The “Queen of the Cakewalk”, Aida Overton Walker addressed Black writers/critics’ disregard for and criticism of the acting profession in a December issue of The Freeman. After first addressing the main topic at hand, she proceeded to suggest proactive steps that could prepare up-and-coming black performers for the stage. Below is an excerpt from her article:
"I have stated that we ought to strive to produce great actors and actresses; by this I do not mean that all our men and women who possess talent for the stage should commence the study of Shakespeare’s works. Already, too many of our people wish to master Shakespeare, which is really a ridiculous notion. There are characteristics and natural tendencies in our own people which make as beautiful studies for the stage as any to be found in the make-up of any other race, and perhaps far more. By carefully studying our own graces, we learn to appreciate the noble and the beautiful in ourselves, just as other people have discovered the graces and beauty in themselves from studying and acting that which is noble in them. Unless we learn the lesson of self-appreciating and practice it, we shall spend our lives imitating other people and depreciating ourselves. There is nothing equal to originality, and I think much time is lost in trying to do something that has been done and "overdone," much better than you will be able to do it."
The Freeman (Dec. 28, 1912) - Link
Anna May Wong's Certificate of Identity, August 18, 1924, National Archives at San Francisco.
She was born Wong Liu Tsong in 1905 in Los Angeles to a Cantonese-American family that had lived in America since at least 1855. However, being an American didn’t matter in a time when people of Chinese descent were being heavily legislated against. Beginning in 1909, any people of Chinese descent entering or residing in the US, regardless of the country of their birth, had to carry a Certificate of Identity with them at all times. Even at the peak of her fame, Wong still had to carry papers like the one above to prove she was allowed to be here. Read the rest of the article.
Part of the Easter parade on the South Side of Chicago, 1941- Russell Lee (via)
The Supremes in Paris c. 1960s
Diana Ross backstage at The Apollo Theater by Bruce Davidson, 1965
(VIA Magnum Photos)
Young Eartha Kitt
Nina Simone photographed by Charles “Teenie” Harris, 1965
PLEASE LET IT BE THE BEGINNING OF THAT SPIDER-WOMAN
—Spidey Super Stories #11 (1975) script by Jean Thomas, art by Win Mortimer & Mike Esposito
Original caption: Billie Holiday at a court appearance slaying your faves while draped in furs, c. 1949
Interviewer: But the question is more, how do you get there? Do you get there by confrontation, violence?
Davis: Oh, is that the question you were asking? Yeah see, that’s another thing. When you talk about a revolution, most people think violence, without realizing that the real content of any revolutionary thrust lies in the principles and the goals that you’re striving for, not in the way you reach them. On the other hand, because of the way this society’s organized, because of the violence that exists on the surface everywhere, you have to expect that there are going to be such explosions. You have to expect things like that as reactions. If you are a black person and live in the black community all your life and walk out on the street everyday seeing white policemen surrounding you… when I was living in Los Angeles, for instance, long before the situation in L.A ever occurred, I was constantly stopped. No, the police didn’t know who I was. But I was a black women and I had a natural and they, I suppose thought I might be “militant.”
And when you live under a situation like that constantly, and then you ask me, you know, whether I approve of violence. I mean, that just doesn’t make any sense at all. Whether I approve of guns.
I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. Some very, very good friends of mine were killed by bombs, bombs that were planted by racists. I remember, from the time I was very small, I remember the sounds of bombs exploding across the street. Our house shaking. I remember my father having to have guns at his disposal at all times, because of the fact that, at any moment, we might expect to be attacked. The man who was, at that time, in complete control of the city government, his name was Bull Connor, would often get on the radio and make statements like, “Niggers have moved into a white neighborhood. We better expect some bloodshed tonight.” And sure enough, there would be bloodshed. After the four young girls who lived, one of them lived next door to me…I was very good friends with the sister of another one. My sister was very good friends with all three of them. My mother taught one of them in her class. My mother—in fact, when the bombing occurred, one of the mothers of one of the young girls called my mother and said, “Can you take me down to the church to pick up Carol? We heard about the bombing and I don’t have my car.” And they went down and what did they find? They found limbs and heads strewn all over the place. And then, after that, in my neighborhood, all the men organized themselves into an armed patrol. They had to take their guns and patrol our community every night because they did not want that to happen again.