Film was a particularly difficult industry for black actresses to break into. Hattie McDaniel was the first black actress to ever win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1939, for playing Mammy in Gone With The Wind, opening the door for more black women to appear in prominent roles in film. Specifically for screenings in the 1940s South, where a black actress couldn’t play anything but a servant on screen, beautiful women like Lena Horne were given roles that were expendable, able to easily be cut out of films without affecting the plot. Eventually, movies would reflect the real-life improvements in race relations, leading to Halle Berry becoming the first black woman to win a Best Actress Oscar in 2001. The St. Louis Classic Black Film Festival is proud to present a new film festival celebrating the roles and careers of eight pioneering black actresses in a variety of films spanning four decades.