Florence Mills (1895-1927), entertainer
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 was designated a National Historic Landmark on December 8, 1976, as part of an African-American Theme Study prepared in the mid-1970s in anticipation of the American Bicentennial. However, it has been recently discovered that the house designated for the famed performer may not have been her actual residence. The NHL status for the building has been removed.
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