Tap dancer Joey Hollingsworth receives Ontario Black History Society lifetime achievement award

A Canadian man famous for his tap dancing received a lifetime achievement award from the Ontario Black History Society on Sunday.

Ontario man broke racial barriers through tap dancing, society says

Joey Hollingsworth received the Ontario Black History Society's first lifetime achievement award. (CBC)

A Canadian man famous for his tap dancing received a lifetime achievement award from the Ontario Black History Society on Sunday.

Joey Hollingsworth, born in London, Ont., broke racial barriers through his televised performances, the society said in a news release.

He received the society's first-ever lifetime achievement award at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. 
Joey Hollingsworth, born in London, Ont., broke racial barriers through his televised performances, according to the Ontario Black History Society. (YouTube)

"I've done a lot of first things, but this is very exciting for me," Hollingsworth said about the award.

Natasha Henry, president of the Ontario Black History Society, called Hollingsworth a "trailblazer."

"He's definitely a role model, he's a historic icon," Henry said. "He was one of the first African-Canadian performers on television, so that is something that definitely needs to be highlighted."

Hollingsworth was one of the earliest black performers on CBC Television, the society's press release said. 
Singer and dancer Joey Hollingsworth appears on a 1967 episode of CBC variety show The Peggy Neville Show. 2:36

Among his accomplishments, Hollingsworth includes being the first black performer at multiple venues.

"I was at the Cabana Motor Hotel, and that was a segregated hotel at the time," he said. "I was the one that integrated it and was quite excited." 

According to Hollingsworth, his career also featured performances at civil rights shows, including one for Martin Luther King Jr.

Television stardom

The society described Hollingsworth as a "dance man" in the oldest traditions of tap. He said he began tap dancing when he was three years old and became professional when he was five.

Besides tap dancing, Hollingsworth said he sang, did comedy and played the conga drums.

His career led him to appear on many TV shows in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. "I did [CBC's] Pick the Stars in 1954," he said.

Joey Hollingsworth in the 1992 Mr. Dressup episode Grandpa Joey's Return. (CBC)

According to Hollingsworth, he also performed on many children's shows, including Mr. Dressup.

A regular on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood for over ten years, Hollingsworth was a joy to watch, making tap seem effortless. 

Hollingsworth also helped make a name for himself when he appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1962.

His career wasn't only limited to television. Hollingsworth says he did a lot of travelling, including being sent by the Canadian government as "Mr. Maple Leaf" to Lima, Peru.

"'It's been a nice, long career, and I'm very proud of it," Hollingsworth added.