African American Actresses

African American Actresses

The Struggle for Visibility, 1900–1960
Charlene B. Regester
Distribution: World
Publication date: 06/14/2010
Format: Paperback 14 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-22192-6
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A Choice Outstanding Academic Book of 2011

Nine actresses, from Madame Sul-Te-Wan in Birth of a Nation (1915) to Ethel Waters in Member of the Wedding (1952), are profiled in African American Actresses. Charlene Regester poses questions about prevailing racial politics, on-screen and off-screen identities, and black stardom and white stardom. She reveals how these women fought for their roles as well as what they compromised (or didn't compromise). Regester repositions these actresses to highlight their contributions to cinema in the first half of the 20th century, taking an informed theoretical, historical, and critical approach.

Author Bio

Charlene Regester is Associate Professor of African and Afro-American Studies at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. She is co-editor of the Oscar Micheaux Society Newsletter and serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Film and Video.


“In this important work, Charlene Regester brings into focus the lives and careers of representative black women actresses in Hollywood across generational divides in order to reposition them beyond the confining shadow of otherness and marginality. The sum result is a re-telling and correction of history.”
 — Audrey McCluskey, Indiana University Bloomington

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Table of Contents


1. Madame Sul-Te-Wan: The Struggle for Visibility
2. Nina Mae McKinney: Early Success and Tumultuous Career
3. Louise Beavers: Negotiating Racial Difference
4. Fredi Washington: The Masquerades and the Masks
5. Hattie McDaniel: Centering the Margin
6. Lena Horne: Actress and Activist
7. Hazel Scott: Resistance to Othering
8. Ethel Waters: Personification of Otherness
9. Dorothy Dandridge: Intertwining the Reel and the Real


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