Little Known Black History Fact: Nannie Mayme McKinney, The Black Garbo

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Nannie Mayme McKinney, also known as “The Black Garbo”, was one of the first black actresses to appear on British television. She was also one of the first black film stars in the U.S.

Born in Lancaster, South Carolina in 1913, McKinney lived with her great aunt until she moved to Harlem to live with her mother and start her performance career. She started as a Harlem nightclub performer, then landed gigs on Broadway. A director named King Vidor took notice of her and insisted that she perform in his upcoming musical. With her new stage name of Nina McKinney, the young woman landed the role of Chick in “Hallelujah!” which was the first all-black sound musical. Her performance led to a five-year contract with MGM Studios.

During the time when only a few black actresses prevailed in Hollywood, McKinney was fed up with the search for…

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