As the first African American actress to have a film contract, she had leading and supporting roles in numerous Hollywood productions.
After staring out on stage in the east coast, she moved to Hollywood to portray numerous stereotypical roles, including slaves, mammies, and wild natives.
Of all her roles, easily the most controversial one occurred in director
She was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the daughter of freed slaves.
One of her first screen roles was alongside the young Lillian Gish in the drama Stage Struck.