Washington, Fredi, 1903-1994

Alternative names
Birth 1903-12-23
Death 1994-06-28

Biographical notes:

Actress and dancer.

From the description of Papers of Fredi Washington, 1925-1979. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 71071744

Fredi Washington began her career in show business in 1921 as a chorus girl at the Alabam Club, and later won a spot in the landmark play "Shuffle Along." In 1926, she obtained an acting role in the play "Black Boy," starring Paul Robeson, and at the closing of that show sailed to Europe with Al Moiret as part of a dance act called "Fredi and Moiret." Upon her return to the U.S. in 1928, her career accelerated and she appeared in three movies: "Black and Tan Fantasy," a short feature with Duke Ellington (1930); "Emperor Jones" with Paul Robeson (1933); "Drum in the Night" (1933); and an equal number of plays, "Singing the Blues" (1930), "Sweet Chariot" (1930) and "Run Lil' Chillun" (1933), within a five year span.

During this period, Ms Washington married Lawrence Brown, a trombonist in Duke Ellington's band (1933). Her career took a leap with her highly successful roles in the movies "Imitation of Life" (1934) and "One Mile from Heaven" with Bill Robinson (1937), and the play "Mamba's DaughterS" with Ethel Waters and Georgette Harvey (1939).

In the 1930s, Washington actively participated in the boycott campaigns and the picket lines organized on 125th Street by her brother-in law, the Reverend Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. (who had married her sister Isabel), to force Harlem stories, utility companies and bus lines to hire blacks. In 1938, she was a co-founder and subsequently executive director of the Negro Actors Guild. Washington also wrote a regular feature "Headlines and Footlights" (1944) and "Fredi Speaks" for "The People's Voice," a weekly paper founded by Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. in 1938. In the 1940s and '50s, she actively participated in the Cultural Division of the National Negro Congress and the Committee for the Negro in the Arts, two organizations dedicated to the equality of opportunity for black artists and the eradication of racial stereotypes in all forms of American culture.

From the description of Fredi Washington papers, 1922-1981, 1922-1941 (bulk). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122455536


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  • African American actors--Societies, etc
  • African Americans in the performing arts
  • Music-halls (Variety-theaters, cabarets, etc.)
  • African Americans--Social life and customs
  • African American entertainers
  • African American actresses
  • African American dancers


  • Actresses
  • Dancers


  • United States (as recorded)