Born –  Vinie Harrison

November 15, 1924 – December 27, 2023 


[ “I guess it’s like a DNA. Hard to describe, and identify, but I feel it’s there. I think it’s there in all artists. And maybe the art of living is the richest art form.” ]
– Vinie Burrows 

A mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, Vinie calls herself, a “cultural worker.”

One of the reigning divas of the Black theatre…

As an actress, Miss Burrows has the priceless gift of honesty. With nothing but a few lights and a bare stage, she sings and acts without any shadow of deceptions or veils of deceit… She is a magnificent performer.” (Clive Barnes, New York Times)

“…An actress of range and commanding passion.” (Stephen Holden, New York Times)

Fierce, passionate, brilliant (Edith Oliver, The New Yorker)


Photo by Lyle Ashton Harris

“As a Black actress whose talents have never been fully used in our theatre, I then turned to solo performances not merely to find employment but also to gain a greater measure of artistic fulfillment and personal satisfaction.

In creating the six different programmes in my solo repertoire, I have tapped a rich vein from my own Black culture and heritage.”



Ms. Burrows, who was once proclaimed “The Queen of Black theatre,” appeared in many Broadway productions.


Vinie Burrows 👑

“Let the martial songs
be written, let the dirges disappear. Let a race of men—and women—now rise and take control!”



Actor, Producer, Playwright, and Activist


Vinie Burrows graduated from Harlem High School at the age of 15, having already begun her career as a child actress on radio and stage when she appeared in the Broadway play The Wisteria Trees. She later chose to create her plays and one-woman shows because she felt that the roles available for Black women were those of a “Mammie” or “lady of the evening.”
Many of her productions were seen on Broadway and in over 6,000 theaters and other venues across four continents. She appeared in a show titled Sister! Sister! at the University of Delaware in Newark in November 1991, and at Brandeis University’s Women’s Studies Research Center in March 2001. In 2003, she played the role of Barbara Scarlatti in Bel Canto on stage in Atlanta, Georgia. At the University of Iowa in March 2007 she appeared in a show titled Black on the Great White Way: The Story of Rose McClendon.

BURROWS: “My strength comes from those who came before me, as a black person. Those who survived that Middle Passage, across the Atlantic, some who died in the holds of the ship. It definitely comes from that human experience that belonged to my great-grandparents, men and women, kidnapped from their home. Their struggle gives me my strength.”


When you think about having a long career, what’s your greatest wisdom to offer?

BURROWS: Gratitude. Gratitude for the chance to work and develop.


The Many Lives of Vinie Burrows
Remembering the activism and artistry of a New York theatre hero.
By Helen Shaw

The Many Lives of Vinie BurrowsRemembering the activism and artistry of a New York theatre hero. By Helen Shaw January 5, 2024.


“I guess my love of language started with the Bible.

Yeah, once you get rid of all the beginning and beginnings, the story is so compelling.

And then you live it in your own life.

Ha ha. Oh, you realize—there’s nothing new.”


Vinie Burrows in Michael, part of the Mint Theater Company’s Chekhov/Tolstoy: Love Stories. Photos by Maria Baranova.


Vinie Burrows in Michael, part of the Mint Theater Company’s Chekhov/Tolstoy: Love Stories. Photos by Maria Baranova.



From left: Lois Smith, Estelle Parsons and Vinie Burrows. – Credit: Celeste Sloman for The New York Times

And you started as a child actor?

BURROWS: On radio.

PARSONS: Were they parts for Black people on radio?

BURROWS: No, no.


I’m 96, and I feel as if I’m better now than I ever was,” said Burrows, center, with Smith and Parsons. – Credit: Celeste Sloman for The New York Times –

[ Lois Smith, Vinie Burrows and Estelle Parsons  ]

Vinie Burrows with Eartha Kitt, in “Mrs. Patterson” (1954-1955) at the National Theatre

She was to be a panelist in the 2000–2001 African Diaspora lecture series at the Center for Ideas and Society in Riverside, California. The Black Theater Guild at Massachusetts Institute of Technology hosted Burrows for lunch in February 2003.

“We have a right to be angry.”



Burrows has been active at the United Nations Economic and Social Council on the issues of the status of Women and Southern Africa.

Ms. Burrows, second from right, in 1980 during a march in New York celebrating the 60th anniversary of the year women won the right to vote. For several decades she represented the Women’s International Democratic Federation at the United Nations. – Credit: Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times

In 1980, she became an associate of the Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press (WIFP). WIFP is an American nonprofit publishing organization. The organization works to increase communication between women and connect the public with forms of Women-based media.

Denison University

She was a women’s rights, civil rights and anti-war activist. In her later life, she was one of the leading activists in Grannies Peace Brigade.” – March 2011

“The biggest role that we have in life is the role that we play in life,” Ms. Burrows told American Theatre in a recent interview. “That is the biggest role and the most important.” When asked what she would want to be remembered for, Ms. Burrows responded, “Her passion for the truth and justice. That’s it.”


“As a Black woman, Vinie Burrows had a hard time finding stage roles. So, she wrote her show. Actress and activist, Vinie Burrows has waged a battle for civil rights both onstage and off.

By ELIZABETH FORBES  – Staff Writer 


Burrows answers the phone in her New York City apartment, but she quickly excuses herself.  She can t talk now because she’s drafting a  position paper on women and peace to rush over to the United Nations. Then she has to get a press release off to Germany for her upcoming performances there. Such are the demands on a woman who combines the roles of activist and actress. Later in the day, she postpones washing the dishes to make time for a conversation that ranges from global politics to personal revelation. “My rage was a personal rage,” she says.




“Now it isn’t personal, and it isn’t rage. It’s simply using a sense of outrage at injustice if you can understand that.” Burrows’ two vocations spring from a single source: the racism she encountered as a Black actress in professional theater. Angry and frustrated because she couldn’t get decent roles, she developed her one-woman shows.






In Walk Together Children!, she draws on the writings and history of Black Americans, from a slave’s memoirs to a poem by Langston Hughes, to create 24 characters. 



A program from 1969’s “Walk Together Children.”


That performance was at Nazareth College Arts Center in Pittsford. ON THIS SPARKLING afternoon, sunlight gilds the kitchen of Burrows’ 19th-floor co-op on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. From the windows of her plant-and-book-filled apartment, she has a panoramic view of the New York skyline. Her fight against racism and sexism has grown to a similar panoramic scope since her first, personal action against discrimination in the theater.

These days, Burrows represents the Women’s International Democratic Federation at the United Nations and chairs a U.N. citizens’ committee on South Africa. She runs community-based projects on domestic violence, women’s health, and other issues for the group Women for Racial and Economic Equality. She has won numerous honors for her work, including the 1992 Susan B. Anthony Award from the National Organization for Women and the 1986 Paul Robeson Award from the Actors Equity Association.

“They gave me the Paul Robeson Award because they felt that … I do a great deal in helping people understand each other better,” Burrows says. “I hopefully use my art to help people understand each other in their variety and difference and realize, as my Quaker friend used to say, What is different in thee makes thee precious to me.’ ” THE PHRASE rolls lushly over the phone line in Burrows’ elegant diction. A hint of an accent, a nuance of sound when she’s searching for words, suggests a French background. She’s a native New Yorker who grew up in central Harlem, attended city schools, and earned a pre-law degree at New York University to please her mother.

To please herself, she abandoned the law and returned to her first love, acting. She had debuted on Broadway as a child in The Wisteria Trees, sharing the stage with Helen Hayes. That was in 1950, but Burrows, who is cagey about her age, won’t say how old she was.”

– © 2023™ by Ancestry®. All rights reserved. 



Vinie Burrows has written and continues to perform many one-woman shows of women’s history.
Your one woman show was an inspiration and a work of art. Many students have told us how deeply moved they were by your portayals of women around the world.
As an acress, you have the ability to portray different characters ranging from comedy to drama, in the twinkling of an eye. Your experiences as representative to the United Nations for the Women’s International Democratic Federation and your spirited activities with the Granny peace Briagde were evident….It was a splendid event for women’s history and an appreciation for other cultures. I cannot say enough about the beauty and strength of your performance.
I hope that many more women’s studies programs will be able to share in the authentic and rich experience you offer.” – University of Akron


Burrows won the Paul Robeson Award in 1986. In 2014, Burrows received an award from the International Communications Association and AUDELCO for her Outstanding Contribution to the Arts and the Community.

Vivian Robinson, Founder of AUDELCO, and Vinie Burrows, Torch Bearer Pioneer, 2016 AUDELCO – “VIV” Award

Hattie McDaniel Award (2017) The Hattie McDaniel Award, named after the actress known for her role in “Gone With The Wind” (the first African American actor to win an Academy Award). Burrows was awarded for her outstanding contribution to uplifting Black film and culture in America (10/7/2017)


Honoring Vinie Burrows with the Clara Lemlich Award
Posted on May 6, 2017 by grannypeacegmailcom
The Granny Peace Brigade congratulates our sister, Vinie Burrows on her receiving the Clara Lemlich Award, together with five other honorees on May 1st, 2017. The Lemlich Awards is a celebration of the achievements of older women, and if anyone fits the description of someone who qualifies for this award it’s Vinie, though it was fascinating to hear about the lives of all the honorees; all were different and all deserving.
Marty Rajandran
for the Granny Peace Brigade
Photos: Bud Korotzer –

In 2018, Burrows was named the honoree at Theater for the New City’s 15th annual Love N’ Courage Gala, where she was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award.




“There were limitations,” she continued. “There are still limitations. But I do my work. When I can. And I support every baby born having the opportunity to develop to his or her potential.”

An active member of The Dramatists Guild, Vinie has also gained honors with appearances on As The World Turns, The Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS Presents, and The Hallmark Hall of Fame.
Vinie hosted a weekly live two-hour talk show, More Than Half the World, on the Pacifica Station WBAI in New York City for three years. Guests ranged from street vendors, abused women, diplomats, writers, politicians, and grass-roots housing activists and included international visitors from around the world.
Frustrated by the quality and quantity of roles for actors of color, Vinie Burrows has created and produced a repertoire of eight one-woman shows. With over six thousand performances, she has developed a strong following; touring Holland, Germany, Denmark, Romania, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Algeria, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Japan, and more recently Russia.
“In 1950, she made her Broadway debut in Joshua Logan’s adaption of The Cherry Orchard, entitled The Wysteria Trees, alongside Helen Hayes and Ossie Davis. Following, Burrows appeared in productions such as Green Pastures, Jezebel’s Husband, Mrs. Patterson, and The Skin of Our Teeth (again with Helen Hayes). Burrows wrote and starred in eight solo performances, and toured multiple continents.
By Jean Genet.
Directed by Roger Blin

The Blacks: A Clown Show (French: Les Nègres, clownerie) is a play by the French dramatist Jean Genet. Published in 1958, it was first performed in a production directed by Roger Blin at the Théâtre de Lutèce in Paris, which opened on 28 October 1959.
A review of the Theatre Royal Stratford East production (2007) states:
Using the framework of a play within a play exposes racial prejudice and stereotypes while exploring Black identity. As a troupe of black actors re-enacts the trial and ensuing murder of a white woman before a kangaroo court, the Queen and her entourage look on and comment. Five of the 13 Black actors white up to play the establishment figures. The Queen (a whited-up woman) comes to a Command Performance, but the proceedings are far removed from any Royal Variety Show.  





THE WORLD OF SHAKESPEARE. (1963) – Earle Hyman and Vinie Burrows.



In 1950, she made her Broadway debut in Joshua Logan’s adaption of The Cherry Orchard, entitled The Wysteria Trees, with Helen Hayes and Ossie Davis

Ms. Burrows in a scene from “The Wisteria Trees” (1950), in which she made her Broadway debut, with Ossie Davis, who is sitting beside her, and Maurice Edwards. Credit…Martin Beck Theater, via Performing Arts Legacy Project

 Ossie Davis, Vinie Burrows and Maurice Edwards

Vinie Burrows plays the witchdoctor in the virtual play read presentation of “Starlight and Moonshadow’s Magic Marionette and Puppet Theatre Emporium,”



New York Theatre Workshop

 Caryl Churchill 


New York Theatre Workshop with Caryl Churchill‘s LIGHT SHINING IN BUCKINGHAMSHIRE.


Burrows with Rob Campbell in Caryl Churchill’s “Light Shining in Buckinghamshire” in 2018.Credit…Sara Krulwich/The New York Times







Vinie Burrows. Photo by Lia Chang

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Delacorte Theater

Vinie as First Fairy in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the Delacorte Theater (2017)
Photo by Jennifer Broski.

Off-Broadway credits include: 


THE BLACKS (1961),
NAT TURNER (1968),
AFRICA FIRE! (1986-1991),
HECUBA (2006),
RED NOIR (2010),
SAMARA (2017),
MIES JULIE (2019). ]




149 W. 45TH ST., NEW YORK, NY




The Skin of Our Teeth
245 W. 52ND ST., NEW YORK, NY
SYNOPSIS: The modern-looking Antrobus family and their seductive maid, Sabina, survive many ancient disasters, including the Ice Age, Noah’s flood, war and famine, always able to start over and begin anew, in Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning dark comedy.


The Green Pastures


The Green Pastures


The Wisteria Trees
302 W. 45TH ST., NEW YORK, NY


Vinie Burrows and daughter Photos by Sven Åsberg – 08/11/1969

In 2003, Vinie added something special to her many accomplishments…
A graduate degree in performance studies from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.

I wanted to put a theoretical framework on what I had been doing practically,” she said. “I also wanted to see if my little gray cells would still work.

Burrows said her experience in graduate school was “exhilarating and exhausting.

I don’t look at anything the same way anymore,” she said, “whether it’s being with my newest grandchild or thinking of the Feb. 15 anti-war rally,” in which she participated.

They say love is not for the young,” adds Burrows. “It’s the same with education.


Burrows was born in Harlem, New York, where she worked as a child actor on radio programs.
She was greatly influenced by her mother, who was an activist for the injustices towards African Americans and supported Clarence Norris and the Scottsboro Boys in 1931. 
Burrows attended NYU for her undergraduate degree, and in 2018 earned her Master’s Degree in Performance Studies from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Vinie Burrows worked with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, focusing on the anti-Apartheid movement and the empowerment of women.

The actress Vinie Burrows in 2019. She worked into her 90s and won an Obie lifetime achievement award in 2020. – Credit: Celeste Sloman for The New York Times

For her work and activism, Burrows received numerous awards including the Actors’ Equity Association’s Paul Robson Award in 1986, the Susan B. Anthony Award from the National Organization for Women in 1992, the Hattie McDaniel Award in 2017, and the Theater for the New City Award at the Love and Courage Gala 2018.”

Vinie Burrows, the ageless actress and activist, who once noted that her greatest role in life was the one she performed for truth and justice, died on Christmas Day, surrounded by her family, according to her press representative and an obituary in Playbill. She was 99.

At the time of her death, according to Playbill, Burrows was in development for the TEAM’s productions of “Reconstructing (Still Working But The Devil Might Be Inside).

Burrows is survived by her son and daughter, six grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild.


~ Rest In Peace, Queen*

 ‘Your crown has been bought and paid for. Put it on your head and wear it.’ – Maya Angelou —

©2024 –  Iforcolor.orgALL RIGHTS RESERVED (Dale Shields) 












Vinie Burrows Biography: A Story of Art and Revolution: A Spotlight on Freedom

El Rudolph

Vinie Burrows wasn’t just an actress – she was a revolution. Stepping onto one-woman stages, she wielded stories like weapons, illuminating racism, sexism, and environmental devastation with searing honesty. From Harlem speakeasies to global platforms, her powerful voice echoed with the struggles of everyday heroes and the fire of unyielding justice.Weaving personal narratives with historical truths, Vinie gave voice to the voiceless, her artistry igniting social movements and inspiring generations of activists. This is her story, a saga of defiance, artistry, and unwavering courage, echoing across decades and urging us all to find our own voices and step into the spotlight for a more just world.

Published January 5, 2024




Collins-Hughes, Laura (2019-12-18). “200 Years of Experience, and Still Learning Onstage”. The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2023-04-06.

Jae Jones, “Vinie Burrows: Award-winning Broadway Actress”, Black Then, August 17, 2018.

“Up and coming”, UpDate, Vol. 11, No. 9, p. 3 (October 31, 1991). Archived June 5, 2011, at the Wayback Machine,
Brandeis University :: News Archived July 19, 2011, at the Wayback Machine,
“Bel Canto”, TheaterReview, October 13, 2003.

“Events | College of Liberal Arts and Sciences”. Archived from the original on 2020-02-29. Retrieved 2008-06-12.

2000–2001 Academic Year, Ford Grant 2000–

“Black Students’ Union”. Archived from the original on 11 February 2005. Retrieved 12 January 2022.

Chang, Lia (20 July 2020). “Vinie Burrows Receives 2020 Obie Award for Lifetime Achievement”. Backstage Pass with Lia Chang. Retrieved 5 October 2022.

“2020 Obie Awards”. Obie Awards.

Boston Social Forum, July 2004
“Associates | The Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press”. Retrieved June 21, 2017.

“Actress and Activist Vinie Burrows To Be Honored at Annual NYC Gala”, Broadway World, January 10, 2018.


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