Nina Mae McKinney
The screen's first black love goddess, she was spotted as a teenager in the chorus line of Lew Leslie's Blackbirds of 1928 and signed to star in King Vidor's all-black musical film Hallelujah (1929). She got rave reviews and MGM signed her to a five-year contract, but she appeared in only two films in that time; there were no good roles for blacks in Hollywood films of the early '30s. She sang in cafes, cabarets, and clubs in Paris, Athens, and Budapest, billed as "the black Garbo." In 1935 she costarred with Paul Robeson in the British film Sanders of the River, then appeared in many all-black independent productions. In the late '40s she had supporting roles in a number of Hollywood films. Her last significant performance was onstage in Brooklyn in the 1951 play Rain, in which she played Sadie Thompson.