Month: March 2015

Quote of the Day

Ghanaian Model Grace Sarfo Kantanka
                                                Ghanaian Model Grace Sarfo Kantanka

“My Dark Skin Is A Gift From God for Which I am Forever Grateful”-Grace Sarfo Kantanka

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Nina Mae McKinney: (June 12, 1912 or 1913-May 3, 1967): America’s First Black Movie Starlette and Love Goddess

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This is Nina Mae McKinney. She was born Nannie Mayme McKinney in Lancaster, South Carolina on June 12, 1912 (some sources say she was born in 1913) to John and Nina McKinney. She was raised by her grandmother near the estate of Col. LeRoy Sanders. Her family worked on the estate for generations and her father worked as a mailman for 27 years. Nina later relocated to New York to live with her parents at age 12. Much is not known about Nina’s childhood and how she became interested in in acting and performing. It is said that she became interested in acting at an early age performing stunts on her bike when going to pick up the mail drawing big crowds and performing in Lancaster school plays. During Nina’s childhood, all-Black movie theaters were springing up all over the country, producing films with all-Black actors and actresses instead of whites in black face. It is said that Nina probably was inspired by these films shown in one of the eight all-black theaters in South Carolina including the traveling vaudeville shows of the South.

When she was seventeen years old she made her debut in Broadway’s Lew Leslie musical review, Blackbirds of 1928. Motion picture producer, King Vidor, saw and liked her performance and then offered her a role as “Chick” in his movie Hallelujah! one of the first Hollywood movies to feature an all-Black cast. Her energetic performance as a temptress, reportedly a role that was originally written for Blackbirds’ star Ethel Waters made her an overnight sensation. MGM’s Irving Thalberg hailed Nina as “the greatest acting discovery of the age.” As a result Nina emerged as the first recognized Black actress on film and the movie and film industry’s first Black starlette and love goddess.

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Unfortunately, the “Black Temptress” stereotype originated from her role that continues to haunt Black Actresses today. Critics described Nina’s role as that of “half-woman,half-child struggling between impulse and self-discipline with an uncontrolled raunchiness.” After rave reviews for her performance MGM (Metro Goldwyn Mayer) sign her to a five-year contract. Unfortunately, like so many other Black Women, Nina fell victim to the exploitation and oppression commonly faced by Black Women in the entertainment industry. Nina was a leading lady in an racist industry where Black Women were denied leading lady roles.

Although Nina was applauded as “one of the most beautiful women of her time,” and “one of the greatest discoveries of the age” her success was short-lived. MGM’s failure to develop properties for her talents and few roles for Black Actresses limited her career. Nina’s last MGM film roles in Safe In Hell (1931) and Reckless (1935) were small. Her contract expired ending her career in Hollywood. The only roles that were offered to Nina were roles in minor films, occasional short subjects, or in the race films of Oscar Micheaux.

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Nina left the United States to tour in Europe with pianist Garland Wilson where she sang in nightclubs in Paris, Budapest, London, and Dublin. She was well received by European audiences and dubbed the “Black Garbo.” Nina also starred in a revue called Chocolate and Cream (1933). In 1933, she was the first Black person to be televised in London when she appeared on a experimental  television program for John Logie Baird. She starred alongside Paul Robeson twice in the films Sanders of the River (1935) and Congo Road (1930).  She was among one of the first Black singers to perform at the London Palladium and at the Royal Command Performance for King George V.

Nina returned to the United States in 1939 and toured the country with  Pancho Diggs and his 13 member orchestra. Soon after, Nina married trumpeter Jimmy Monroe and divorced a year later. Still unable to find work in white produced films, Nina sought out work with Black production companies where she found roles in Gang Smashers (1938), Devil’s Daughter (1939), and Mantan Messes Up (1946).

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Nina’s last significant film role was in the film Pinky (1947), starring Ethel Waters in which she was the knife-wielding antagonist. After Pinky, she appeared in the film Copper Canyon (1950) and performed in the stage adaption of Rain (1951). Nina’s life during the late 1950s on into the 1960s is unknown. There are reports that she moved to Athens’ Greece in 1967 and returned to New York shortly before her death. She passed away on May 3, 1967.

Racist Hollywood prevented Nina and other Black actresses before and after her who had leading lady potential and other great talents from reaching their full potential, but her portrayal as “Chick” became the standard for the leading lady role in the film industry. It is also noted that although Nina had no formal training within performing arts, her natural talent make her accomplishments all the more noteworthy.

I Salute this AMAZING HER-story making sista!

Source:

Empak Enterprises. “Nina Mae McKinney.” A Salute to Historic Black Women. Empak Enterprises, Inc.

“Nina Mae McKinney.” African American Registry (2000-2013). Retrieved from  http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/black-garbo-nina-mckinney

Stamatel, Janet. “McKinney, Nina Mae 1912–1967.” Contemporary Black Biography. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. (March 24, 2015).http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2874200051.html

Shirley Anita St. Hill-Chisholm (November 30, 1924-January 1, 2005): Educator, Author, Civil Rights and Women’s Rights Activist, and America’s First Black Congresswoman

Shirley As A Young Woman

This is Shirley Anita St. Hill-Chisholm. She was born Shirley St. Hill on November 30, 1924 in a predominately black neighborhood in  Brooklyn, New York. She was the daughter of West Indian immigrants Charles St. Hill (a factory worker and Marcus Garvey follower) and Ruby Seale-St. Hill (domestic worker and seamstress) and the eldest of her four siblings. Mrs. St. Hill-Chisholm lived 7 years of her childhood in Barbados with her grandmother. At age 14, she met First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and First Lady Roosevelt offered her some advice that young Shirley took with her throughout the rest of her life: “Don’t Let Nobody Stand In Your Way.”She graduated cum laude from Brooklyn College in 1946, began teaching, and earned a master’s degree in elementary education from Columbia University. Mrs. St. Hill-Chisholm served as director of the Hamilton-Madison Child Care Center (1953 to 1959) and served as child educational consultant for the New York City Bureau of Child Welfare (1959-1964). Mrs. St.Hill-Chisholm began working in grassroots community organizing and joined the Democratic Party. In 1960, she helped establish the Unity Democratic Club. Her community base helped her to win the New York State Assembly in 1964.

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Mrs. St. Hill-Chisholm became the first African-American congresswoman in 1968, beginning her first seven terms in the House of Representatives. She was initially assigned to the House Forestry Committee and shocked many by demanding reassignment. She was then placed on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee and was promoted to the Education and Labor Committee. Congresswoman Chisholm became one of the founding members of the CBC (Congressional Black Caucus) in 1969. Congresswoman Chisholm made history again by becoming the first African-American to make a democratic bid for the U.S, presidency in 1972. Congresswoman Chisholm was a major proponent for education and employment opportunities for minorities and she opposed the U.S. military draft. She also opposed the Vietnam War and was an activist for women’s rights. In 1971, Congresswoman Chisholm helped found the National Women’s Political Caucus. She left congress in 1983 and began teaching at Mount Holyoke College she and was  very popular on the lecture circuit. In 1984 she helped to establish the NPCBW (National Political Congress of Black Women) and briefly served as U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica during the Clinton Administration.

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She was married to Conrad Chisholm, an investigator from 1949 to 1977. She then married Arthur Hardwick Jr., a businessman in 1986. She authored two books Unbought and Unbossed (1970) and The Good Fight (1973). She passed away on January 1, 2005 after a series of strokes. In 2004 she said of herself:

“I want history to remember me not just as the first black woman to be elected to Congress, not as the first black woman to have made a bid for the presidency of the United States, but as a black woman who lived in the 20th century and dared to be herself.”

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I Salute this AMAZING HER-story making sista!

Sources:  

“Shirley Chisholm.” Bio. A&E Television Networks, 2015. Web. 24 Mar. 2015.

“Shirley Chisholm”. Women’s History. Women’s History.About.com, 2015. Web. 24. Mar. 2015.

Black Women and Girls (Some of Who Are Famous, Powerful, or both Themselves) As Famous and Powerful Black Women

Black Woman As Cleopatra
Black Woman As Queen Nefertiti
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Beautiful Black Princess As Shirley Chisholm
Black Girl As Queen Hatshepsut
  Beautiful Black Princess As Queen       Hatshepsut
Liya Kebede As Cleopatra VII
 Liya Kebede As Queen  Cleopatra VII
Beautiful Black Princess As "Stagecoach" Mary Fields
Beautiful Black Princess As “Stagecoach” Mary Fields
Black Woman As Dorothy Actress/Singer Dandridge
Black Woman As Dorothy Dandridge
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Regina King As Eartha Kitt on   Ebony’s  65th Anniversary Issue
Actress Esther Rolle As "Stagecoach" Mary Fields
Esther Rolle As “Stagecoach” Mary Fields
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Nia Long As Dorothy Dandridge Ebony’s 65th Anniversary Issue
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Yolanda Adams As  Mahalia Jackson  on Ebony’s 65th Anniversary Issue
Actress Taraji P. Henson As Actress Diahann Carroll
Taraji P. Henson As Diahann Carroll  on Ebony’s 65th Anniversary Issue
Actress Halle Berry As Singer, Dancer, and First Black Woman to Win An Academy Award Nomination, Dorothy Dandridge
 Halle Berry As Dorothy  Dandridge
Actress Gina Torres As Cleopatra VII
                                                   Gina Torres As Queen Cleopatra VII
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                                                                             Lynn Whitfield As Josephine Baker