Category Archives: Women’s Herstory

Three More HIDDEN FIGURES we NEED to See on the Big Screen

On the latest edition of Cinema in  Noir, my co-hosts and I discussed women of color in period films. It didn’t take long for the discussion to turn to HIDDEN FIGURES.   As you probably know by now, the film centers around the three brilliant African American women who worked behind the scenes at NASA. Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson aided in the successful launch of John Glenn into space. HIDDEN FIGURES is a very important film.

hidden figuresThe  Black Girl Magic in HIDDEN FIGURES runneth over. The cast is superb and the story is historical,  but relevant.  I can’t count how many times during the course of the film I uttered an audible “amen” or nodded my head in silent agreement. No, I have never had to walk a mile to use the restroom at work. But I identified with the struggles of doing a job without the title or pay that aligns with the duties involved or having someone try to minimize your contributions to a project.  HIDDEN FIGURES  is a rallying cry to anyone whose had their contributions trivialized in the workplace.

As Women’s History Herstory Month comes to a close, here are three hidden figures who deserve to have their stories told.

Dr. Alexa Canady
Hidden Figures

HIDDEN FIGURES shows little girls of color that despite what people say, they can succeed in science and math. Alexa Canady attended a summer program focused on health careers and decided to pursue medicine. Although, she originally aspired to be in doctor of internal medicine but later became fascinated by neurosurgery. Despite being discourage from the field, Dr. Canady persisted and became the first black woman neurosurgeon in the United States.

Rose Butler Browne
Hidden Figures Rose

If you know me, you know I LOVE North Carolina Central University.  One of the most distinguished former professors is Rose Butler Browne.  Back when my alma mater was the North Carolina College, Dr. Browne worked tirelessly to educate students of color. Her journey began years before as she fought for her own education. While working full-time as a maid, she earned her bachelors degree in Rhode Island. Ultimately, she became the first woman to receive a doctoral degree in education.  She received it from Harvard.

Alice Allison Dunnigan
HIdden Figures

The recent #BlackWomenAtWork hashtag was partially inspired a condescending and disrespectful remark made to journalist April Ryan by the White House Press Secretary.  It is a reminder of the challenges that black women journalist face daily. Alice Allison Dunnigan is a journalist whose story deserves to be told. As the first African American woman to get White House Credentials and the first black female member of the Senate of House of  Representative press galleries, Dunnigan faced many challenges. Most noteworthy, she had to cover Senator Taft’s funeral from the servant’s quarters.

What other HIDDEN FIGURES do you want see on the big screen?

Women of the World: Six Great Performances by Non American Actresses


As part of the celebration of  International Women Day and Women’s History month, I wanted to highlight some non-American actresses whose work I admire.  Here are a few of my faves, as discussed on Cinema in Noir.

Kajol as “Maya” in We Are Family


 We Are Family is the Hindi film version of the film Stepmom.  Kajol gives an emotionally charged performance as a woman coming to grips the knowledge that her life is ending.


 Aishwarya Rai as “Lalita” in Bride and Prejudice



I love a good musical and Bride and Prejudice does not disappoint.  Aishwarya gives a dazzling performance in this adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.


 Sky Nicole Grey as “Trini” in Restless City



The multi-hyphenate Sky (actress, model, singer) caught my attention with her role as Trini in Restless City. Sky takes the proverbial “hooker with a heart of gold” role and elevates it with a performance that is subtle, yet powerful.


Samantha Barks as “Eponine” in Les Miserables


A native of The Isle of Man, Samantha gave an amazing and underrated performance in the 2012 blockbuster musical, Les Miserables.  Her performance of “On My Own” was heartbreaking and breath taking all at the same time.


Sophie Okonedo as  “Sandra” in Skin


Born in London, Sophie first gained attention for her role in Hotel Rwanda.  But for me, her powerful performance as Sandra, a woman defined solely by the color of her Skin  is where she truly shines as a major talent.


Stephanie Sigman as “Laura” in Miss Bala


This Mexican beauty gives a masterful performance in her first major feature film role as a young woman forced to be a drug mule. Stephanie is captivating in the role.


Who are some of your favorite non-American actresses?

Women’s Herstory: Eight Historic Black Women in Film

March 8th is a day of celebration.  All across the world, this day is heralded as International Women’s Day.  To honor this day (as well as Women’s Herstory Month), I am highlighting eight historic black women in the  film.

Madame Sul-Te-Wan 

Madame Sul Te Wan 3

Madame Sul-Te-Wan worked in Hollywood for over 50 years, but very few people know of her name or her extensive body of work. Born Nellie Crawford in 1873 to freed slaves, Madame began acting at a theatre company in Cincinnati. After arriving in Hollywood, she soon adopted the name Madame Sul-Te-Wan and approached DW Griffith about appearing in his film Birth of Nation. The two developed a friendship that would last until his death.  Throughout her career, Madame appeared in over 50 film and television productions, though many were uncredited.


Maria P. Williams

RA MAria P. WIlliams

Maria P. Williams is believed to be the first African-American female film producer.  There is very little information out there about Maria or her film.  What we do know is that Maria’s film Flames of Wrath was released in 1923. Along with her husband Jesse, she owned the Western Film Producing Company and Booking Exchange.


Hattie McDaniel

Hattie McDaniel is the first African-American woman to win an Academy Award.  In 1939 she won for her performance as Mammy in Gone With The Wind. Throughout her career she faced criticism for portraying roles that some believed furthered the established stereotypes of black people to which she famously responded:  “I’d rather make $700 a week playing a maid than earn $7 a day being a maid.”


Euzhan Palcy

PHOTO Euzhan Palcy

Euzhan Palcy has the distinction of being the first black female director to have a film produced by a major Hollywood Studio.  In 1989 her film A Dry White Season, starring the legendary Marlon Brando was produced by MGM studios. Born in Martinique, Euzhan studied at the Sorbonne and was handpicked by Robert Redford to participate in the 1984 Sundance Director’s Lab. Euzhan was also the first black woman to win a Cesar Award (the French equivalent to the Academy Awards in the US) for best first feature film for her film  Sugar Cane Alley.


Darnell Martin

RS Darnell Martin

Darnell Martin is the first African-American woman to write and direct a feature film for a major Hollywood studio.  In 1994 Columbia Pictures released I Like It Like That, starring Lauren Velez, Lisa Vidal, and Rita Moreno. The film was a critical success and solidified Darnell as a director with talent and finesse.


Halle Berry

It's Oscar Night!!

Halle Berry is the first African-American woman to win the Academy Award for Best Actress.  She was awarded in 2002 for her role in the film Monster’s Ball. In her famously emotional acceptance speech, Halle paid homage to the black actresses that paved the way for her win, including her idol Dorothy Dandridge. In 1999 Halle portrayed Dandridge in the HBO film Introducing Dorothy Dandridge.  For her role she was awarded the Emmy, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Awards.


Debra Chase

Debra Martin Chase

Debra Chase is the first African-American woman to have a solo producing deal with a major studio. She ran both Denzel Washington’s and Whitney Houston’s production companies before forming her own, Martin Chase Productions in 2000. Debra’s producing credits include Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Just Wright, and Sparkle (2012).


Ava DuVernay


Ava DuVernay founded AFFRM, the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement. AFFRM is a film distribution model that works with film festival organizations to orchestrate theatrical releases for two independent films a year. AFFRMs first release, the critically acclaimed I Will Follow, was written and directed by Ava.  In 2012 she made history when she became the first African-American woman to win the Best US Director Award at the Sundance Film Festival.  She received the award for her second feature film, Middle of Nowhere.

What other historic women in film will you celebrate?