Dancing on the White Page: Black Women Entertainers Writing by Kwakiutl L. Dreher

By Kwakiutl L. Dreher

Investigates the literary voices of six Black ladies entertainers and the way they negotiated the tensions among the leisure industries and the Black group.

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Extra resources for Dancing on the White Page: Black Women Entertainers Writing Autobiography (S U N Y Series, Cultural Studies in Cinema Video)

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First, the document launches Horne on a quest to deem herself worthy of the gift of being the first Negro woman to become a major contract player within the Hollywood studio system. Attendant to the question of “worthiness,” Horne experiences an interior discomfort as she wrestles with the displacement of her on-screen Negro predecessor, Hattie McDaniel. ” These components of popular culture have to signify more than mere spectacle for the enjoyment of the masses if she is to assume the role at MGM.

A talented songwriter, McDaniel records many of her own songs on the Okeh and Paramount labels in Chicago. Her career in Hollywood playing maids, however, makes her a wealthy woman, and she lives in Hollywood splendor just as film stars would. McDaniel’s contemporary, Ethel Waters, expresses her pride in playing the domestic in her films because playing that role, she writes in her autobiography His Eye Is On The Sparrow (1951), is a way to thank her grandmother, a domestic, and to pay respectful homage to those Negro women domestics who nursed families when other occupations are denied them.

Lena Horne refuses to perform before segregated armed forces in the 1940s. Dorothy Dandridge practically sacrifices herself as she demands dramatic roles for black actresses in the 1940s and 1950s. In the 1960s, Eartha Kitt unwittingly sacrifices her career by speaking out for impoverished youth and against the Vietnam War at the White House; Diahann Carroll appeals for a different perspective on single black mothers and single black women. Mary Wilson fights for a cohesive black sisterhood. Whoopi Goldberg validates “locker room” discourses for black women.

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