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 neighborhood.

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Additional 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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Sponsored by CBS, the committee produces a program “through which wellknown figures in the entertainment world could utilize their influence to create a countersentiment to mobism” (White 231). The roster includes luminaries such as Tallulah Bankhead, Duke Ellington, Lena Horne, Groucho Marx, Edward G. Robinson, and Orson Welles (White 232). White also finds support from prominent Negroes in Los Angeles and the Negro press for his side-stepping of the old guard community of Negro actors. Interestingly, color consciousness and physical appearance factors energize the support.

The image more often than not obfuscates the real person and, in turn, creates a silence. This study seeks to bring into the mainstream and, more important, to the academy the literary stories of black women in entertainment. It aims to give voice to those silences that generally go unheard or are disregarded in celebrity and academic cultures. The razzle-dazzle of celebrity culture always is lurking about to distract us from the dance on the white page black women in entertainment choreograph.

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. Because of the distance between life and film roles (among other good reasons), Gabriel invites the film and popular culture critic to delve into the lives of black actors and actresses.

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