From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Calvin, Mandy

(born: 1850  -  died: 1942) 

Mandy Calvin became an actress in 1941 when she was selected to play an aged native woman in the Hollywood MGM film, Tarzan's Secret Treasure, starring Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan. Calvin, supposedly born around 1839, had been a slave in Kentucky and was then living in Los Angeles, CA. She was selected for the film after movie director Richard Thorpe asked talent scouts to find the oldest African American woman. Her name is not listed in the credits, nor are the names of others who had minor parts in the the film.

Mandy Calvin is listed in the 1940 U.S. Federal Census with an estimated birth year of 1849. She lived with her grandson, Roy P. Lanier, and lodger Mary Dews. She died June 5, 1942, according to the California Death Index, and her birth date therein is given as April 10, 1850. Her mother's maiden name was Ford, and her father's last name was Grist, both from Mississippi.

For more see "Ex-slave makes her movie debut at 102," Baltimore Afro-American, 10/18/1941, p. 14.; "Woman, 102 years makes screen debut," The Sunday Morning Star, 10/26/1941, p. 8; and "Mandy begins career at age 102, estimated," Ogden Standard Examiner, 10/09/1941, p. 19.

Outside Kentucky Place Name

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NKAA Source: Tarzan's secret treasure (videorecording)
NKAA Source: The Afro-American (newspaper)
NKAA Source: The Sunday morning star (newspaper)
NKAA Source: The Ogden standard (newspaper)

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Calvin, Mandy,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed May 20, 2024,

Last modified: 2020-06-23 20:25:15