Black History Month Spotlight: Dorothy Dandridge

dorothy2In the (almost) 4 years since I created this website, I never really focused on Black History Month. In elementary school, we did so many projects on it and even though I knew it was important, I didn’t care that much about certain people or events until 2 things happened. The first one was when I read a book called “The Watsons Go to Birmingham: 1963”. This book was about a family who went from Detroit to Birmingham during the turbulent 1960’s. The event that stood out was the bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church in which 4 little girls were killed. Even though the book itself was fictional, many of the events such as the bombing were true and I was in shock that someone could be so cruel to kill innocent little kids solely based on skin color. I was young and naive at the time but reading that book made me realize how scary the world can be especially when you are seen as “different”. The second thing that made me appreciate what “Black History” stood for was when I was introduced to a woman named Dorothy Dandridge. I was always into old Hollywood glamour and knew about women such as Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor but I didn’t know that there was a black actress in those days that exuded the same kind of sophistication and beauty until I found out about Dorothy. I read a book about her life and was blown away. Being a woman of color in today’s world is difficult enough but back then it was damn near impossible to be treated fairly by your peers and earn quality roles that weren’t stereotypical or offensive. That along with segregation and other discriminatory laws made it difficult for anyone to be successful especially in Hollywood. She was able to overcome so much and was the first African-American woman to be nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award. Although she didn’t win, she opened up the door for others after her to win and crazy enough, the first woman of color to win a Best Actress Oscar in 2002 was Halle Berry who played Dorothy in a movie about her life a few years earlier. We have made much progress since Dorothy’s time but it has been 12 years since that historic Oscar moment and no woman of color has won a Best Actress Oscar since so we still have a long way to go. I feel that not enough people know about Dorothy and how important her story is and how it has made an impact not only for women of color in Hollywood but for women of color in all walks of life. I can follow my dreams and know that because of someone’s will, determination and sacrifice, my journey will be a bit easier.

When you get the chance, check out “Introducing Dorothy Dandridge” (the full movie is below) and let me know what you think as well as who you think should be featured for Black History Month.

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