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Abyssinia (1906)

Sheet music for Abyssinia, 1906

Jesse A. Shipp (Book, Lyrics)
Will Marion Cook (Music)

20 February, 1906 – 1 August, 1906

            Williams and Walker’s second collaboration performing for Broadway. Abyssinia told the story of Rastus Johnson, played by Walker, winning a lottery and taking his dim-witted pal Jasmine Johnson, Williams’ character, to the African country of their ancestors. The duo’s misadventures land them before Abyssinia’s ruthless monarch Menelik, who bangs a gong to determine whether they’ll live or die: three bangs means death, four indicate life. At the show’s climax, after an extremely memorable pause, Menelik banged it a fourth time. In contrast to the African characters’ perfect English, Williams delivered his lines in minstrel jive.

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