Posts tagged "African American women"
Joyce Bryant is one of the reasons I couldn’t wait to get Vintage Black Glamour in book form. This photograph was taken by Carl Van Vechten on May 28, 1953 at the height of her career. Even with her undeniable soprano (with a 4 octave range) the focus was on her sexy image. Once dubbed the “black Marilyn Monroe,” constant mentions in Walter Winchell’s gossip column made her a star and she was widely considered the first dark-skinned Black woman to be considered a sex symbol inside and outside of the black community. Joyce earned nearly $1 million at her peak, but her upbringing in a very strict Seventh Day Adventist home left her feeling guilty about sex and her sexy image. According to Dorothy Dandridge’s biographer Donald Bogle, Dorothy pulled Joyce aside after a date in still-segregated Miami Beach and asked for advice on negotiating her nightclub fees (“What do you do? How do you get ask?) She was also very impressed with her stage presence (“How do you walk up on that stage and stay as calm as you are? It seems so easy for you.”) After a series of trying events, Joyce Bryant left show business at the top of her career and returned home and to the church. She worked with the church for 20 years, singing, ministering to the poor, enduring sexism and lies from people who were less than forgiving about her past. Finally, disappointed with the people in her church, she left and eventually made her way back to the stage. After doing opera in Europe, South America and the New York Opera Company, she had a successful cabaret run in the late 1970s and 1980s. As far as I can tell, Ms. Bryant is still with us (see the link in the comments). If you would like to pre-order my book, go to this link - and thank you! http://vintageblackglamourbook.com/

Joyce Bryant is one of the reasons I couldn’t wait to get Vintage Black Glamour in book form. This photograph was taken by Carl Van Vechten on May 28, 1953 at the height of her career. Even with her undeniable soprano (with a 4 octave range) the focus was on her sexy image. Once dubbed the “black Marilyn Monroe,” constant mentions in Walter Winchell’s gossip column made her a star and she was widely considered the first dark-skinned Black woman to be considered a sex symbol inside and outside of the black community. Joyce earned nearly $1 million at her peak, but her upbringing in a very strict Seventh Day Adventist home left her feeling guilty about sex and her sexy image. According to Dorothy Dandridge’s biographer Donald Bogle, Dorothy pulled Joyce aside after a date in still-segregated Miami Beach and asked for advice on negotiating her nightclub fees (“What do you do? How do you get ask?) She was also very impressed with her stage presence (“How do you walk up on that stage and stay as calm as you are? It seems so easy for you.”) After a series of trying events, Joyce Bryant left show business at the top of her career and returned home and to the church. She worked with the church for 20 years, singing, ministering to the poor, enduring sexism and lies from people who were less than forgiving about her past. Finally, disappointed with the people in her church, she left and eventually made her way back to the stage. After doing opera in Europe, South America and the New York Opera Company, she had a successful cabaret run in the late 1970s and 1980s. As far as I can tell, Ms. Bryant is still with us (see the link in the comments). If you would like to pre-order my book, go to this link - and thank you! http://vintageblackglamourbook.com/

Did you know that you can get a sneak peak at my new book? When you go to http://vintageblackglamourbook.com/ click the big red “Look Inside” button to get an idea of what you will be getting in June. This page features Princess Kouka of Sudan (Paul Robeson’s 1930s co-star) and the legendary dancer Jeni LeGon.

The great Charles “Teenie” Harris took this photo of ladies club members “Debs About Town” in 1941 on a step outside of the University of Pittsburgh’s Falk School. Photo: Carnegie Museum of Art.

Every month is Black History Month at Vintage Black Glamour, so I’m just going to keep doing business as usual here. This is educator, writer, activist Mary Church Terrell. Born in Memphis, Tennessee to wealthy parents who were former slaves (her father, Robert Reed Church, was the South’s first black millionaire), Ms. Church Terrell earned bachelor’s (1884) and master’s (1888) degrees from Oberlin College. She also studied in Europe for several years and was fluent in German, Spanish and French. Her language fluency came in handy in 1904 when she was invited to speak at the International Congress of Women in Berlin, Germany. The only black woman in attendance, she delivered her speech in German, French and English. Ms. Church Terrell was a founder and the first president of the National Association of Colored Women (Charlotte Hawkins Brown was a vice president). Adapting the motto “Lifting As We Climb,” the organization was formed, in part, in response to an attack on the character and respectability of African American women by an influential journalist who referred to them as “thieves and prostitutes”. Ms. Church Terrell died in 1954, at the age of 90, not long after leading the fight to desegregate restaurants in Washington, D.C.

Every month is Black History Month at Vintage Black Glamour, so I’m just going to keep doing business as usual here. This is educator, writer, activist Mary Church Terrell. Born in Memphis, Tennessee to wealthy parents who were former slaves (her father, Robert Reed Church, was the South’s first black millionaire), Ms. Church Terrell earned bachelor’s (1884) and master’s (1888) degrees from Oberlin College. She also studied in Europe for several years and was fluent in German, Spanish and French. Her language fluency came in handy in 1904 when she was invited to speak at the International Congress of Women in Berlin, Germany. The only black woman in attendance, she delivered her speech in German, French and English. Ms. Church Terrell was a founder and the first president of the National Association of Colored Women (Charlotte Hawkins Brown was a vice president). Adapting the motto “Lifting As We Climb,” the organization was formed, in part, in response to an attack on the character and respectability of African American women by an influential journalist who referred to them as “thieves and prostitutes”. Ms. Church Terrell died in 1954, at the age of 90, not long after leading the fight to desegregate restaurants in Washington, D.C.

Josephine Baker in Paris, 1940. This picture was taken around the time she joined the French Counterespionage Services and became a counterespionage agent. She was awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Medal of Resistance with Rosette by the French government for her efforts during World War II. Photo: Studio Harcourt, Ministry of Culture (France).

Josephine Baker in Paris, 1940. This picture was taken around the time she joined the French Counterespionage Services and became a counterespionage agent. She was awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Medal of Resistance with Rosette by the French government for her efforts during World War II. Photo: Studio Harcourt, Ministry of Culture (France).

Coretta Scott King, photographed during a Montgomery Bus Boycott Anniversary event in 1975. Photo: Todd Duncan, from the Ebony/Jet collection at Art.com

Coretta Scott King, photographed during a Montgomery Bus Boycott Anniversary event in 1975. Photo: Todd Duncan, from the Ebony/Jet collection at Art.com

Whenever I look at the great singer, dancer, actress and producer Aida Overton Walker, I think about how awesome it would be to see someone like Anika Noni Rose or Audra McDonald bring her to life on the stage. Born on Valentine’s Day in 1880 in New York City (some accounts say Richmond, VA, but my source is “Black Women in America,” edited by the foremost historian of black women, Darlene Clark Hine. Ms. Overton Walker changed her name from “Ada” to “Aida” late in her short but storied career, which began in the chorus of Black Patti’s Troubadours, the troupe founded by the one of the first black opera singers, Sissieretta Jones. She was best known for her work with the comedian and singer Bert Williams and her husband George Walker and, upon joining their Williams & Walker act around 1899, she choreographed all of their routines. She won critical acclaim for her solo performances, especially in the 1902 musical “In Dahomey” and sang three of the shows most popular tunes including “Leader of the Colored Aristocracy,” a song written by James Weldon Johnson (one of her most ardent admirers) and the brilliant composer and violinist, Will Marion Cook, expressed the desire of her character’s (Rosetta Lightfoot) desire for more opportunities in life. Ms. Overton Walker is also credited with popularizing the cakewalk, the 19th century dance craze that originated on slave plantations. Keenly aware about stereotypes and how they affected black people, on and offstage addressed members of the black elite who took issue with blacks in show business in a searing 1905 essay for the Colored American entitled “Colored Men and Women on the Stage.” In the essay, she wrote, “Some of our so-called society people regard the Stage as a place to be ashamed of…. In this age we are all fighting the one problem—that is the color problem! I venture to think and dare to state that our profession does more toward the alleviation of color prejudice than any other profession among colored people. The fact of the matter is this, that we come in contact with more white people in a week than other professional colored people in a year and more than some meet in a whole decade.” When her husband became ill around 1908, Ms. Overton Walker donned his costume and performed his routines along with her own until after his death in 1911. Some accounts of her life incorrectly report a decline in her career after the death of Mr. Walker, however, in 1912, she had great success touring the United States in a solo show as “Salome.” The photo here is Ms. Overton Walker in character as Salome, from the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Tragically, amidst her very successful career, Aida Overton Walker died at the age of 34 on October 11, 1914, after a brief illness.

I left quite a bit out of this lengthy post, but Ms. Overton Walker is featured prominently in my book, Vintage Black Glamour, which will be published in Spring 2014 by Rocket 88 Books. Please visit the book site and register for updates and pre-order information. http://vintageblackglamourbook.com/