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Sun, 01.10.1937

The Negro Actors Guild Begins

*On this date in 1937, the Negro Actors Guild (NAG) is celebrated.   Formed in 1936, the Negro Actors Guild of America (NAG) wanted to eliminate stereotyping of African Americans in theatrical and cinematic performances. 

They began operation in 1937 to create better opportunities for black actors during a period in America where the country was at a crossroads regarding how its citizens of color would be depicted in the film, television, and the stage.  Located in New York City, during the Great Depression and the height of the Harlem Renaissance, the NAG sought to stress in its formal articles within the Certificate of Incorporation the need for more realistic roles for people of color, helped foster the skills of African American actors, and worked to generate more acting opportunities for the Black community in the industry.  

The founding members of NAG were Fredi Washington, W. C. Handy, Paul Robeson, and Ethel Waters. Bill "Bojangles" Robinson was named honorary president. Noble Sissle was the first elected president, 1937-1957; followed by Leigh Whipper, 1957-1960; Frederick O'Neal, 1960-1964; Charles "Honi" Coles, 1964-ca. 1980; and James Randolph, 1980-1981.  By the early 1940s, the Guild had more than seven hundred members. Among their famous members were Hattie McDaniel, Ethel Waters, Bert Williams, and Lena Horne.  

By the 1970s, the organization slowly faded as the film and theater industries became increasingly integrated. It was dissolved in 1982.

To become an Actor or Actress

Reference:

Archives.NYPL.org

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