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Beah Richards Biography

| August 23, 2012 | 1 Comment

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Beah Richards Biography

Beah Richards was an American actress of stage, screen and television. She was also a poet, playwright and author. Her talent, combined with her social concern about race, education, and women’s issues, renders her an indelible persona of the entertainment industry.

Born Beulah Richardson on July 12, 1920 in Vicksburg, Mississippi, her mother was a seamstress and PTA advocate and her father was a Baptist minister.

Richards began her acting career in 1948. That same year she graduated from Dillard University in New Orleans and two years later she moved to New York City. Her career started to take off in 1955 when she portrayed an eighty-four-year-old-grandmother in the off-Broadway show Take a Giant Step. She performed in The Little Foxes at the Yale Repertory Theatre and in The Crucible with Charlton Heston at the Ahmanson Theatre.

Throughout her career, she often played the role of a mother or grandmother, and continued acting her entire life. She appeared in the original Broadway productions of Purlie Victorious, The Miracle Worker, and A Raisin in the Sun.

Richards was nominated for a Tony award for her 1965 performance in James Baldwin’s The Amen Corner. She also received an Oscar nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Sidney Poitier’s mother in the 1967 film Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. She was also inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame in 1974.

Richards’ other notable movie performances include Hurry Sundown, The Great White Hope, Beloved and In the Heat of the Night.

She made numerous guest television appearances including recurrent roles on The Bill Cosby Show, Big Valley, Sanford and Son, Beauty and the Beast, Designing Women, L.A. Law, The Practice, ER, Hearts Afire, and Frank’s Place, to name a very few.

Richards has won two Emmy Awards, one in 1988 for her appearance on the series Frank’s Place, and another in 2000 for her appearance on The Practice.

In the last year of her life, Richards was the subject and central focus of a critically-acclaimed documentary created by actress Lisa Gay Hamilton. The documentary Beah: A Black Woman Speaks, was created from over 70 hours of their conversations. The film won the Grand Jury Prize at the AFI Film Festival.

On September 14, 2000, Beah Richards died from emphysema in her hometown of Vicksburg, Mississippi at the age of 80.

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