Ruby Dandridge Family Papers

The collection consists of papers of the Dandridge family from 1896-1999, primarily those of Ruby Dandridge and her daughter Dorothy Dandridge The Ruby Dandridge papers consist primarily of correspondence, financial records, photographs, and sheet music. There is one score for a song written by Ruby Dandridge. The Dorothy Dandridge papers are primarily photographs and scrapbooks, including a photograph album of her wedding to Jack Denison, with a small amount of correspondence and financial records. The collection also contains correspondence, financial records, and photographs of Dorothy’s first husband, Harold Nicholas. The papers of Dandridge’s great-nephew Jimmie Mitchell consist almost entirely of photograph albums documenting vacations and social events. The collection also includes some Vivian Dandridge papers, including photographs and a diary.
Ruby Dandridge (1900-1987) was born in Wichita, Kansas, to George and Nellie Simon Butler. George Butler was a janitor at Union National Bank and a minister who taught his daughter to dance and sing. Ruby moved to Cleveland, in 1919, where she married Cyril Dandridge. The couple had two children Vivian (born in 1921) and Dorothy (born in 1922) but separated before Dorothy was born. Ruby worked as a maid to support her daughters and new partner Geneva Williams, who helped Ruby train Vivian and Dorothy for the entertainment business. The family moved to Los Angeles, California, in the 1930s where Ruby began an acting career while also pursuing acting opportunities for her daughters. Ruby Dandridge is most known for her roles in Amos ‘N Andy and The Judy Canova Show. She briefly performed in a nightclub act around Los Angeles in the 1950s but had effectively left show business by the 1960s. Her relationship with Williams ended around the same time she stopped acting and she lived the rest of her life in relative seclusion. She died in 1987.
Dorothy Dandridge (1922-1965) was born to Ruby and Cyril Dandridge in Cleveland, Ohio. As a child, she performed with her sister Vivian in the duo The Wonder Kids, traveling the south and primarily performing at church functions. Following the family’s move to Los Angeles, Dorothy and Vivian formed the Dandridge Sisters with Etta Jones and began to work steadily in such venues as the Cotton Club in New York (New York). Dorothy married dancer Harold Nicholas in 1942, and the couple had one daughter, Harolyn. In 1954 Dorothy starred in Otto Preminger’s film Carmen Jones and subsequently became the first African American woman to be nominated for an Academy Award for her role. In 1959, she won a Golden Globe for her performance in Porgy and Bess and married her second husband, nightclub owner Jack Denison. They divorced in 1963 amid significant financial difficulties. She died in 1965 from a drug overdose.