By Charlene B. Regester
9 actresses, from Madame Sul-Te-Wan in beginning of a country (1915) to Ethel Waters in Member of the marriage (1952), are profiled in African American Actresses. Charlene Regester poses questions on triumphing racial politics, on-screen and off-screen identities, and black stardom and white stardom. She finds how those ladies fought for his or her roles in addition to what they compromised (or did not compromise). Regester repositions those actresses to focus on their contributions to cinema within the first 1/2 the 20 th century, taking an educated theoretical, historic, and important technique. (2011)
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Additional info for African American actresses: the struggle for visibility, 1900-1960
Sul-Te-Wan’s role associates her with evil spirits and “weird superstitions,”61 in contrast to Anita Louise’s role, which projects her as the embodiment of white womanhood. ”62 Although Sul-Te-Wan sought to broaden her screen roles by making the transition from subservient and multiracial to voodoo woman, she still remained inextricably linked to the trope of darkness and its inscribed implications. Because of Sul-Te-Wan’s on-screen appeal as a voodoo woman, she established a niche for herself in white Hollywood.
She got madder and madder and by the time the scene was shot, she nearly blinded Miss Crowell with her soaped up spit. 35 Aside from these reports, there is barely any mention of Sul-Te-Wan with respect to this film. m a d a m e s u l - t e - wa nâ•… · â•… 25 The Birth of a Nation was one of the most disturbing films in American cinema because of the racial debate it provoked; surely her part as racial Other should be a significant part not only of her own story but also of the film’s history.
M a d a m e s u l - t e - wa nâ•… · â•… 27 Sul-Te-Wan in Roles of the Other Though her employment title changed from maid to actress, Sul-Te-Wan subsequently still was cast in various roles as subservient, multiracial, and evil characters. Despite the insignificance of her screen roles and the mainstream press’s failure to cover her performances, Sul-Te-Wan frequently transformed these minimal roles into notable performances. 44 The details of her specific roles in these films remain unknown, but it can be inferred that because of her blackness she was likely used to imply racial codes that positioned her in direct opposition to these white stars.
African American actresses: the struggle for visibility, 1900-1960 by Charlene B. Regester