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Classic Black Beauties

Digging through the treasured past of black women in entertainment for Women's Month

By SAYHERNAME Morgan SankofaPublished 4 years ago 4 min read

Out of curiosity I was typing away at a Crossword Puzzle from "It's A Black". The online puzzle bursted with historical facts of black past. There was one question that stood out! "In 1901 who was the first President to bring Booker T. Washington to a White House Dinner?" I was stumped! So, when I searched.. unsurprisingly it was Theodore Roosevelt.. husband of Eleanor Roosevelt pioneer feminist and the progressive politicians of our colored history. This led me to another fun fact. The first black artist to perform in the White House! ( Who I will reveal first...) Using this time for Women's Month I will chronicle the black beauties of our past.


Born in Natchez, Mississippi around 1849 Marie Smith was funded voice lessons by a wealthy family. She moved to San Francisco and Chicago in the 1870's to study the Italian Method. After she married operatic baritone Sampson Williams, she became the first black woman to perform in the White House in 1878.


Gypsy Marpessa Dawn Menor was an American born French actress, singer, and dancer. She began acting in Europe in the 1950's as a teenager. At the age of 24 she won the role of "Eurydice" in the film Black Orpheus. Considered a great black beauty Marpessa was featured in Ebony 1959.She worked primarily in French films, television, and had a starring role in the theatrical play Cherie Noire.


A former math major at NYU... Devore was born in 1922 in Edgefield South Carolina. She became one of the first Black-American models in the United States. Determined to promote and serve the emerging market in modeling for non-white women DeVore and her four friends created the Ophelia Devore School of Self Development and Modeling in 1948. She gave models such as Richard Roundtree and Cicely Tyson their entry points.


Known as the "Black Marilyn Monroe" Bryant was the oldest daughter of eight children born in California. In 1946 her first performance was a dare for $25 at a local nightclub. During the late and early 1950s she became a singer, and sex symbol known for her skin-tight mermaid dress, and silver hair. In 1952 she became the first Black Entertainer to perform at Miami Beach Hotel even after receiving threats from the Klu Klux Klan. She was often banned on the radio for the suggestive nature of her lyrics. During her time away from the stage she focused on her relationship with God and the Civil Rights Movement.


Irene Cara Escalera was an American singer, songwriter, dancer, and actress. She starred in the 1976 musical Sparkle, playing a young song writer that sang on the church choir who along with her two older sisters gained success and status in the 70's. Cara sang and co-wrote the song "Flashdance...What A Feeling" ( from the 1983 movie Flashdance) She was the winner of a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 1984. She also won an Academy Award for Best Original Song! She gained international success in the 80's for her role of Coco Hernandez in the hit movie fame. She sang the title song "Fame" and "Out Here On My Own".


Phyllis was born in Philadelphia in 1949. She was an American singer, song writer, and actress whose legacy in the black community is mental illness awareness, and AIDS awareness. Some of her most notable songs in the late 70's through early 90's include "You Know How To Love Me" ( 1979), "Living All Alone" ( 1986), and " Don't Wanna Change The World" (1991) In 1992 Phyllis was voted Number One Best Female Vocalist in the United Kingdom by Blues & Soul Magazine readers, beating out Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, and Anita Baker! During this time Phyllis used her "deep-voice & statuesque figure" she became involved in combatting the AIDS crisis by lending her voice to countless benefit shows and visiting wards and hospices in and around New York City ( where she was discovered!) An ongoing battle with alcohol, weight-gain, depression, and financial woes took a heavy toll on Phyllis. In June of 1995 Phyllis committed suicide through an overdose leaving a suicide note saying " I'm tired. I'm tired. Those of you that I love know who you are. May God Bless You".

There are so many stars that have given their lives for their passions and talents. These beauties have sacrificed their simpler lives for "spotlight, scrutiny, or a life committed to others". They have timeless and forever etched contributions to America, and to international music, politics, and art. This International Woman's Day I am celebrating US. This is a reminder to get in contact with that legendary woman in your life, and lift her up. Remind her that she is special....

Much Love To My Readers <3<3<3


About the Creator

SAYHERNAME Morgan Sankofa

Say Her Name

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