Charles S. Gilpin was the first Black actor to star in a leading role on Broadway during a time where roles of color were previously played by White men in blackface.
In 1920, his portrayal of Brutus Jones in Eugene O’Neill’s play, The Emperor Jones, was hailed as “revelatory.” But by 1930, while O’Neill went on to become a legend, Gilpin was lost to history.
Gilpin was the first Black dramatic star in a lead role on Broadway, and was named one of its finest actors. He immediately became the darling of the theater world, receiving accolades and recognition no other Black actor had ever gotten—even being invited to the White House.
As Gilpin rose to fame and recognition, tensions became high between him and playwright Eugene O’Neill, one of the Founders of the Provincetown Players, which ultimately led to a parting of ways, though his acclaimed performance had changed Broadway forever. The Black Emperor of Broadway is based on a play by Adrienne Earle Pender, playwright and descendent of Charles S. Gilpin.
The movie stars Shaun Parkes as Charles S. Gilpin, John Carter Hensley as Eugene O’Neill, and Nija Okoro as Florence Gilpin.
For more information, please visit www.theblackemperor.com