Friday, March 13, 2009

Vintage Photo of the Week

Madam Sul-Te-Wan (1873-1959)

This is a photo of Madame Sul-Te-Wan, nee Nellie Conley, who was one of the most prominent Black actresses during the silent film era.

With a career that expanded more than seven decades, Ms. Sul-Te-Wan was the first Black actor contracted to a film, appearing in an uncredited role in D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation in 1915. She went on to appear in dozens of films, limited to portraying characters who were maids, "Mammys" or criminals, which was typical for Black actresses at that time. For fans of the Black classic, Carmen Jones, you may remember her as Hagar, the grandmother of Dorothy Dandridge's character. Ms. Sul-Te-Wan performance was so convincing that many thought that she was really Ms. Dandridge's grandmother.

Madame Sul-Te-Wan passed in 1959 at the age of 85 in Hollywood, California. Although Ms. Sul-Te-Wan never gets the recognition she deserves, she's definitely one of the pioneers who paved the way for Black actresses today.


Afrika said...

I just want to let you know that I love your blog. Keep up the good work, I see great things in the future of this blog.

We Shall Overcome.....In Couture! said...

Hey Afrika! Welcome! :-)

Thank you so much for the compliment, and I hope you come back often!