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Al Freeman Jr.

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Al Freeman Jr.
Freeman in 1975
Albert Cornelius Freeman Jr.

(1934-03-21)March 21, 1934
DiedAugust 9, 2012(2012-08-09) (aged 78)
Years active1958–2004
Sevara E. Clemon
(m. 1960)

Albert Cornelius Freeman Jr. (March 21, 1934 – August 9, 2012) was an American actor, director, and educator. A life member of The Actors Studio,[1] Freeman appeared in a wide variety of plays, ranging from Leroi Jones' Slave/Toilet to Joe Papp's revivals of Long Day's Journey Into Night and Troilus and Cressida, and films, including My Sweet Charlie, Finian's Rainbow, and Malcolm X, as well as television series and soap operas, such as One Life to Live, The Cosby Show, Law & Order, Homicide: Life on the Street and The Edge of Night.

Life and career[edit]

Al Freeman was born in San Antonio, Texas, to Lottie Brisette (née Coleman) and Albert Cornelius Freeman, a jazz pianist.[2] Taking a hiatus from college, Freeman enlisted in the Air Force in 1951 to serve in the Korean War.[3][4][5]

He starred opposite Frank Sinatra in the 1968 Gordon Douglas film The Detective, before taking his most recognized acting role as police captain Ed Hall on the ABC soap opera One Life to Live from 1972 through 1987, with recurring appearances in 1988 and 2000. He won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor for that role in 1979, the first actor from the show as well as the first African-American actor to earn the award.

After leaving One Life to Live, Freeman appeared in the 1998 motion picture Down in the Delta. His Broadway theatre credits include The Hot L Baltimore and Look to the Lilies. His portrayal of Elijah Muhammad, the Nation of Islam leader, in the film Malcolm X earned him the 1992 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture. He had played Malcolm X in the 1979 miniseries, Roots: The Next Generations. In the 1990s he had a recurring guest role as the manipulative Baltimore deputy police commissioner James Harris in Homicide: Life on the Street. In 1991 Freeman joined the Department of Theatre Arts at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and served for six years as department chairman.[6]

Al Freeman Jr. also appeared on Broadway in 1970 as Homer Smith in Look to the Lilies, a musical adaptation of Lilies of the Field, opposite Shirley Booth. The show ran for 25 performances and 31 previews.


Freeman died on August 9, 2012, in Washington, D.C., at the age of 78.[7]

On September 10, 2012, a memorial service was held for Freeman at Howard University.[6] In 2014, the Environmental Theatre Space at the Howard University Fine Arts Building was renamed The Al Freeman Jr. Environmental Theatre Space in his honor.[8]

Selected filmography[edit]


Year Title Role Notes
1958 Torpedo Run Sam Baker Uncredited
1960 This Rebel Breed Satchel
1961 Sniper's Ridge Medic Gwathney
1964 Black Like Me Thomas Newcomb
1964 The Troublemaker Intern
1964 Ensign Pulver Taru
1966 For Pete's Sake
1967 Dutchman Clay
1968 The Detective Robbie
1968 Finian's Rainbow Howard
1969 The Lost Man Dennis Lawrence
1969 Castle Keep Pvt. Allistair Piersall Benjamin
1970 My Sweet Charlie Charles Roberts
1971 A Fable The Leader
1972 To Be Young, Gifted and Black
1988 Seven Hours to Judgment Danny Larwin
1992 Malcolm X Elijah Muhammad
1994 Assault at West Point: The Court-Martial of Johnson Whittaker Old Johnson Whittaker
1995 Once Upon a Time... When We Were Colored Poppa
1998 Down in the Delta Earl Sinclair


Year Title Role Notes
1967 The Edge of Night Assistant District Attorney Ben Lee
1968 The FBI Alan Harmon 1 episode
1969 Judd for the Defense Jeff Jones 1 episode
1972 Mod Squad Jessie Cook 1 episode
1972-1988 One Life to Live Captain Ed Hall
1974 Maude Roy 1 episode
1975 Hot l Baltimore Charles Bingham Main role
1976 Kojak Donald Mosher 1 episode
1978 King Damon Lockwood
1979 Roots: The Next Generations Malcolm X
1990 Law and Order Reverend Thayer 1 episode
1995-1996 Homicide: Life on the Street Deputy Commissioner James Harris
2004 Law and Order Stan Wallace 1 episode


  1. ^ Garfield, David (1980). "Appendix: Life Members of The Actors Studio as of January 1980". A Player's Place: The Story of The Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. p. 278. ISBN 0-02-542650-8.
  2. ^ "Al Freeman Jr. profile at FilmReference.com". Filmreference.com. Retrieved 2012-08-13.
  3. ^ Al Freeman, pioneering black actor, has died. Star Tribune. Retrieved August 21, 2020.
  4. ^ Actor's career spanned Broadway, TV soap operas, films and academia. The Washington Post via Internet Archive. Retrieved August 21, 2020.
  5. ^ Al Freeman Jr., actor and teacher. African American Registry. Retrieved August 21, 2020.
  6. ^ a b "Acting Legend Al Freeman Jr. Remembered at Howard University". Howard University. 2012-09-12. Archived from the original on 2015-11-19. Retrieved 2015-09-30.
  7. ^ Matt Schudel (August 13, 2012). "Actor's career spanned Broadway, TV soap operas, films and academia". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2012-08-13.
  8. ^ "Howard University Celebrates 50th Anniversary Revival of 'Dutchman' and Theatre Dedication to Honor Al Freeman". Howard University. 2014-10-14. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2015-09-30.

External links[edit]