Dancing on the White Page

Black Women Entertainers Writing Autobiography

By Kwakiutl L. Dreher

Subjects: Women's Studies
Series: SUNY series, Cultural Studies in Cinema/Video
Paperback : 9780791472842, 237 pages, January 2008
Hardcover : 9780791472835, 237 pages, January 2008

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Table of contents


Introduction: Are We Listening to the Footsteps of the Dance on the White Page?

1. Lena Horne: The Symbol Must Stand for Something

2. Dorothy Dandridge: The Dance of the Black Female Child Entertainer

3. Eartha Kitt: The Dance of the Autobiographical Defense

4. Diahann Carroll: The Recuperation of Black Widow–Single Mother/Womanhood

5. Mary Wilson: Taking Care of the Business of Girlfriends through Autobiography

6. Whoopi Goldberg: The Black Woman Celebrity Tell-All Iconoclast

Conclusion: The Dance Finale: What Have We Here?

Selected Bibliography


Investigates the literary voices of six Black women entertainers and how they negotiated the tensions between the entertainment industries and the Black community.


Dancing on the White Page examines the popular autobiographies of six well-known Black women entertainers—Diahann Carroll, Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Eartha Kitt, Whoopi Goldberg, and Mary Wilson—and makes a case for adding Black celebrity autobiography to the African American literary canon. As she explores these women's fascinating stories, Kwakiutl L. Dreher reveals how each one improvises the choreography of her life to survive and thrive in the film, television, and music industries, as well as the politically charged environment of the Black community, most specifically represented by the NAACP. Reading each autobiography as a site of self-revelation, Dreher discovers stories of Black self-determination along with the fight for liberation from oppression and racial and gender discrimination. She explores each woman's full meaning in American culture at large and in American entertainment culture in particular.

Kwakiutl L. Dreher is Associate Professor of English and Ethnic Studies at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.


"This engaging book adds an important element to discussions in popular culture about the images of Black women so loosely displayed in music videos, films, television series, and commercials. Dreher contextualizes the salacious details that often overshadow the critical contributions these entertainers have made, not only to entertainment, but also to the civil rights movements of our time. " — Carol E. Henderson, author of Scarring the Black Body: Race and Representation in African American Literature