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March 05, 2013


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It's strange so little of her legacy is left. Even more odd that when you do read about her it's either in reference to the singer she replaced for hallelujah, or in interviews that are based on Billie Holiday and Jimmy Monroe her first husband. Even stranger Jimmy Monroe lived right here in NYC up until he died in his 80s and that was I believe in the late 1980s or early 90s. No one interviewed him as he was married to her and they were over seas together. The only references I ever read regarded her sexuality and drug use. I'm pretty sure by now most of the ppl who may have known her are dead such a shame


I agree, Jahlaune.

You have to make the extra effort (finding reputable bootleg companies, surfing Youtube and the net, connecting with other fans, etc) just to see what few movies and short films that are still available. Beyond that, I would recommend scouring the archives of the old African American newspapers like the Chicago Defender and the Afro American for articles and tidbits of information.

I'm sure you're aware of the recent book, Nina Mae McKinney: The Black Garbo by Stephen Bourne. I think you told me that you read it. I have at least two full feature blog posts slated on McKinney but I must read that book first. Of course, I could have ordered it a while ago, but I just found a nearby library with a copy and I'm waiting for it to arrive. But even the book is only about 99 pages?!?!

It's a shame that nobody was that interested in while she was living. They could have talked to HER because she died in 1967 - NOT THAT LONG AGO! But recognition always comes after death.

Thanks for your comment!

lasca sartoris

Hey Corey

according to a myspace user the photo is from the her appearance in the British film Sanders of the River (starring Paul Robeson, of course!)

British Pathe also has a newsreel with a tiny clip of her performing in a revue at London's Trocadero in 1933.




Hello, Lasca Sartoris.

That Myspace user is probably dead on the money! It looks and sounds just about right, and Sanders of the River had a 1935 release date.

You have brought us a treasure with the clip from London's Trocadero. I've certainly never seen it before, and considering the paucity of McKinney on film, I'd say it's a very important piece of footage. I'd like to encourage McKinney's fans to click into the link and watch. Thanks for sharing.

As it relates to Sanders of the River, I'd just like to add the following bit of information that I pulled off the net. I think it perfectly illustrates exactly what African American stars like McKinney and especially Robeson were up against .............

"The African-American singer and actor Paul Robeson accepted the role of Bosambo while he was living in London and was engaged in the academic study of the roots of pan-African culture through studies of language and music. He felt that if he could portray the Nigerian leader, Bosambo, with cultural accuracy and dignity, he could help audiences—especially Black audiences—to understand and respect the roots of Black culture. The filmmakers even took an unusual step towards authenticity by sending a film crew on a four-month voyage into remote areas of the African continent to record traditional African dances and ceremonies. These would be interwoven with the studio scenes.

After the filming, Robeson was asked back to the studio for retakes of some scenes. He discovered that the film’s message had been changed during editing; it seemed to justify imperialism and upholding the 'White Man's Burden'; the finished film is dedicated to "the handful of white men whose everyday work is an unsung saga of courage and efficiency".[1] Bosambo was changed from a Nigerian leader to a servile lackey of British colonial rule. Robeson was furious and complained:

"The imperialist plot had been placed in the plot during the last days five days of shooting...I was roped into the picture because I wanted to portray the culture of the African people and I committed a faux pas which convinced me that I had failed to weigh the problems of 150,000,000 native Africans...I hate the picture."[2] In 1938, Robeson also added disparagingly; "It is the only film of mine that can be shown in Italy or Germany, for it shows the negro as Fascist states desire him - savage and childish."[3]

Paul Robeson was so disillusioned by the picture that he attempted, but failed, to buy back all the prints to prevent it from being ever shown"

It's good to hear from you again, Lasca Sartoris.
Thanks for your visit.

Derrick from Philly

Hey, Corey:

Thanks for the rare picture of Nina Mae. And I thank you and your first two guests on this thread for the additional information on her life. And THANK YOU for the links.

What a great end to a gray rainy day in Philly. Thanks.

lasca sartoris

Hello again Corey

Just to let you know, I came across a new (to me) photo of Nina Mae in the collection of the Austrian Theatre Museum.
From her coat and rather fabulous shoes it look like its from the early 1930s. Not sure whether it dates from her time in Europe. Feel free to add it to her growing gallery!


Have a wonderful weekend


Lasca Sartoris,

You are killing me softly with the rare links and photos. I LOVE IT! I don't think ANYONE has seen your McKinney photo in a very long time (it's that rare) - thank you for helping to make this blog a special place to visit. Trust, I'm going to use it in the post!



What a fascinating and offensive clip. Fascinating for it's history and offensive for the "zip up" black face so Nina (Was that her in the last clip too?)could do a finale with a black cast, but they were too cheap to hire black male dancers!

Derrick from Philly

And thank you, Laska. Now, I have another great blog to visit.

Derrick from Philly

I mean, LASCA. If you gonna' thank folks you ought know what their names are. :-)

Debra Baker

I heard about her through a blog on Black Planet and some other famous actresses. Sad there is VERY little on her. She was so pretty and love those shoes and coat. I hadn't heard anything about her being on/using drugs or her sexuality, although I do remember seeing something about her missing out on being in "Stormy Weather" (the part Lena Horne played, I think) due to illness. I think pnuemonia, but I'm not for sure.


Thank you, Debra, for your comment on this post (as well as the others). I believe the references to McKinney's sexuality was first mentioned in print in Louise Brooks' autobiography, LuLu In Hollywood. McKinney's alcoholism is pretty much a known fact! However, that she was ever even considered for Stormy Weather is a new one on me. Her career in Hollywood films was pretty much over by this point, culminating in an unrecognizable bit part in the movie, Pinky. Lena was just beginning in films and she had probably had that role from JUMP! If you find, see or hear anything more about Nina being in Stormy Weather, please alert or send it to me. Again, thank you for visiting my blog! I've been on an extended hiatus during the summer and fall, but I'm on the comeback trail so stay tuned!


Whats sad and disgusting are those who always want to bring up some negative comments that sound as though its their own personal opinions , are the same type of comments that these same people always have to make re: black people , when actually these sexuality and drug abuse statements are probably much much more common in their own race than it is in the lives of black people. Instead of commenting on her beauty and talent,keep quiet!


Thanks for a wonderful post and great pictures of Nina Mae McKinney. Can't wait to explore the rest of the blog! Let's talk about Jeni LeGon, June Richmond, Dorothy Dandridge, Mae Johnson and many other wonderful women!

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