Written By: Bill Syken

Inspired by Entertainment Weekly’s recent special issue A Celebration of Black Film, LIFE presents this collection of photos from its archives featuring groundbreaking Black stars.

Most of the multi-talented actors and actresses in these photos are shown outside of the world of film—either acting in a theatrical production or singing. But the names include pioneering figures of cinema: Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, Lena Horne, Hattie McDaniel, Ossie Davis, Dorothy Dandridge, Sammy Davis Jr., Diahann Carroll and also Cicely Tyson, who died on January 28, 2021.

Enjoy this tribute.

Front cover of Entertainment Weekly: A Celebration of Black Film

Back cover of Entertainment Weekly: A Celebration of Black Film

Hattie McDaniel collected her Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Mammy in ‘Gone With the Wind’; she was the first African-American to win an Oscar.

© A.M.P.A.S., Courtesy Photofest

Sidney Poitier with his wife at home, 1959.

Sidney Poitier with his wife at home, 1959.

Gordon Parks The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Sidney Poitier in a dramatic scene from play "A Raisin in the Sun", with Ruby Dee, 1959.

Sidney Poitier in the play “A Raisin in the Sun”, with Ruby Dee, 1959.

Gordon Parks The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier on the set of Porgy and Bess, 1959.

Gjon Mili Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Lena Horne, 1948.

Lena Horne, 1948.

W. Eugene Smith The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Lena Horne, 1947

Lena Horne, shown here in Paris in 1947, was never nominated for an Oscar, though she was honored with a tribute at the 2011 Academy Awards.

Yale Joel The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Harry Belafonte performing at the Coconut Grove nightclub, 1957.

Harry Belafonte performed at the Coconut Grove nightclub, 1957.

Ralph Crane The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Singer Harry Belafonte with Julie Andrews at party following Broadway premiere of 'Sound of Music'.

Harry Belafonte with Julie Andrews at party following the Broadway premiere of ‘Sound of Music’ in 1965.

Bob Gomel The LIFE Images Collection/Shutterstock

Dorothy Dandridge, shown here in 1951, would in 1954 receive an Oscar nomination for her performance in Carmen Jones.

Photo by Edward Clark/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Dorothy Dandridge in 1951, dancing on a night club dance floor.

Photo by Edward Clark/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Cicely Tyson in the play ‘Trumpets of the Lord’, May 1964.

Photo by Gjon Mili/The LIFE Picture Collection via Shutterstock

Sammy Davis Jr. as "Sportin' Life" in the MGM production of Porgy and Bess, 1958.

Sammy Davis Jr. as “Sportin’ Life” in the MGM production of Porgy and Bess, 1958.

Gjon Mili The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Sammy davis Jr. as Sportin' Life in 'Porgy and Bess'

Sammy Davis Jr. in character as Sportin’ Life on the set of Porgy and Bess, 1959.

Gjon Mili Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Actress Diahann Carroll and David Frost watched themselves on separate talk shows, 1972; the two were engaged but never married.

Bill Ray/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Ossie Davis starred in the 1946 play Jeb, about the travails of a soldier returning home to the rural South after World War II.

Photo by Gjon Mili/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Ossie Davis starred in Jeb, a 1946 play about the travails of a soldier returning home from World War II to the rural South.

Photo by Gjon Mili/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

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