Nina Mae McKinney, one of Hollywood’s first African American leading ladies, was born in 1913.
The South Carolina native grew up on Colonel LeRoy Sanders’ estate with her great-aunt, Carrie Sanders.
Her family had served on Colonel LeRoy Sanders’ estate for many generations.
She attended Lancaster Industrial School until she was 13 years old.
The director parlays her multi-talented abilities as an actress and vocalist in the musical film, Hallelujah (1929). Her debut in the movie “Chick” brought her immediate success in Hollywood.
Despite rave reviews for her performance, McKinney’s career faltered during an era when Hollywood declined to position black actresses in dignified roles.
McKinney traveled to Europe, where she performed in cabarets in Budapest, Hungary, Dublin, Ireland, London, UK, and Paris, France, determined to break down barriers in the performing world.
She was also in the British movie Congo Road (1930) and Sanders of the River (1931). (1935).
In the midst of her international career, she returned to the United States for a brief visit, when she performed in Pie, Pie, Blackbird (1932).
She appeared in several Hollywood films, like Safe in Hell, albeit having tiny roles (1931). Her final notable Hollywood appearance was as a ferocious adversary in Pinky, released in 1949.
Throughout her career, McKinney maintained versatility in performing arts.
What happened to Nina Mae McKinney?
McKinney moved to New York City after 1960. She died of a heart attack on May 3, 1967, at the age of 54, at the Metropolitan Hospital in Manhattan.
During the last two decades of her life, she appeared in several plays and continued to tour globally.
Although her potential as an actress was never established, McKinney carved a path for other black actresses such as Dorothy Dandridge. Nina Mae McKinney died in New York in 1967.