Frederick O'Neal

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Frederick O'Neal, 1958

Frederick O'Neal (27 August 1905 – 25 August 1992) was an American actor, theater producer and television director. He founded the American Negro Theater and was the first African-American president of the Actors' Equity Association. He was also known for his work behind the scenes as a revolutionary trade unionist.

Early life and acting career[edit]

Born in Brooksville, Mississippi, O'Neal made his New York debut in 1936 with the Civic Repertory Theatre. In 1944, he won the Clarence Derwent award for his Broadway performance as the greedy brother-in-law in Anna Lucasta. He also earned acclaim for his stage portrayal of Lem Scott in Take a Giant Step in 1953. He reprised both roles on film. He was frequently on Kraft Suspense and Hallmark Hall of Fame productions. He also portrayed Officer Wallace on Car 54, Where Are You? from 1961 to 1963.

Organization and union work[edit]

Among theater companies which he helped organize were Harlem's American Negro Theatre in 1940, which started the careers of Harry Belafonte, Ruby Dee, Sidney Poitier, among others. O'Neal also co-founded the British Negro Theatre.

In 1964 he became president of the Actors' Equity Association and Associated Actors and Artistes of America. He was the first African-American president of Equity (1964–73). His work landed him on the master list of Nixon political opponents.

References[edit]