Oxford AASC: Photo Essay

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PHOTO ESSAY

Blacks in Film and Television

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Dorothy Dandridge (center) in Porgy and Bess, 1959

Courtesy of Photofest

While black women had starring roles in movies before her, Dorothy Dandridge was arguably the first black woman movie star. During the 1950s Dandridge appeared in such films as The Harlem Globetrotters (1951), Jungle Queen (1951), and Porgy and Bess (1959—shown here). Dandridge's position as an attractive black actress put her career in a precarious position. She was considered too attractive not to play the role of the leading lady yet, due to fears of negative reactions to interracial romance by viewing audiences, she was not cast in roles where the leading man was white, which greatly limited the number of roles offered to her. In 1955 Dandridge was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in Carmen Jones (1954); she was the first black actor to be nominated for an Oscar in a starring role. A black woman would not win Best Actress until 2001 when Halle Berry won for her role in Monster's Ball.

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