When Ruby Dee was in high school, she couldn't get a part in the drama club's upcoming production.
Nothing personal, the club's head explained: There were just no roles for maids.
"I never inquired again," Dee later wrote. "And I never went to see any plays there either."
A Harlem girl who wrote poetry but waded into a few street fights, Dee bounced back quickly. Over more than seven decades, she became one of the most highly regarded performers in American drama, even while struggling to carve out roles deeper than the eye-rolling maids and long-suffering, all-forgiving mother figures that were the industry standard for black actresses.