In 1921, Shuffle Along, a musical revue, opened on Broadway and ran for nearly 484 performances. With book by Flournoy Miller and Aubrey Lyles, music by Eubie Blake and lyrics by Noble Sissie, Shuffle Along is about a mayoral race in a small town. Two contenders for mayor promise to appoint the other as sheriff of the town. One of the candidates cheats and wins the office but when it comes out, he and his newly appointed sheriff get into a huge fight in the middle of town. When another citizen hears this, he vows to run for mayor during the next election and oust both men out of office. The new contender wins the race for mayor and wins his love and runs the crooked former mayor and sheriff out of town.
The first run of this show was not only wildly successful but was equally as important in theater history. The show helped to launch the careers of Adelaide Hall, Paul Robeson and Josephine Baker. The song “I’m Just Wild About Harry” became so popular that Harry Truman used it as his theme song for his presidential campaign. Shuffle Along was one of the first shows to break the taboo of showing African American love on the stage. Most importantly, this was one of the first financially successful shows written by African Americans, directed by an African American and starring African Americans. After Shuffle Along, there were nine shows that starred African Americans that opened with in 3 years after it opened. Loften Mitchell, a historian, said that this piece was so important that it could be credited as launching the Harlem Renaissance.
Shuffle Along closed in 1922 but the show toured the country until 1924. In 1933 and 1952, there were 2 more revivals of Shuffle Along on Broadway.