Maya Angelou doing a little reading in her dressing room before her performance at the Village Vanguard in New York City. Long before she was a poet and writer and the icon we know today, Dr. Angelou was a dancer and singer of folk and calypso songs (she even recorded an album in 1957 called “Miss Calypso” and appeared in the film “Calypso Heat Wave” that same year. This photo was taken by G. Marshall Wilson, who was a staff photographer at Ebony for 33 years. Photo: Art.com
Carmen explains that she’s her own woman in Carmen Jones (1954). For her performance in this role, Dorothy Dandridge became the first African-American woman nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress.
“Using rarely accessed photographic archives and private collections, inspired by her family history, Nichelle Gainer has unearthed a revealing treasure trove of historic photographs of famous actors, dancers, writers and entertainers who worked in the 20th-century entertainment business, but who rarely appeared in the same publications as their white counterparts.
Alongside the familiar images and stories of renowned performers such as Eartha Kitt, Lena Horne and Aretha Franklin are those of less well-remembered figures such as Bricktop, Pearl Primus, Diana Sands and many, many more. Vintage Black Glamour is a unique, sumptuous and revealing celebration of the lives and indomitable spirit of Black women of a previous era.
Although talented, successful and ground-breaking, many of the women in these pages were ignored by mainstream media, but their life’s work and attitude stand as inspiration for us still, today. With its stunning photographs and insightful biographies, this book is a hugely important addition to Black history archives.”
“Baker was a woman torn between multiple identities and multiple loves. She lived for her loves and in a certain sense, died as a result of them. It seems to me that as a key to understanding her destiny, nothing is more important than the song ‘I Have Two Loves,’ which became her theme song and was associated with her throughout her life. In my opinion, everything is contained in the song’s assertion, ‘I have two loves, my country and Paris,’ which goes far beyond its apparent simplicity. In these few words, Baker transcends herself and reaches out to the destiny of an entire generation. It is in this far-reaching influence that we can see the startling modernity of this woman, who resembled and even surpassed Colette and George Sand. She wished to be free all her life, and she was always guided by that passion and commitment.”
Simon Njami in Bennetta Jules-Rosette’s Josephine Baker in Art and Life: The Icon and the Image
Today, Misty Copeland was named Principal Ballerina at American Ballet Theatre, the first Black ballerina in the company’s 75 year history. The photo on the right is Ms. Copeland being congratulated by one of her idols, Raven Wilkinson. Ms. Wilkinson was the first Black woman to dance full-time with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in 1955 - but racism stunted much of her career in the United States. The photo on the right was taken by Gene Schiavone. The photo of Ms. Wilkinson in the 1950s was provided by her to Pointe Magazine
“She [Dorothy Dandridge] was peaches and cream. She was just so frigging pretty that when she walked out in front of the audience with that low cut dress and those killer boobs and that little waist, she was just a killer. Just a killer.” - Bobby Short
Coretta Scott King and her daughter, Yolanda, photographed by Moneta Sleet for EBONY in 1958. Moneta Sleet was the Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer who took the famous shot of Mrs. King with her daughter Bernice at Dr. King’s funeral in 1968.
Cecil Williams in the 1950s - and today. I am taking the liberty of posting Mr. Williams again so people can see him now. From my original post: I thought about this searing, beautiful picture today in light of recent events in the United States. I, like many others, shared it a few years ago on my blog, but it was only today that I finally found the name of the man in the photograph! His name is Cecil Williams and, he happens to be a photographer himself. The photo was probably taken by Mr. Williams mentor, John Goodwin, who joined him for a talk at Richland Library in Columbia, South Carolina in September 2013 about their experiences as black photographers in South Carolina during Jim Crow and the Civil Rights era. Mr. Williams, an Orangeburg, South Carolina native was a correspondent for Jet Magazine when he was only 15 and made national news after shooting some crucial pictures after the 1968 Orangeburg Massacre. This picture of Mr. Williams currently hangs over the water fountain on the Garden level of the Richland Library in Columbia, South Carolina.