Known for movies

Short Info

DiedMay 3, 1967, New York City, New York, United States
SpouseJimmy Monroe
FactWas going to star in The Duke Is Tops (1938) as Ethel Andrews, but she became sick while in Australia performing, and the role was given to Lena Horne; that movie made Horne a star.

Nina Mae McKinney was born in 1913 in South Carolina, the first child of James and Eliza McKinney. Her father was a sharecropper and her mother was a domestic worker. Nina Mae had four brothers and sisters. She attended a one-room schoolhouse for her primary education. When she was eleven years old, she moved to New York City to live with her aunt. In New York, she attended the High School of Music & Art.

Nina Mae began her career as a dancer in the Cotton Club revue. She went on to star in several Broadway musicals, including Blackbirds of 1928 and Shuffle Along. In 1930, she made her film debut in the all-black cast movie, Hallelujah!. Nina Mae’s breakout role came in 1932, when she starred in the Oscar-nominated film, The Green Pastures. She was one of the first black actresses to achieve mainstream success in Hollywood.

During the 1930s, Nina Mae appeared in several more films, including Emperor Jones and She Done Him Wrong. She also toured Europe with the all-black revue, Blackbirds of 1930. In 1934, she married bandleader Kenneth Spencer. The couple had one child together before divorcing in 1940.

Nina Mae’s career began to decline in the 1940s. She appeared in only a handful of films during this decade. In 1950, she starred in the short-lived television series, The Nina Mae McKinney Show. During the 1950s and 1960s, she mostly worked as a nightclub singer.

Nina Mae McKinney died of a heart attack in 1967 at the age of 54.

General Info

Full NameNina Mae McKinney
DiedMay 3, 1967, New York City, New York, United States
Height1.6 m


SpouseJimmy Monroe
ParentsHal McKinney, Georgia McKinney


MoviesPinky, Night Train to Memphis, The Devil's Daughter, Pie, Pie Blackbird, Safe in Hell, Hallelujah

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1The Negro artists went to Europe because we were recognized and given a chance. In Europe they had your name up in lights. people in the United States would not give us that chance.
2You just tell me one Ngro girl who's made movies who didn't play a maid or a whore. I don't know any.


1King Vidor offered the youthful teenage McKinney the leading actress role in "Hallelujah" when intended star Ethel Waters proved unavailable for undetermined reasons. Ironically, two decades later, McKinney played a decidedly supporting role in "Pinky," a film in which Waters was Oscar-nominated.
2In 1978 she received a posthumous award from the American Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame.
3Was going to star in The Duke Is Tops (1938) as Ethel Andrews, but she became sick while in Australia performing, and the role was given to Lena Horne; that movie made Horne a star.




Copper Canyon1950Theresa (uncredited)
Danger Street1947Veronica
Night Train to Memphis1946Maid
Mantan Messes Up1946Nina
The Power of the Whistler1945Flotilda, Constantina's Maid (uncredited)
Together Again1944Maid in Nightclub Powder Room (uncredited)
Dark Waters1944Florella
Swanee Showboat1940ShortNina McKinney (as Nina McKinney)
Straight to Heaven1939Ida Williams
The Devil's Daughter1939Isabelle Walton
Gang Smashers1938Laura Jackson
On Velvet1938Singer
The Lonely Trail1936Dancer (uncredited)
The Black Network1936ShortNina Mae McKinney
Reckless1935Nina Mae McKinney - Singer
Sanders of the River1935Lilongo
Kentucky Minstrels1934uncredited
Passing the Buck1932Short
Pie, Pie Blackbird1932ShortMiss Nina
Safe in Hell1931Leonie - the Hotel Manager
They Learned About Women1930Specialty Singer (uncredited)
Manhattan Serenade1929ShortSinger / Dancer


Hollywood Singing and Dancing: A Musical History - The 1920s: The Dawn of the Hollywood Musical2008Video documentary performer: "Swanee Shuffle" - uncredited
The Black Network1936Short performer: "Half of Me Wants to Be Good" - uncredited
Reckless1935performer: "Reckless" 1935
Pie, Pie Blackbird1932Short performer: "It Takes a Blackbird to Make the Sweetest Kind of Pie", "Everything I've Got Belongs to You" - uncredited
Safe in Hell1931performer: "When It's Sleepy Time Down South" 1931 - uncredited
They Learned About Women1930"Harlem Madness" 1929, uncredited
Manhattan Serenade1929Short performer: "Harlem Heaven" - uncredited
Hallelujah1929" Gimme Dat Old Time Religion", uncredited / performer: "Swanee Shuffle" 1929, "St. Louis Blues" 1914 - uncredited


BBC: The Voice of Britain1935DocumentaryHerself

Archive Footage

Classified X1998TV Movie documentaryHerself
Small Steps, Big Strides: The Black Experience in Hollywood1998TV Movie documentaryHerself
American Masters1997TV Series documentaryHerself
20th Century-Fox: The First 50 Years1997TV Movie documentaryActress 'Pinky' (uncredited)
Biography1995TV Series documentaryActress 'Pinky'
That's Black Entertainment1990DocumentaryHerself
Hollywood Mavericks1990DocumentaryChick

Source: IMDb, Wikipedia

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