Florence Mills Harlem Jazz Queen

Florence Mills Harlem Jazz Queen


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



Florence Mills: Harlem Jazz Queen, by Bill Egan. It’s an exhaustively thorough

biography of a woman who was arguably the first international

African American female star of the entertainment world.



Florence Mills: Harlem Jazz Queen


By Bill Egan



Bill Egan collects data carefully and is excellent in analyzing Mills’ impact on the culture and her central role in black show business as it matured….Egan’s book well conveys Mills’ charismatic power….well researched and well written, useful to anyone with any interest in American music and culture.

—September 2006, THE MISSISSIPPI RAG Bill Egan’s excellent new biography Florence Mills: Harlem Jazz Queen brings this crucial figure back to life, showing her important role in jazz and indeed African-American history….Egan skillfully interweaves Mills’ personal journey with historical background, showing the vitality and rough edges in this rich period of early jazz….thanks goodness for Egan, whose ten years of meticulous, tenacious research has at last given Mills a proper biography….the book’s rich selection of photographs shows Mills shining with a vitality that’s inspiring even eight decades after her death.

—ALL ABOUT JAZZ “This is undeniably the best book on jazz I have ever read.”

—THE JAZZ GAZETTE Recommended.

—Max Rodriguez, QBR THE BLACK BOOK REVIEW Elegantly written and illustrated, this fascinating volume, ten years in the making, is a worthy addition to Scarecrow’s ‘Studies in Jazz’ series and a fine read at that.

—JAZZ UK MAGAZINE I enjoyed Florence Mills: Harlem Jazz Queen, by Bill Egan. It’s an exhaustively thorough biography of a woman who was arguably the first international African American female star of the entertainment world….Mills is largely forgotten today, but Mr. Egan’s affectionate and scholarly and immensely entertaining biography should correct that. His book is a monument not only to Mills’ memory, but to the history of popular theatre as it matured via jazz from vaudeville to Broadway.

—Eric Washington, National Public Radio, Summer Reading: The Listeners Choose The book is methodically researched and carefully documented, using primary source material that has only recently become available; the latter includes numerous interviews with Mills and her husband. A fine addition to the “Studies in Jazz” series, this well-written biography provides rich insights into an important figure in American music. Recommended.

—CHOICE This well written and comprehensive biography will be an invaluable reference as well as paying tribute to an extraordinary performer.


Florence Mills, who died tragically young in 1927, was undoubtedly the most influential female black entertainer of her day…Bill Egan’s deeply rewarding book reflects his 10 years work by taking us through her life and career in meticulous detail…organised with clarity in an easy straightforward style.

—THE JAZZ RAG D unique biography of the African American entertainer of the 1920s from childhood to her death at age 31.

—THE BOOKWATCH As the first black female international superstar, jazz singer Florence Mills (1896-1927) changed the nature of black entertainment and opened doors for generations of performers. This text considers her influence on some important aspects of jazz singing and describes her connections with Duke Ellington. Independent scholar Egan concludes by examining Mills’ association with classical music through composers William Grant Still and Constant Lambert.

—REFERENCE & RESEARCH BOOK NEWS Welcome addition to the jazz canon…Mills’ artistic contributions come to life again in Bill Egan’s prose….documenting this entertainer par excellence. . . . Egan also provides the reader with an always important historical context.

—ELLINGTONIA By dint of dedicated and meticulous research, Bill Egan has managed to almost bring his subject back to life. She emerges from these pages not as a relic from the past but as a surprisingly contemporary and fully fledged human being, a woman not only of great beauty, charm and talent, but also of remarkable intelligence and humanity.

—Dan Morgenstern, Director, Institute of Jazz Studies, Rutgers UniversityBill Egan has created a first-rate biography, researched with passion, scholarly detail and clear commitment to the documentation of jazz artistry and culture.

—Bill Banfield, Director, American Cultural Studies/Jazz, University of St. Thomas Suffice it to say that there are few individuals who have ever heard of Florence Mills, and that includes some resolute jazz enthusiasts. But through much persistence Bill Egan has changed that and has illuminated our awareness of this entertainment legend….Harlem Jazz Queen explores the association between Florence and the early beginnings of jazz and ragtime, her keen intelligence and strong social conscience, and her phenomenal success as the first black international female superstar. It also documents her association with classical music with noted composers William Grant Still and Constant Lambert. This is a history that was too long coming, but one that will captivate and enlighten readers.


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updated 1 March 2010



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