By Charlene B. Regester
9 actresses, from Madame Sul-Te-Wan in start of a kingdom (1915) to Ethel Waters in Member of the marriage (1952), are profiled in African American Actresses. Charlene Regester poses questions on 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 half the 20 th century, taking an educated theoretical, ancient, and important strategy. (2011)
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Extra resources for African American actresses: the struggle for visibility, 1900-1960
Accepting negativity (otherness as defined by the master) has led to a new positivity (identity as reclaimed by the other), which in turn opens to a new set of negativities and positivities (the questioning and renaming of otherness, through the unnaming of both the master and his other). 100 While Sul-Te-Wan may have had to wrestle with such dynamics, she developed her own unique response to her invisibility through this construction of the invisible, thus rendering herself visible. “She [in this instance, Sul-Te-Wan] had not drawn something out of nothing (a meaningless act), but given to nothing, in its form of nothing, the form of something.
2 The invisibility of which Ellison’s protagonist speaks, and which he dramatizes through different episodes that reflect the chronological history of American blacks through the first half of the twentieth century, is an apt assessment of blacks in the American film industry, and particularly of the life (1873–1959) and career (1915–1959) of the black film actress Madame Sul-Te-Wan. In the early years of American cinema, the mainstream (Hollywood) film industry frequently prohibited African American actors and actresses from depicting themselves on the screen.
In the 1930s, some major mainstream publications continued to ignore Sul-Te-Wan, while a few others mentioned her. For example, the New York Times mentioned her in its reviews of Heaven on Earth, Ladies They Talk About, Black Moon, Maid of Salem, In Old Chicago, and Kentucky, while publications such as Variety, which reviewed many of these films, failed to mention her at all. Several of the minor publications did cite her work, perhaps because she had established a reputation as an actress and received more prominent screen roles.
African American actresses: the struggle for visibility, 1900-1960 by Charlene B. Regester