This Day In History: November 8th
From the theater stage to television and movie screens, actresses Esther Rolle and Alfre Woodard captured audiences with their compelling performances. In addition to being known as award-winning actresses, both women were born on November 8.
Esther Rolle entered the world first on November 8, 1920, in Pompano Beach, Florida. After graduating from high school, Rolle attended Spelman College before relocating to New York. While living in New York she began taking drama classes and earned a scholarship to study acting.
Rolle made her theater debut in 1962 with her performance in The Blacks. In the years following her debut, Rolle accepted more theater roles, but she also expanded to film and television by making appearances in productions such as Nothing But a Man (1964) and One Life to Live (1968).
After impressing popular writer and producer Norman Lear, Rolle was asked to audition for a role in Maude (1972). She played the maid for the Findley family before earning the leading role in the hit sitcom, Good Times (1974). Rolle played the character, Florida Evans, alongside John Amos for five years over the course of the show’s six seasons.
Once the series came to an end Rolle continued acting and made her return to the theater stage. She performed in the television adaptation of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1979) as well as the films Driving Miss Daisy (1989) and Down In The Delta (1998).
Over the course of her career, Rolle received accolades including an Emmy award, an NAACP Hall of Fame award, and Golden Globe nominations. Esther Rolle died on November 17, 1998.
Like her Down In The Delta co-star, Alfre Woodard was born on November 8, 1952, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. After graduating from high school she attended Boston University and graduated with a degree in drama in 1974. Woodard soon relocated to California and made her debut on the theater stage.
She made her film debut as the character Lucy Smith in The Trial of the Moke (1978) and Rita in Remember My Name (1978). Woodard earned her first Emmy Award just six years later for her performance in Hill Street Blues (1981). Woodard has more than 120 acting credits to her name and she has made appearances in fan favorites such as Crooklyn (1994), Down In The Delta (1998), Love and Basketball (2000), the television adaptation of Steel Magnolias (2012) and Juanita (2019).
Woodard is an Oscar-nominated talent with four Emmy Wins, a Golden Globe Award and more. She even earned herself the number 17 spot on the New York Times list of the 25 Best Actors of the 21st Century.