Everyone knows Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King, Jr., but there are many other African Americans who have contributed to the rich fabric of our country but whose names have fallen through the cracks of history.
We’ve asked some of our authors who chose to write biographies of these talented leaders why we should remember them. We’ll feature their answers throughout Black History Month.
Today, Alan Schroeder shares why he wrote about Florence Mills in Baby Flo: Florence Mills Lights Up the Stage:
While researching African-American life, I have come across the name Florence Mills time and again. She was a famous singer and dancer in the 1920s, but not much is known about her today. She is a “forgotten” celebrity. Then, a few years ago, a man named Bill Egan wrote a marvelous biography of Mills, which I happened to read. Thanks to Mr. Egan, Mills’s incredible career sprang to life, and I knew I wanted to write about her — to share her story with young readers.
Unlike Booker T. Washington or Frederick Douglass or Martin Luther King, Jr., Florence Mills is not an important figure in American or African-American life. Children do not need to know about her in the way that they should know about Douglass or King, or Cesar Chavez, or Harvey Milk. Nevertheless, her story was interesting, and her hard work and many accomplishments can, I think, serve as an inspiration to young readers. In an amazingly short time, Florence Mills rose to the very top of her profession, and I had a wonderful time researching and writing about her.