills lore may not happen at the frenetic pace of the modern media but there are plenty of things happening from time to time so I hope to update this page regularly.
The previous editions of news can be seen still at Archive No. 1, No. 2 , No.3 , No.4 , No.5 and No.6
The Paul Colin portrait of Florence mentioned below is now officially catalogued in the American National Portrait Gallery collection, though the image itself is not shown for copyright reasons but it can be viewed in person at the Gallery in the Smithsonian at Washington DC. To check out the Catalogue entry, enter "Florence Mills" in the "Sitter name" at this link:
US National Portrait Gallery Lecture on Florence Mills
On July 28 Ms Ann Shumard, the Gallery's curator
of photographs, gave a public lecture on the famous Edward Steichen portrait of
Florence Mills, which was the only full page photograph of a Black person
published in Vanity Fair in the 1920s (Paul Robeson was next, in
the Thirties). A report on the lecture can be seen on the Gallery's Blog,
"Face to Face", at:
This was in association with an exhibition of Steichen images staged by the NPG from July to 1 September. Some of the images from the exhibition, including Florence's, can still be seen online at:
http://www.npg.si.edu/exhibit/steichen/index.htm . Click the "Enter" box and then select the "Image Gallery" menu item to view the images
Incidentally, Florence is also represented in the UK National Portrait Gallery; See:
There are five images to select from.
Historic Florence Mills artwork identified after 80 years
Recently I went to the Art Deco Exhibition in
Melbourne, originally mounted by the Albert and Victoria Museum in London.
One section dealt with the 1925 Paris Exposition and in particular focused
heavily on Josephine Baker and the iconic Paul Colin posters featured in his
1927 publication Le Tumulte Noir. There was a montage of
artwork from Le Tumulte Noir, including the obvious Baker ones but
also a selection of others. On looking at one of these images I said to my
family, "But that's Florence Mills."
On returning home I checked my collection and confirmed that the Colin poster matched in all significant details the attire worn by Florence in photos I had from Blackbirds of 1926, which played Paris for three months in the summer of 1926, precisely the period when Paul Colin was working on Le Tumulte Noir. The same image is identified in the USA National Portrait Gallery (NPG) online exhibition http://www.npg.si.edu/exh/noir/ identified as "Dancing man with large hat" I submitted information about the photographs to the NPG, to alert them about their possession of an unidentified Florence Mills artwork/portrait and received the following confirmation:
"This is wonderful news. You have very persuasive evidence and I can’t see any reason not to agree that the portrait is Florence Mills especially when she was performing in Blackbirds in 1926. We do have the entire portfolio so we will change our records. And hopefully we’ll soon find an opportunity to exhibit our new found Florence Mills".
So, after 80 years, it is now finally known that Paul Colin portrayed Florence Mills, as well as Josephine Baker, in his famous lithographs. For full details including image, photo etc go to:
Florence Mills and Le Tumulte Noir
Howard Theatre to rise from the ashes
Wonderful news of glad tidings on the Howard Theatre front from Washington DC. There is a major move afoot to restore the theatre to its old grandeur and significance, news that would have gladdened the heart of my dear old friend Henry Whitehead, who tried to get it to happen back in the Seventies. Details can be seen at:
Florence Mills was one of the early performers at
the Howard, having played there in 1915 with her partner Kinky Caldwell.
This venture well deserves support, so give them a donation ( http://www.howardtheatre.org/support.html ) and sign up for their newsletter to keep hearing the good news.
(Postscript: great news of the Howard is sadly not matched from LA's Florence Mills theatre renovation project, where things seem to have gone very quiet; hopefully it's just a temporary setback in current troubled financial times, as funding appeared to be established for the project. Any good news would be appreciated.
That's all for now,
Back to top