This Day in Black History: Nov. 9, 1922

African-American entertainer Dorothy Dandridge was born.

Posted: 11/09/2012 08:00 AM EST

Dorothy Dandridge, born in Cleveland, Ohio, on Nov. 9, 1922, was an actress and singer who lit up the stage with her charm. She sang at the Harlem's Cotton Club and Apollo Theater and was the first African-American woman to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress.

At the urging of her actress mother Ruby, a teenage Dandridge and her sisters pursued singing and dancing. Dandridge later added acting to her lists of skills after appearing in films such as A Day at the Races and Drums of the Congo.


Dandridge married fellow entertainer Harold Nicholas with whom she had one daughter. Unfortunately, the child was born with brain damage and was put in foster care. Dandridge paid for her daughter's 24-hour medical care until she could no longer afford it in 1963 and was then placed in a state institution.


After going through a lull during her six-year marriage, Dandridge's career came back full-swing. She gained international fame after performing with Desi Arnaz's band and at venues around the world. Her first starring role was in 1953's Bright Road alongside Harry Belafonte which was followed by the title role in Carmen Jones in 1954. The latter earned her an Academy Award nomination. She lost the award to actress Grace Kelly.


Financial issues and failed relationships took a toll on Dandridge's life and career. She started drinking and taking antidepressants, and her career faltered when she attempted to resume nightclub gigs. With money troubles weighing her down, Dandridge committed suicide on Sept. 8, 1965. 

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(Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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