The "Great Unknown" Lights Up the Stage

Saturday, June 10, 1871

In what the Chicago Tribune calls “the richest dramatic treat of this season, or of any season,” African American actor William M. Johnson, who is billed as “the Great Unknown,” gives his last performance of reading from Shakespeare at the St. James Hotel, under the auspices of the Dramatic Glee Club.  Johnson, the paper contends, “is certainly one of the most dazzling meteors that  have yet shot athwart our dramatic horizon.” He outshines such famous leading men as Edwin Booth and Edwin Forrest, thanks to “an undefinable something which stamps him as a genius far removed from them all.”