Al Freeman, Jr.
( b. Mar 21, 1934 San Antonio, Texas, USA - d. Aug 09, 2012 ) Male
Freeman was an actor of dignity and range who rose to prominence in the 1960s and 1970s, when opportunities for African-American stage actors expanded greatly.
Though slight of build, Mr. Freeman was a commanding presence on stage, effortlessly infusing his performances with a thoughtful gravitas.
When Geraldine Fitzgerald asked actress Gloria Foster to play Mary Tyrone in a 1981 all-black production of Long Day's Journey Into Night at St. Peter's Church, Foster requested that Mr. Freeman play her rebellious son Jamie. The production was an unexpected critical and popular hit, moving to the New York Shakespeare Festival, where it played an additional 12 weeks.
Throughout a long stretch of his career, from 1972 to 1987, Mr. Freeman played Police Captain Ed Hall on the TV serial "One Life to Live." In 1978, he became the first African-American actor to win a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor. He also directed episodes of the soap opera. In film, he was best known for playing Elijah Muhammad, the Nation of Islam leader and Malcolm X's mentor, in Spike Lee's epic 1992 biopic "Malcolm X."
Off-Broadway, he was a preacher in the 1963 Off-Broadway hit Trumpets of the Lord, Vinette Carroll's gospel-infused musical adaptation of James Weldon Johnson's "God's Trombone." He was also in the 1964 double bill of LeRoi Jones one-acts, Slave/Toilet, at the St. Marks Playhouse. The following year, Joe Papp, long an advocate of non-traditional casting, hired him for an early Central Park staging of Troilus and Cressida.
Mr. Freeman was the son of Lottie Brisette (née Coleman) and Albert Cornelius Freeman, a jazz pianist. In addition to performing, he also taught acting at Howard University for 16 years.