Whipper, Leigh R. (Leigh Rollin), 1877-1975

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Character actor in the movies and theater, a founder of the Negro Actors Guild of America.

From the description of Leigh Rollin Whipper papers, 1861-1963. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122346178

African American actor and playwright.

From the description of Papers, 1864-1965. (Moorland-Spingarn Resource Center). WorldCat record id: 70941227

Leigh Whipper, one of America's best known character actors, was born in Charleston, South Carolina on October 29, 1876. He grew up in a nearby county where his father, Brigadier General William J. Whipper, was a circuit court judge and a member of two Constitutional Conventions during the Reconstruction Era. His mother, Frances Rollins Whipper, and his sister, Ionia Whipper, were physicians.

Whipper graduated from Howard University Law School in 1895. However, instead of establishing a law practice, he immediately joined the theater. He never attended drama school, but learned his craft by observing the techniques of the prominent actors of his day. Whipper made his first stage appearance in Georgia Minstrels, then as an extra, sang Old Black Joe in a stock company of Uncle Tom's Cabin in Philadelphia in 1899.

Whipper's long and varied career spanned more than sixty-five years. His Broadway credits include Stevedore, in which he played Jim Veal; In Abraham's Bosom; Three Men on a Horse; Of Mice and Men, both on stage and screen; Volpone; Set My People Free; Lysistrata and The Strike. His film credits include The Oxbow incident, in which he played the role of the minister and for which he was nominated for an Academy Award; Bahama Passage; Untamed Fury, which he narrated; The Harder They Fall ; Marjorie Morningstar and The Young Don't Cry. Leigh Whipper's most memorable performance was in the movie Mission to Moscow in which he portrayed the Emperor Haile Selassie. The Ethiopian government honored him for the scene in which Selassie delivers a speech before the League of Nations.

Whipper was a founding member of the Negro Actors Guild of America, Inc. and was closely associated with that organization all his life. He was the first black member of the Actors Equity Association and a member in good standing of the American Federation of Radio Artists and the Screen Actors Guild.

The vaudeville artist, comedian, lyric writer and actor was married to Lillian Miles and was the father of three children. He died in Harlem Hospital on July 26, 1975 at the age of ninetyeight.

From the guide to the Leigh Rollin Whipper papers, 1861-1963, (The New York Public Library. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division.)

  • 1887: Born in Charleston, South Carolina, son of Francis Rollins and William J. Whipper.
  • 1895: Graduated from Howard University Law School.
  • 1898: Appeared in a production of Uncle Tom's Cabin in which he sang "Old Black Joe."
  • 1920: Became the first Black member of the Actors Equity Association.
  • 1927: Portrayed the crabman of Catfish Row in the play Porgy by Dorothy and DuBose Heywood presented on Broadway.
  • 1937: Co-founded the Negro Actors Guild, with Noble Sissle.
  • 1942: Portrayed Emperor Haile Selassie in The Warner Brothers film Mission to Moscow released in 1943; Whipper was decorated by the Ethiopian Government for that portrayal.
  • 1949: Received Howard University Alumni Award for achievement in the field of drama.
  • 1974: Honored with a life membership to the Actors Equity Association.
  • 1975: Died in Harlem Hospital, New York.

From the guide to the Leigh R. Whipper Papers, 1864-1965, (Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Whipper, Leigh R. (Leigh Rollin), 1877-1975. The brigand [microform] / by Leigh R. Whipper. University of Missouri -- Columbia, MU Libraries; University of Missouri; MU; Ellis Library; University of Missouri Columbia
referencedIn Davis, Ruby S. (Ruby Sheppard), 1916-. Ruby Sheppard Davis scrapbooks, 1948-1978. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn Robert Benney research materials, 1926-1978 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
creatorOf Whipper, Leigh R. (Leigh Rollin), 1877-1975. Papers, 1864-1965. Moorland-Spingarn Resource Center
creatorOf Handy, W. C. (William Christopher), 1873-1958. W.C. Handy collection, 1914-1954. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Lewis, David L., 1936-. Voices from the Renaissance collection, 1974-1977. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Sadie P. Delaney papers, 1921-1958 The New York Public Library. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division.
referencedIn Voices from the Renaissance collection, 1974-1977 The New York Public Library. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division.
creatorOf Leigh Rollin Whipper papers, 1861-1963 The New York Public Library. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division.
referencedIn Horace Mann Bond Papers, 1830-1979, 1926-1972 Special Collections and University Archives, UMass Amherst Libraries
referencedIn Dehn, Mura, 1902-1987. Oral histories : Lee [i.e. Leigh] Whipper. New York Public Libraries for the Performing Arts, Dance Collection
referencedIn Helen Armstead-Johnson miscellaneous theater collections, 1831-1993 The New York Public Library. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division.
referencedIn Negro Actors Guild of America records, 1904-1982, 1937-1982 The New York Public Library. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division.
creatorOf Lawrence D. Reddick World War II project, 1943-1953 (bulk 1943-1945) New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Cullen, Countee, 1903-1946. The Countee Cullen/Harold Jackman Memorial Collection. Atlanta University Center, Robert W. Woodruff Library
referencedIn Negro Actors Guild of America, Inc. Negro Actors Guild of America records, 1904-1982, 1937-1982 (bulk). Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
creatorOf Negro Actors Guild of America. Correspondence with Marian Anderson, 1938-1977. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
creatorOf Whipper, Leigh Rollin, 1876-1975. Leigh Rollin Whipper papers, 1861-1963. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn W.C. Handy collection, 1914-1954 The New York Public Library. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division.
referencedIn Ruby Sheppard Davis scrapbooks, 1948-1978 The New York Public Library. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division.
referencedIn Johnson, Helen A. Helen Armstead-Johnson miscellaneous theater collections, 1831-1993. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Delaney, Sadie P., 1889-1958. Sadie P. Delaney papers, 1921-1958. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
creatorOf Leigh R. Whipper Papers, 1864-1965 Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Benney, Robert, 1904-2001 person
associatedWith Bond, Horace Mann, 1904-1972 person
associatedWith Cullen, Countee, 1903-1946. person
associatedWith Davis, Ruby S. (Ruby Sheppard), 1916- person
associatedWith Dehn, Mura, 1902-1987. person
associatedWith Delaney, Sadie P., 1889-1958. person
associatedWith Grainger, Porter. person
associatedWith Handy, W. C. (William Christopher), 1873-1958. person
associatedWith Johnson, Helen A. person
associatedWith Lewis, David L., 1936- person
associatedWith Negro Actors Guild of America. corporateBody
associatedWith Reddick, Lawrence Dunbar, 1910-1995. person
associatedWith Screen Actors Guild. corporateBody
associatedWith Whipper, William J., 1852-1906. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
United States
Subject
Revues--History and criticism
African American actors--Societies, etc
African American motion picture actors and actresses
African Americans in the performing arts
Drama--Collections
African American entertainers
African American actors
Revues--United States--History and criticism
Labor unions--Actors
Labor unions--African American membership
Occupation
African American actors
African American dramatists
Function

Person

Birth 1877-10-29

Death 1975-07-26

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