Saturday March 02, 2024

First Black actor to lead daytime television show, Ellen Holly dies at 92

Ellen Holly was also known for her role in ‘One Life to Live’ as Carla Gray

December 08, 2023
Ellen Holly, a stage and film actor, passed away at 92
 Ellen Holly, a stage and film actor, passed away at 92

With her portrayal of Carla Grey in ABC's soap opera One Life to Live," Ellen Holly, a stage and film actor, made history as the first Black star of a daytime television show. 

She passed away on Wednesday at Cavalry Hospital in the Bronx, New York, as confirmed by a representative.

She was 92.

Holly was cast in One Life to Live in 1968 and continued to work on the popular show until 1980. She then took a hiatus from 1983 to 1985. 

After reading Holly's New York Times opinion piece How Black Do You Have To Be?, in which she detailed her own struggles to obtain acting roles as a light-skinned Black woman, producer Agnes Nixon decided to cast her in the part.

Holly was born on January 16, 1931, in Manhattan. Her family was a major force in the Black community there; among her relatives were the first African American woman to earn an M.D. in New York City, the first Black female principal in the city, and the first Black woman to hold a position in the mayor's cabinet. 

Holly, who was born and raised in Queens, attended Hunter College and then started her acting career in the theatres of Boston and New York.

Her father, Xavier Jones, her grand-nieces, Alexa and Ashley Jones, and her cousins, Wanda Parsons Harris, Julie Adams Strandberg, Carolyn Adams-Kahn, and Clinton Arnold, all survive her.

Holly's name may be added to donations made to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital or The Obama Presidential Centre.