Georgia Burke

Georgia Burke (February 27, 1878 — November 28, 1985) was an African-American actress who had performed on television, radio, and Broadway theatre between the 1930s and the 1960s. In 1934 Burke made her debut in Broadway in They Shall Not Die,[1] and in 1944 she won a Donaldson Award as the third choice for Best Supporting Actress in Edward Chodorov's play, Decision.[2][3][4] Burke had performed in the 1952 U.S. State Department-sponsored international production of Porgy and Bess and had taken a role as a nurse in the radio program When a Girl Marries, which had been broadcast for 18 years. She had also performed in the 1944 Broadway production of Anna Lucasta[5][6] and its second film counterpart in 1958.

Georgia Burke
Georgia Burke

(1878-02-27)February 27, 1878
La Grange or Atlanta, Georgia
DiedNovember 28, 1985(1985-11-28) (aged 107)
Manhattan, New York City
Years activelate 1920/early 1930s - 1960s

Burke has been credited as one of the early appearances of the "stereotyped humorous black maid" in entertainment since her appearance in the radio soap opera Betty and Bob.[7]

She died in 1985 at the age of 107, at the De Witt Nursing Home in Manhattan.[5][6]

Early life and career

Burke was born on February 27, 1878, in La Grange[5] or Atlanta, Georgia,[8] to a minister and a nurse. She attended Claflin University and New Orleans University[5][1][9] and worked as a public school teacher in Wilson, North Carolina.[6] Due to a slapping incident by superintendent Charles L. Coon towards another teacher, Burke, along with other colored teachers at the school, protested the incident by resigning from her teaching position[10] and continued teaching at another school. Burke later moved to New York City, where she attended Columbia University in 1929.[5][9]

During a visit to Lew Leslie's first rehearsal of Blackbirds of 1928, a friend of Burke's urged her to sing St. Louis Blues in front of the rehearsal cast, where Leslie had walked in and—among hearing her voice—urged her to join the pre-existing choir for Blackbirds of 1928.[8] She was given a year's leave from teaching but never returned to her former teaching career.[6]







  1. Peterson, Bernard L. (2001). Profiles of African American Stage Performers and Theatre People, 1816-1960. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 39–40. ISBN 9780313295348.
  2. Jefferson, Miles M. (1945). "The Negro on Broadway--1944". Phylon. 6 (1): 49. doi:10.2307/271804. ISSN 0885-6818. JSTOR 271804.
  3. Campbell, Dick (1944-04-29). "GREAT ACTRESS IN GREAT PLAY Negroes Well Portrayed In "Decision"" (PDF). The Detroit Tribune. Retrieved 2019-04-11.
  4. "Billboard, July 8, 1944". The Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 1944-07-08. p. 5. Retrieved 2019-04-16.
  5. "Georgia Burke, 107; Acted Character Roles". The New York Times. 1985-12-04. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-04-11.
  6. Bracks, Lean'tin L.; Smith, Jessie Carney (2014-10-16). Black Women of the Harlem Renaissance Era. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 33–34. ISBN 9780810885431.
  7. MacDonald, J. Fred. "DTTD!: African-Americans in Radio: Blacks As Blacks". Retrieved 2019-04-18.
  8. "Inside the Playbill: Anna Lucasta - Opening Night at the Mansfield Theatre". Playbill. 1944-09-17. Retrieved 2019-05-02.
  9. "Playgoers Cheer Georgia Burke On Broadway". Jet. Johnson Publishing Company. 1952-04-10. ISSN 0021-5996. Retrieved 2019-04-11.
  10. "NORTH CAROLINA". The Crisis. The Crisis Publishing Company, Inc. June 1918. pp. 70–71. Retrieved 2019-05-02.
  11. MacDonald, J. Fred. "Bias in Video Drama". Retrieved 2019-04-30.
  12. Hischak, Thomas S. (2017-03-06). 100 Greatest American Plays. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 174. ISBN 9781442256064.
  13. Willis, John A. (1987). John Willis' Theatre World. Crown Publishers. p. 227. ISBN 9780517565308.
  14. "Radio Recall - MWOTRC". Retrieved 2019-04-30.

Further reading

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