She gave an Oscar-nominated performance as Annie Johnson in the 1959 film Imitation of Lifestyle. She began performing in the 1950’s, a period when the jobs open to African Us citizens were quite uncommon. She became the 5th African American to become nominated for an Oscar Award. Her boy, Kirk Kelley-Kahn, was leader of a movie theater troupe known as Cambridge Players – Following Generation. She dropped the Best Helping Celebrity Oscar to Shelley Winters for The Journal of Anne Frank in 1959.