Rosetta LeNoire

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Rosetta LeNoire
Rosetta LeNoire.jpg
Born Rosetta Olive Burton
(1911-08-08)August 8, 1911
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died March 17, 2002(2002-03-17) (aged 90)
Holy Name Hospital, Teaneck, New Jersey, U.S.
Cause of death Complications from Diabetes
Resting place Cypress Hills National Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Occupation Actress, producer, casting agent
Years active 1939–1998
Spouse(s) Egbert Brown (m. 1948–74)
William LeNoire (m. 1929–43)
(1 child)
Awards National Medal of Arts (1999)

Rosetta LeNoire (born Rosetta Olive Burton; August 8, 1911 – March 17, 2002) was an American stage, screen, and television actress, as well as a Broadway producer and casting agent. LeNoire is known to contemporary audiences for her work in television. She had regular roles on the series Gimme a Break! and Amen but she may be best-known for her role as Estelle "Mother" Winslow (Carl's mother) on Family Matters, which ran from 1989-98. In 1999, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts.[1]

Early life and career[edit]

As a young girl, LeNoire suffered from rickets, which her godfather, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, helped her overcome by teaching her to dance. LeNoire made her acting debut in a 1939 production of The Hot Mikado, starring Robinson, in which she played "Little Maid From School" Peep-Bo. She also appeared onstage, mostly as a singer and dancer, in I Had a Ball, Bassa Moona, Marching with Jimmy, Janie, Decision, Three's a Family, Destry Rides Again, and the Off Broadway Double Entry (two one-act musicals showcasing Lenoire: "The Bible Salesman," with a pre-SNL Garrett Morris, and "The Oldest Trick in the World" with Jane Connell).[2]

Amas Repertory Theater[edit]

Rosetta LeNoire championed the cause of racial equity for more than 70 years. Her efforts profoundly influenced the New York theater community. In 1968, using her own savings, Rosetta founded the AMAS Repertory Theatre Company, an interracial theatre dedicated to multi-ethnic productions in New York City. With this company, Rosetta created an artistic community where members' individual skills were recognized without regard to race, creed, color, religion, or national origin. She became a successful and groundbreaking Broadway producer. The Actors' Equity Association awarded her the first award for helping contribute to the diversification of theatre casting; in 1988, the award was named the Rosetta LeNoire Award.[citation needed]

Amas Repertory Theatre provided a nurturing atmosphere for actors, and a community performing arts center. Throughout its history, many of the company's productions garnered reviews in the New York Times. The long-running theater's cramped headquarters were originally located at 1 East 104th Street, in the uptown neighborhood known as Spanish Harlem. The theater continues today as Amas Musical Theatre, now located midtown on 52nd street above Jersey Boys, and carries on Rosetta's dream of diversity in the creative and theatrical arts. Since its inception, Amas has produced over 60 original musicals. Many of them have gone on to Broadway, including Bubbling Brown Sugar, which received a Tony nomination.[citation needed]


On March 17, 2002, LeNoire died at Holy Name Hospital in Teaneck, New Jersey of complications from diabetes, although an article in TV Guide reported that she died of pneumonia.[3] A resident of the Lillian Booth Actors Home in Englewood, New Jersey, she was 90 years old at the time of her death.[4]


The Rosie Award, named for Rosetta LeNoire, "is given to individuals who demonstrate extraordinary accomplishment and dedication in the theatrical arts and to corporations that work to promote opportunity and diversity",[5] with past honorees including Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, Geoffrey Holder and Carmen de Lavallade, Leslie Uggams, Maurice Hines, Phylicia Rashad, Woodie King, Jr., Dionne Warwick, and George C. Wolfe.[6]


  1. ^ Lifetime Honors - National Medal of Arts
  2. ^ Rosetta LeNoire at the Internet Movie Database
  3. ^ TV Guide April 27-May 3, 2002, p. 10. 
  4. ^ Martin, Douglas. "Rosetta LeNoire, 90, Producer Who Broke Color Bar, Dies", The New York Times, March 20, 2002; accessed September 13, 2011.
  5. ^ "Amas Musical Theatre benefit on Oct 25 includes concert presentation of 'RAISIN'", BroadwayWorld, October 12, 2004.
  6. ^ "Blast From the Past Benefit Concert", Theater Mania, April 4, 2011.

External links[edit]