Born on November 9, 1922, in Cleveland, Ohio, Dorothy Dandridge sang at Harlem’s famed Cotton Club and Apollo Theatre and became the first African-American woman to be nominated for an Academy Award for best actress. Her ability to break new ground for African American women in film has drawn comparisons between her and baseball great Jackie Robinson.
In her childhood, Dandridge experienced some difficulties. She never knew her father. Her mother, actress Ruby Dandridge, left her father while she was pregnant with Dorothy. Dandridge later suffered at the hands of her mother’s girlfriend, Geneva Williams. Williams was the displinarian in the family and was known for being strict and cruel with Dandridge.
Dandridge was pushed into show business at a young age by her mother. Dandridge performed with her sister Vivian for a time as a song-and-dance team billed as “The Wonder Children.” The girls performed throughout the South, playing black churches and other places.