This Day in Black History: March 19, 1894

Comedienne and actor Moms Mabley was born.

Posted: 03/19/2014 08:30 AM EDT

Loretta Mary Aiken, best known by her stage name, Moms Mabley, was born in Brevard, North Carolina, on March 19, 1894. Dressed in her signature baggy housedress and floppy shoes, she used comedy to comment on social and political conditions. She also frequently expressed a fondness for younger men with the line, "There ain't nothing an old man can do for me but bring me a message from a young one."

Her early life was not easy. Mabley was one of 12 children and the great granddaughter of a slave. At age 11 and 13, she was raped, which resulted in two pregnancies. The children were given up for adoption. She left North Carolina at age 14 to become an entertainer.

Mabley performed many times at the hallowed Apollo Theater and was the first female comedian to perform at the venue. She also appeared in Harlem Renaissance theaters and in several films in the 1940s and recorded a number of albums.

She first appeared on television in an all-Black comedy show Harry Belafonte produced in 1967. She also performed on the Flip Wilson Show, the Smothers Brothers Show and other programs, which gave her career a major financial boost.

Mabley last appeared on film in Amazing Grace in 1974. She suffered a heart attack during filming but after receiving treatment returned to the set. She died a year later on May 23, 1975.

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(Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

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