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Lorraine Toussaint

Actress Lorraine Toussaint was born April 4, 1960, in Trinidad, in the West Indies. At the age of ten, her family relocated to New York City, where a young Toussaint was intrigued when she came upon a large ad in the telephone book for a theater school. Finding her calling in the performing arts, Toussaint attended the renowned High School of Performing Arts and then went on to attend the Juilliard School.

Toussaint landed her first paying acting job on the day she received her diploma from Juilliard, playing Lady MacBeth with “Shakespeare & Company” in New York. She spent the next twelve years on stage in New York before moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film and television. Her decision to move proved right, with Toussaint landing numerous roles on a variety of television programs, including recurring roles on Law & Order and Murder One and regular lead roles on Leaving L.A., Where I Live and Amazing Grace. She also appeared in numerous made-for-television movies, including the mini-series Queen based on the novel by Alex Haley.

Toussaint starred for four seasons on the Lifetime Television drama Any Day Now as Rene Jackson. Her work on the program garnered her four NAACP Image Award nominations for Best Actress in a Drama Series; a T.V. Guide Award nomination; and a Wiley A. Branton Award from the National Bar Association. Toussaint has also appeared in a number of films, including Point of No Return, starring alongside Bridget Fonda and Dangerous Minds, with Michelle Pfeiffer. Toussaint has also appeared on the television series Crossing Jordan, Judging Amy, The Closer and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. She also appeared in the made-for-television movie version of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God with Halle Berry and Ruby Dee.

Accession Number

A2004.195

Sex

Female

Interview Date

10/6/2004

Last Name

Toussaint

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts

First Name

Lorraine

HM ID

TOU01

Favorite Season

Summer

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Interview Description
Birth Date

4/4/1960

Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

Trinidad & Tobago

Favorite Food

Stewed Ox Tails

Short Description

Actress Lorraine Toussaint (1960 - ) has been nominated for four NAACP Image Awards, and starred in four seasons on the Lifetime Television drama, "Any Day Now," as Rene Jackson. Toussaint has also appeared in a number of films and television shows, including, "Point of No Return," starring alongside Bridget Fonda, and, "Dangerous Minds," with Michelle Pfeiffer.

Favorite Color

Yellow

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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Lorraine Toussaint interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Lorraine Toussaint lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Lorraine Toussaint recalls her mother's background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Lorraine Toussaint recounts her mother's life

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Lorraine Toussaint discusses well-known black leaders and writers from Trinidad

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Lorraine Toussaint remembers her father's background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Lorraine Toussaint discusses color politics in Trinidad

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Lorraine Toussaint recalls meeting her father's family in the rural area of Trinidad

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Lorraine Toussaint describes her father and talks about her parents' courtship

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Lorraine Toussaint shares childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Lorraine Toussaint recalls her personality as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Lorraine Toussaint recounts her mother's personality

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Lorraine Toussaint talks about her mother's move to the U.S. without her

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Lorraine Toussaint recounts finally joining her mother in the United States

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Lorraine Toussaint recalls immigrating to the United States

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Lorraine Toussaint remembers her first fight

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Lorraine Toussaint recounts her elementary school years

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Lorraine Toussaint details how she got into the High School for Performing Arts

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Lorraine Toussaint remembers high school and her mother's illness

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Lorraine Toussaint recalls high school and her mother's struggle with MS

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Lorraine Toussaint describes the strict educational discipline at the Juilliard School

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Lorraine Toussaint remembers being either "too black" or "not black enough" for the acting world

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Lorraine Toussaint discusses her acting roles and other actors she's worked with

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Lorraine Toussaint lists her role models

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Lorraine Toussaint discusses her approach to acting

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Lorraine Toussaint details her acting method

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Lorraine Toussaint details the advice actress Sally Field gave regarding acting

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Lorraine Toussaint recalls her reaction to Toni Morrison's writing

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Lorraine Toussaint remembers her first television role

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Lorraine Toussaint recounts her work in the movie 'Queen'

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Lorraine Toussaint discusses the making of 'Hudson Hawk'

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Lorraine Toussaint lists the movies in which her character is killed

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Lorraine Toussaint remembers her character in 'Queen'

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Lorraine Toussaint recalls her first movie with a black director

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Lorraine Toussaint reviews the highlights of her career

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Lorraine Toussaint talks about inspiring others her role in the series 'Any Day Now'

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Lorraine Toussaint shares her concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Lorraine Toussaint expresses her hopes for African Americans in the acting profession in Hollywood

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Lorraine Toussaint comments on her past and future career

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Lorraine Toussaint considers her legacy

DASession

1$1

DATape

6$4

DAStory

2$2

DATitle
Lorraine Toussaint reviews the highlights of her career
Lorraine Toussaint describes the strict educational discipline at the Juilliard School
Transcript
Now, well, just give us kind of a review of things you've been involved in, I mean things that you want to talk about that you think are highlights of--,$$(Simultaneously) Oh, sure.$$--of your career.$$You know, once I moved out to L.A. [Los Angeles, California] I got to do the first, several episodes--a good handful of episodes on the first five years of 'Law and Order' [TV series], which were thrilling, thrilling, thrilling. I'd never had that kind of writing anywhere but on the stage, and to--it was the days when Michael Moriarty was at his best. And he adored me, and I adored him. We, we would see each other coming and knew it was on. It was like on--and as actors, we just indulged ourselves with each other. It was like playland because anything--it was all about what we could throw at each other and how fast or hard and--or high we could hit the ball back. And those were wonderful, wonderful days in New York [New York], I mean guerrilla, guerrilla T.V., you know, in the snow and the, in Midtown [Manhattan, New York] traffic. It was Oh, you know, being paid at the time, very little, but wonderful work, and lives on. I mean there are people today, some fifteen--twelve years later that come up and talk to me about, 'Law and Order' things. 'Nightjohn' [TV movie, 1996] was certainly one, another piece of work that I really am proud of. I've been, you know, the queen of doing pilots, many of, many of which have not survived. (laughs) Of the series, I've done five series to date. There was one that was very short-lived that was called 'Leaving L.A.' [TV series, 1997], which was Bay--which was the precursor to that one on, on HBO [Home Box Office, cable network] now that's about death and the funeral home. This was all about death.$$'Six Feet Under'.$$Yes, it was the, it was the original 'Six Feet Under', and I--it was a series well before its time. Nancy Miller wrote and produced it, what a wonderful--who also wrote and produced 'Any Day Now' [TV series], which is where we met. And she then wrote the role of Rene Jackson for me in 'Any Day Now'. But that was a wonderful series, where it was all about death, and but death is a fascinating subject to me personally. I, I'm rather fond of death. And it was really nice to be a part of that.$Is there any about the Juilliard [School, New York, New York] experience you want to tell us during those days?$$I loved those Juilliard years. I was a creature of discipline and Juilliard was all about discipline, I mean it really was. A lot of people had problems with Juilliard because it was systematically breaking you down in terms of breaking all of the habits that you had developed up until that point as an artist--as an actor. Artist is a very rarified word, and taking those from you, and then giving you new ones. But I was so young, I was one of the few people that came right out of high school [High School of the Performing Arts, later Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts, New York City, New York], so I was one of the youngest people. I had no life. I had no, I had nothing to break down. So I was still very malleable and very open and available to that kind of discipline. I, I felt like the rest of my life, my personal life was, was so scary and so chaotic and so on the edge that to have the structure that Juilliard provided--and it was very rigid, very, very rigid, was a lifesaver to me again because it, it balanced my life. It balanced the kind of uncertainty that I was living with, you know, while I was at Juilliard, my mother [Janet Angela Beane Toussaint] was in the hospital a lot--Kaia, no (laughs). My dog, Kaia is--.$$(Simultaneously) I don't think we can hear that.$$--a dear part of my life. So--.$$How do you spell her name?$$Kaia, K-A-I-A. She's a standard poodle, and my pal and my dear friend. That kind of rigidity, that, the discipline that Juilliard offered was a lifesaver. So I, I had a wonderful time. I, you know, the interesting thing about Juilliard is, all through those years, I didn't know anything about race prejudice. I began to learn about racism at Juilliard because (pauses) I remember I was doing--in my last year, when you were being groomed to come out. You were almost having a big coming out party, where agents and managers and everyone sort of came to see the new 'crop'. And I was doing a play called 'Love's Labour's Lost' directed by Michael Langham, who was a wonderful British Canadian director--ah, what a master in [William] Shakespeare he was because--but I had been trained through Juilliard to do only the classics. My God, when I got out of Juilliard--I'm jumping around a little bit--when I got out of Juilliard and I tried to go to NEC, the Negro Ensemble Company, to get a job--oh, Lord, I just wasn't black enough.

Jeni LeGon

Dancer, actress, and dance instructor Jeni LeGon was born Jennie Ligon on August 14, 1916, in Chicago, Illinois. Later, in London, she learned that she was descended from General Henry Beauchamp Lygon, the 4th Earl of Beauchamp, through her father, Hector Ligon, a "Geechie" from the Georgia Sea Islands. LeGon grew up with her older sister Mary Belle in Chicago's overcrowded Black Belt. Practicing and performing with other children, LeGon received her first formal training from Mary Bruce's School of Dance. She often skipped school to learn new dance routines from the movies, and she graduated from Sexton Elementary School in 1928. In 1930, at age thirteen, she successfully auditioned for the Count Basie Orchestra's chorus line. Leaving Englewood High School a year later, LeGon was already a cutting edge professional dancer with a repertoire of knee drops, flips, slides, mule kicks, and flying splits, which she performed wearing pants.

In 1931, LeGon became a member of the family oriented Whitman Sisters troupe, which traveled the South. With her half sister, Willa Mae Lane, she formed the LeGon and Lane tap duo in 1933. In 1935 Hollywood, Earl Dancer, the former manager of Ethel Waters, discovered LeGon. Dancer helped LeGon to be the first black woman to sign an extended contract from MGM, though it was shortly cancelled. In her first screen role, LeGon danced with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson (the only black woman to do so on screen) in Hooray for Love, which also featured Fats Waller.

Her twenty-four film credits include: Broadway Melody of 1936, This Was Paris, (1937), Start Cheering, Fools for Scandal (1938), I Can't Give You Anything But Love (1940), Birth of the Blues, Sundown, Arabian Nights (1941), While Thousands Cheered, Stormy Weather (1943), Hi De Ho (1945), Easter Parade (1948), I Shot Jesse James (1949) and Somebody Loves Me (1952).

LeGon married composer Phil Moore in 1943 and they co wrote "The Sping" which Lena Horne sang in Panama Hattie. She also starred in Fats Waller's Broadway musical, Early to Bed and took African dance lessons from Katherine Dunham that same year. In 1953, LeGon appeared with Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte as a teacher in Bright Road. Her next U. S. film role would not come until Snoop Dogg's 2001 film, Bones. In the 1950's LeGon founded a school of dance and appeared in television's Amos and Andy. By the 60's she toured with Jazz Caribe. In 1969, LeGon settled in Vancouver, British Columbia teaching tap, point and Dunham technique. In the 1970s, LeGon worked with Troupe One, a youth theatre group and traveled to London with the Pelican Players in the 80s.

The Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame and the National Congress of Black Women have honored LeGon. In 2002, Oklahoma City University conferred upon her a doctorate of performing arts in American Dance. In 1999, the National Film Board of Canada released Grant Greshuk's prize-winning documentary, Jeni LeGon: Living in a Great Big Way.

Jeni Legon passed away on December 7, 2012.

Accession Number

A2004.113

Sex

Female

Interview Date

7/28/2004

Last Name

LeGon

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Englewood High School

Austin O. Sexton Elementary School

First Name

Jeni

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

LEG01

Favorite Season

August

State

Illinois

Favorite Quote

Everyday you live and learn.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

British Columbia

Interview Description
Birth Date

8/14/1916

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Vancouver

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Ice Cream (Vanilla)

Death Date

12/7/2012

Short Description

Film actress and tap dancer Jeni LeGon (1916 - 2012 ) started her career in Count Basie Orchestra's chorus line. In her first screen role, LeGon danced with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, the only black woman to do so on screen, in "Hooray for Love." In the 1950's, LeGon founded a school of dance, and by the 1960's, she toured with Jazz Caribe. Her twenty-four film credits include, "Broadway Melody," "This Was Paris," and "Start Cheering, Fools for Scandal."

Employment

Whitman Sisters Troupe

Legon and Lane Tap Duo

Jazz Caribe

Troupe One

Pelican Players

Favorite Color

Red

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Jeni LeGon interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Jeni LeGon's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Jeni LeGon describes her mother's background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Jeni LeGon describes her father's background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Jeni LeGon remembers her mother

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Jeni LeGon remembers her grandmother and great-grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Jeni LeGon remembers her father

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Jeni LeGon recalls her introduction to show business

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Jeni LeGon discusses her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Jeni LeGon recalls performances from her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Jeni LeGon remembers early performances with her family

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Jeni LeGon discusses social life in her childhood community, Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Jeni LeGon recalls her early school life

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Jeni LeGon details her early interest in the performing arts

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Jeni LeGon remembers her sister-in-law

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Jeni LeGon discusses her beginnings as a professional dancer

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Jeni LeGon recounts her performances with the Whitman Sisters

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Jeni LeGon discusses the end of her performances with the Whitman Sisters

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Jeni LeGon recounts the beginning of her film career

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Jeni LeGon remembers her performances on Broadway and in London, England

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Jeni LeGon gives an overview of her career as a performer

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Jeni LeGon remembers dancer Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Jeni LeGon recalls her collaborations with Fats Waller

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Jeni LeGon recalls her roles in 'Stormy Weather' and 'Dishonor Bright'

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Jeni LeGon discusses her musical collaboration with ex-husband Phil Moore

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Jeni LeGon recounts her encounters with influential dancers

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Jeni LeGon recalls encountering racial discrimination in Hollywood

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Jeni LeGon describes limited social interactions in Hollywood

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Jeni LeGon remembers the cast of 'Amos 'n Andy'

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Jeni LeGon discusses race and performance

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Jeni LeGon remembers pioneer entertainers

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Jeni LeGon reflects on current film and television projects

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Jeni LeGon discusses cultural influences in her performances

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Jeni LeGon discusses racism in the dance world

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Jeni LeGon remembers her favorite dancers

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Jeni LeGon discusses settling in Vancouver, British Columbia

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Jeni LeGon shares her impersonations

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Jeni LeGon describes her entertainment pursuits in Vancouver, British Columbia

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Jeni LeGon considers her retirement options

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Jeni LeGon shares her observations of African American communities

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Jeni LeGon reflects on the course of her career

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Jeni LeGon remembers her mother and sister

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Jeni LeGon considers her legacy

Ruby Dee

Actress Ruby Dee was born Ruby Ann Wallace on October 27, 1924 in Cleveland, Ohio. Her family soon moved to New York, and Dee was raised during the golden age of Harlem. After high school, she attended New York’s Hunter College, graduating in 1945. Expressive and literate, Dee was drawn to the theatre while still a college student. Dee acted in small Shakespearian productions and landed a role in the play, South Pacific in 1943. She also began to study with the American Negro Theatre, where she would meet her future husband, Ossie Davis. They would fall in love during a cross-country tour of Anna Lucasta.

Ruby Dee’s career as an actress has been nothing short of phenomenal. A petite, intelligent actress of nuance and sensitivity, she was talented enough and lucky enough to garner some of the best roles for black women in the 1950s and 1960s. On stage, she was the first black woman to play lead roles at the American Shakespeare Festival, and won an Obie Award for her portrayal of "Lena" in Athol Fugard's Boseman and Lena; a Drama Desk Award for her role in Alice Childress’ Wedding Band and an Ace Award for her performance in Eugene O'Neil's Long Days Journey Into Night.

Dee has appeared in over fifty films. In 1950, she played Jackie Robinson’s wife in The Jackie Robinson Story and forty years later, she played his mother in the television production, The Court Martial of Jackie Robinson. Her film credits include: A Raisin In The Sun (1961), Uptight (1968), Buck And The Preacher (1972), Roots (1978), Do The Right Thing (1989) and The Delany Sisters: The First Hundred Years (1999). Dee won an Emmy Award for her performance in the Hallmark Hall of Fame production, Decoration Day. Throughout her film and television career, Dee has been selective and has brought that selectivity and dignity to every role she plays. She is particularly proud of her one-woman show, Zora Is My Name, about pioneering novelist, folklorist, anthropologist, Zora Neale Hurston.

Dee and her husband are authors, storytellers and recording artists as well as actors. Her published works include the humorous, My One Good Nerve and various recordings for young people. In 1998, Dee and Davis co-wrote the autobiographical book, With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together, in which they take turns telling their stories as actors, activists, a married couple and as parents.

Dee’s life has not all been acting, however. She is a survivor of breast cancer for more than thirty years, and has long been active in a variety of movements. She, along with Davis, traveled to Lagos, Nigeria, as goodwill ambassadors, and eulogized Malcolm X in 1965 and later his widow, Betty Shabazz in 1997.

Jointly presented with The Academy of Television Arts and Science’s Silver Circle Award in 1994, Dee and Davis officially became “national treasures” when they received the National Medal of Arts in 1995. In 2000, they were presented the Screen Actors Guild’s Life Achievement Award. They are inductees in the Theater Hall of Fame as well as the NAACP Hall of Fame. In 2008, Dee was awarded the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the film, American Gangster. She also received an Academy Award nomination for this role.

Dee was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 7, 2001.

Accession Number

A2001.024

Sex

Female

Interview Date

10/18/2002

Last Name

Day

Maker Category
Middle Name

Davis

Organizations
First Name

Nora

Birth City, State, Country

Cleveland

HM ID

DEE02

State

Ohio

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Interview Description
Birth Date

10/27/1924

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

USA

Death Date

6/11/2014

Short Description

Actress Ruby Dee (1924 - 2014 ) has appeared in over fifty movies, including A Raisin In The Sun (1961), Uptight (1968), Buck And The Preacher (1972), Roots (1978), Do The Right Thing (1989), The Delany Sisters: The First Hundred Years (1999) and American Gangster (2007), which earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.

Employment

Allied Stores Corporation

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Sponsors of Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Opening to 'An Evening With Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee'

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Introduction of Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee recall the campaign for Angela Davis's freedom

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee talk about their introductions to the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Photos from Ossie Davis's and Ruby Dee's early theater roles and famous African American writers

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee reflect on how they first met acting in a play together

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee talk about the New York theater scene's efforts against racial injustices in the 1940s

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - A series of theater stills, political events of the '50s and '60s, and a film clip of Ruby Dee in 'Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis talk about the theatrical community's political activism in the 1950s

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee talk about their relationships with Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee recall their children's involvement during the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee talk about their Hollywood experiences

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Series of film clips by Spike Lee featuring Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee detail their relationship with the filmmaker Spike Lee

Tape: 1 Story: 16 - Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee talk about their current political activism and the plight of the nations of Africa

Tape: 1 Story: 17 - Closing credits from 'An Evening With Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee'