By Jessie Carney Smith
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Extra info for Black Firsts: 4,000 Ground-Breaking and Pioneering Historical Events
McDaniel made her radio debut in 1915, and is said to be the first black American woman to sing on radio. Often called “Hi-Hat Hattie,” she was born in Wichita, Kansas, and moved to Hollywood in 1931. She made her movie debut in The Golden West in 1932, and appeared in more than three hundred films during the next two decades. Her career was built on the “Mammy” image, a role she played with dignity. She appeared on radio with Eddie Cantor and the “Amos ’n Andy” shows. She was entered into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame posthumously in 1975.
63; Smith, Notable Black American Women, pp. 142–43. 1916 • Rachel, a play by Angelina Grimké (1880–1958), was the first known play written by a black American and presented on stage by black actors in the twentieth century. It portrayed a respectable black family destroyed by prejudice. C. Grimké, a poet, was born in Boston and taught school in Washington. Sources: Encyclopedia of Black America, p. 532; Hine, Black Women in America, vol. 1, pp. 504–05; Smith, Notable Black American Women, pp. 416–21.
The play premiered in July 2001 at the nonprofit Public Theater off Broadway. Topdog/Underdog is a dark comedy with only two characters—brothers Lincoln and Booth. A native of Fort Knox, Kentucky, Parks attended mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts and studied with James Baldwin at Hampshire College. It was Baldwin who encouraged her to write plays. Parks received a $500,000 MacArthur Fellows grant in 2001 to support her work. Now a resident of Brooklyn, New York, and Venice Beach, California, she heads the dramatic writing program at the California Institute of Arts.