Ellen Holly, first Black lead actress in a soap opera, dies at age 92

Ellen Holly, whose role in the soap opera “One Life to Live” made her the first Black actor to play a lead role in a daytime TV show, died Wednesday in New York.

Ellen Holly, whose role in the soap opera “One Life to Live” made her the first Black actor to play a lead role in a daytime TV show, died Wednesday in New York. She was 92.

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Her death was confirmed by her publicist, Cheryl L. Duncan.

Holly was born in Manhattan on Jan. 16, 1931, and grew up in the Richmond Hill neighborhood of Queens, according to The New York Times.

After she graduated from Hunter College, she debuted on Broadway in 1956 in “Too Late the Phalarope,” then went on to perform in several other Broadway productions, The Times reported.

After she wrote a column for the Times in 1968 about the difficulty of finding roles as a Black woman with lighter skin, television producer, Agnes Nixon offered her the role of Carla in “One Life to Live. She played the role from 1968 to 1980 and 1983-’85, according to IMDb.

Holly’s character, Carla, for a time passed as white on the show, before revealing that she was Black. The storyline led to a station canceling the show, according to Variety.

Holly wrote an autobiography, “One Life: The Autobiography of an African American Actress,” which was published in 1996.

She is survived by several grand-nieces, cousins and other family members.

No cause of death was given.


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