June 19, 1947: Harry Levette, a longtime Sentinel columnist, sports editor and publicist, reflects on the Lafayette Players. The Lafayette Players was established in 1916 by Charles Gilpin as Harlem’s “first black legitimate theater group,” according to the New York Times.
Levette wrote that they arrived too soon to work in the current theater or in films, mainly because of Hollywood’s changing tastes in only casting actors with dark skin.
Levette said: “Women and girls of Lena Horne’s shade of complexion were said to be ‘too light’; ‘will photograph like whites,’ etc.
“As an example, Anita Grant, who worked merely as an extra all through MGM’s ‘Hallelujah,’ (1929) had with several others to report a half-hour early, so makeup men could transform their faces into a dark brown. Nina Mae McKinney, the star, but not as fair as Anita, was nevertheless ‘toned down.’ ”