Wilhelminia “Baby” Mack

Asbury Park’s first black vaudeville star was born in the city in August 1899 to a white mother and black father who were not married. As such unions were not accepted at the time, Wilhelminia’s mother gave her up to an impoverished black woman, a widow named Mrs. Mac.

Often with little to eat,  young Wilhelminia took small jobs washing and cleaning to help out until age 14.  She completed seventh grade in public school but dropped out to look for full time work.  A year later, she was overheard singing by Lawrence Deas, manager the West Side's Royal Theatre.  Deas helped her put together a song act and had her change her name to "Baby" Mac.

 Singing locally, Baby Mac became very popular.  Deas recommended her to S. H. Dudley, one of the biggest names in black vaudeville.  Dudley gave her a contract to perform on the Theater Owners' Booking Association (T.O.B.A.) circuit for $25 weekly.  Of that, $10 was sent back home to her foster mother.

By 1916, Baby Mac was touring and performing with Tolliver's Smart Set.  Baby Mac continued performing through the 1920's, joining the vaudeville troupe of Drake and Walker.  She was one of the West Side's earliest singers to gain national recognition.