May 25 ~  Worked Just As Hard TAP! Greatest Tap Dance Stars

"What success I achieved in the theater is due to the fact that I have always worked just as hard when there were ten people in the house as when there were thousands. Just as hard in Springfield, Illinois as on Broadway." ~ Bill "Bojangles" Robinson

Bill Bojangles Robinson, Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Carl Van Vechten collection

Beloved artist, entertainer, and humanitarian Bill "Bojangles" Robinson (1878-1949) was born Luther Robinson on this day in Richmond, Virginia.

The grandson of a slave, he dropped out of school at age seven and began dancing for a living. His joy for dancing earned him the nickname "Mr. Bojangles."

"Everything is copacetic," he said with a celebration of the rightness of life.

Performing groundbreaking vaudeville and musical stage routines, Robinson used wooden taps on his shoe and created a new tapping style, dancing on his toes, instead of flat-feet. He appeared in fourteen films, dancing alongside little Shirley Temple in four of them.

He led a super-tap troupe in Stormy Weather and played Will Rogers's servant in In Old Kentucky (1935). A passionate perfectionist, in his most famous routine, Robinson tap danced up and down a staircase.

With fame, Robinson became a generous benefactor to those who were down on their luck. He appeared in thousands of fundraisers and in 1933 was named honorary "Mayor of Harlem." For the safety of the community, he also donated the money for the first traffic light in his hometown.

On his sixty-first birthday, Robinson danced down Broadway from Columbus Circle to 44th Street. In 1989, the U.S. Congress honored the entertainer for his excellence by designating today as National Tap Dancing Day.

More Dance Quotations

Box SetsMr. Bojangles: DANCE!