This article focuses on two Afro-Brazilian women, Rosa Negra and Déo Costa, who performed in the first Brazilian popular theatrical companies that consciously identified as Afro-descendant, the Companhia Negra de Revistas (1926–27) and the Ba-ta-clan Preta (1926–27). It draws on press coverage and the reception of performances by these women, situating them within the wider context of representations of Afro-Brazilian female subjectivity on the popular stage in Brazil since the turn of the century and in relation to transnational Afro-descendant performers such as Josephine Baker and Florence Mills, who enjoyed considerable success in the USA and abroad.  In addition to press sources, this article analyses a small number of extant revue scripts, including song lyrics and stage directions, to illuminate the engagement of these theatrical companies, and their black female performers, with transnational performance trends and modernist aesthetics in the long 1920s. Furthermore, it seeks to illustrate the assertive cosmopolitanism strategically adopted by these women. It addresses the following questions: How do we interpret the fact that these women felt obliged to position themselves in relation to a global or imported blackness? And how did they interpret and internalize the politics of their situation and self-presentation? Furthermore, what can these Brazilian examples contribute to discussions of the global political consequences of a transnationalized black performance culture in the inter-war period? This article illustrates how, in addition to participating in and contributing to the performative celebration of modern, racialized womanhood, Rosa Negra and Déo Costa also put this new vision of black female subjectivity into practice in their everyday lives, defiantly challenging social, gender, and class hierarchies, debating the issue of intellectual property, in Costa’s case, and race relations, in the case of Rosa Negra. It argues that they demonstrate an astute awareness of intersectionality avant la lettre.


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pp. 99-128
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