Angel Casey, Champion of Diversity in
Who do you know that would give up a multi-million dollar career, star status and everything that goes with it, for the benefit of someone else's kids? Angel Casey did exactly that in 1956.
She was told her plan would be the cause of termination, didn't believe it and didn't care when it proved to be true. She could've easily wormed her way back into the power structure's graces but did not. She didn't even try.
Instead, she left them cold. In her mind it was their loss. She knew she was right and therefore they were wrong and that, according to her was all she needed. When speaking about race relations she would say something like: Just because something is common doesn't mean it is right. Right is right and wrong is wrong and everyone knows what they are. We need to treat people, especially children, well!" Kids were the main focus of her entire life.
Importantly, Angel never publicly talked about the events that led to her dismissal and black balling by "big" talent agencies. Neither did her husband. Her sons didn't find out the truth until after her death when going through her effects, they found the pictures you saw on the first page of this site and below. These are the only two remaining of a series of 6 that were taken. Looking at them today we see absolutely nothing wrong or negative with them.
In 1956 though, there were people in power who didn't see it that way. To these people "mixing" of races was a cardinal sin. They denied the humanity of non-white children. Angel found this mystifying and intolerable. She decided to change it and as C.V. Eidson wrote, she swung for the fences and missed.
Other's might have been crushed. Other's might have 'run back" to the safety of their high paying jobs and the insular white society of the day. Not Angel Casey. She simple became "Lorraine 'Angel' Meinecke", freelance actress and children's entertainer, teacher and promoter, wife, mother, then eventually grandmother and great grandmother.
Since this was how she thought of herself anyway, the mother of the world so to speak, it wasn't a hard transition. This is not to say she didn't miss the perks, it is to say that in her view the perks were not worth sacrificing her values. In her view it wasn't even close.
Something similar happened when she went to Hollywood in 1946 at the behest of Bob Hope and Dean Martin, she interviewed with major movie producers, attempts were made to put her on the casting couch which she abruptly refused. This happened 3 times. One time she had to mention her husband from Chicago, after which, the attacker immediately and comically relented like the mouse he was.
Finally, on the 4th and last time, she put her foot down and said look, (we paraphrase) "Why do I have to do this? I'm a great actress, I'm better than all the others! And I have no desire to sleep with you." The producer raised his window shade and said: "Look out there, do you see the line of women? Every one of those girls would give anything for the chance you're turning down." She replied: "that she was better than all of them, you know it and I know it." "Maybe, he said, but we like women who give it up and if you aren't willing to, there's the door." So she took it without hesitation and came back to Chicago on the next flight.
In Chicago she was a queen hailed by many, until she wasn't which was a dishonorable tragedy, though Angel always looked at is as a triumph as America moved closer and closer to views she advanced. Children, their safety and well being, were her focus for her entire life. Outside of family there was nothing or no one on earth she cared about more.
The idea that her shows promotional shots would not look like her audience was anathema to her. Angel saw their inclusion as a necessity for all the children of Chicago. Segregation and racism hurts us all she said. To her this was easy to see, why others didn't see it baffled her. She wasn't naive, it was simply that she saw her view as observably correct because it was. Based on this she acted on behalf of the children of Chicago by trying to get images that looked like all of them included in her shows promotions. History has proven her right and she may have been the first to push for inclusion.
When she was refused she took her talents and went home to her family and her legions of adoring fans who allowed her to earn a substantial income through freelancing.
Fans are fickle, she was out of the limelight and over the decades she was largely forgotten, but families are another thing entirely and safely ensconced in the bosom of hers she lived out her life with rare style and grace. When asked about the events she would simply say something like, "Let's not talk about that. I was right, they were wrong so I really couldn't give a whit."
Who do you know who would have taken that stand and sacrificed current and future stardom for principals such as shown here? Who do you know who would do that and be happy about it and at peace with it, at peace with such a momentous decision for over 50 years? Angel Casey the Queen of Chicago did exactly that when she stepped down from her throne and walked with us mortals for a little while.
Even though in 1956 she failed to achieve her goal, it was an opening shot in a war that would be fought and won in her lifetime in her country, by people who saw life as she and her husband Tristan did.