VINNETTE JUSTINE CARROLL
“We still need Black theatre. But I think we need to show Black people just living, just trying to get through the world with the problems other people have.”
American Playwright/Director/Dramatic Interpretations
1922 – 2002
Edited and media research by
Dale Ricardo Shields
My mentor, Vinnette Carroll Ph.D., was born on March 11, 1922, to Edgar and Florence Morris Carroll. Dr. Edgar Carroll was a dentist and her mother Florence was head of the local dental auxiliary society and a school teacher. Vinnette received a B.A. from Long Island University in 1944; and an M.A. from New York University in 1946, followed by her doctoral work in psychology at Columbia University. As a means of securing their future, Ms. Carroll’s parents frowned upon acting as a career and encouraged their three daughters to become physicians, but Vinnette had a problem with the sight of blood. So, to appease her dad, she chose psychology. People used to say that they found Vinnette to be intimidating. I found her father to be more so! Whenever Dr. Carroll came to visit our theater, it was as if the President himself were coming. Vinnette was all aflutter leading up to that visit. We were always stellar so, he left pleased. At least he said so. I never saw him smile. (smile!)
Prior to beginning her acting career, Ms. Carroll worked as a clinical psychologist with the NYC Bureau of Child Guidance by day and studied acting with Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler and other greats by night. Ultimately, Vinnette Carroll became whom she wanted to be and I must give her credit for living an authentic life.
Ever resourceful, she knew that there was a shortage of available roles for Black women, she created a one-woman show consisting of poetry and monologues from the classics, touring the United States, England, and the West Indies for several years. She was also a woman of “firsts” In addition to being the first female African American Director on Broadway, she was also the first African American to appear in a week-long television show and appeared in such movies as Up The Down Staircase, and other theatricals and television specials.
Beginning in 1953, Ms. Carroll taught theater arts and directed productions as a member of the faculty of the High School of Performing Arts in New York City for eleven years.