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Esther Rolle was born in Pompano Beach, Florida, on November 8, 1920.
Rolle was an Emmy winning actress best known for her role as Florida Evans on the CBS television sitcoms Maude and Good Times.
Rolle was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for her role in Good Times and won an Emmy Award for her performance in the television film Summer of My German Soldier.
She was a trailblazing actress who broke down barriers for African American women in television.
She was the tenth of 18 children
Her parents were immigrants from the Bahamas. Rolle attended Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, and later transferred to the Hunter College in New York City.
Black college-educated people got to where they are on the backs of domestic help, meaning their parents and grandparents. So people should not forget how they got to where they are.Esther Rolle
Rolle began her acting career in the theater. She appeared in off-Broadway productions of plays such as The Blacks, Blues for Mister Charlie, and The Amen Corner.
In 1972, she made her television debut on the sitcom Maude.
She played the role of Florida Evans, Maude Findlay’s housekeeper. The character was so popular that she was spun off into her own show, Good Times, in 1974.
Rolle was an outspoken advocate for African American representation in television
She was critical of the way that her people were often portrayed as degrading stereotypes.
She also spoke out against the lack of diversity in the television industry which continues to proliferate today.
In 1977, Rolle left Good Times after a dispute with the show’s producers.
She felt that the show was not doing enough to address the social issues of the day. She also felt that her character was being treated with disrespect.
Rolle continued to act in television and film throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
She appeared in films such as Driving Miss Daisy and Rosewood.
Rolle’s legacy to generations of Black television viewers created a lasting legacy of love that is evidenced by the amount of diverse Black women on screen today.
Rolle passed in Culver City, California, on November 17, 1998, at the age of 78.