African American actresses: the struggle for visibility, by Charlene B. Regester

By Charlene B. Regester

9 actresses, from Madame Sul-Te-Wan in delivery of a country (1915) to Ethel Waters in Member of the marriage (1952), are profiled in African American Actresses. Charlene Regester poses questions about winning racial politics, on-screen and off-screen identities, and black stardom and white stardom. She finds how those girls fought for his or her roles in addition to what they compromised (or did not compromise). Regester repositions those actresses to spotlight their contributions to cinema within the first 1/2 the twentieth century, taking an educated theoretical, historic, and significant technique. (2011)

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90 She is posthumously noted for her appearance in Hoodoo Ann by the American Film Institute Catalog: Feature Films 1911–1920 and Internet Movie Database, even though she remained unnamed in a Variety review of the picture at the time of its opening. Sul-Te-Wan’s invisibility extended beyond this early period into later decades of her career. In the 1920s, while her name appears more frequently in film reviews because of her increasing involvement in the industry, she is still relegated to minimal reports.

Donald Bogle’s Dorothy Dandridge: A Biography (1997) attempts to provide a comprehensive critique of Dandridge and her life as well as interrogate her imperfections. I n t r o du c t i o nâ•… · â•… 17 Kwakiutl L. Dreher, in Dancing on the White Page: Black Women Entertainers Writing Autobiography (2008), examines black female entertainers (Lena Horne, Dorothy Dandridge, Eartha Kitt, Diahann Carroll, Mary Wilson, and Whoopi Goldberg) who have written autobiographies and explores how these biographical works then become choreographed representations of their lives.

Of course, in the case of The Birth of a Nation this may have been a blessing rather than a curse, since not having her name connected with the film allowed her to dissociate herself from one of the most racially inflammatory films in American cinema history. m a d a m e s u l - t e - wa nâ•… · â•… 27 Sul-Te-Wan in Roles of the Other Though her employment title changed from maid to actress, Sul-Te-Wan subsequently still was cast in various roles as subservient, multiracial, and evil characters.

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