Fredi Washington was born Fredericka Carolyn Washington in Savannah, Georgia on December 23, 1903. After her mother passed away Fredi and her sister Isabel were sent to a convent in Pennsylvania. Fredi eventually moved to New York to live with her grandmother.
With some acting and dancing lessons under her belt Fredi would land roles in such stage productions as "Shuffle Along," "Black Boy," "Hot Chocolates" and "Sweet Chariot."
Fredi made her film debut in "Black & Tan" in 1929 but it was the film "Imitation Of Life" as Peola, the light skinned black girl who passes for white that brought her to everyone's attention. Despite the success of that film Fredi had a difficult time in Hollywood due to the limited amount of non stereotypical roles for black women and the way many people associated Fredi with her character. Many people felt Fredi and Peola were one and the same.
Fredi would appear in several more plays including "Mamba's Daughter" with Ethel Waters and "Lysistrata" before she decided to get involved in more political oriented activities. She was a founding member of the Negro Actors Guild in 1937, which aided black performers in fighting discrimination in show business. She also wrote a regular feature "Headlines and Footlights" and "Fredi Speaks" for "The People's Voice," a weekly newspaper founded by her then brother-in-law Adam Clayton Powell Jr. in 1938. In the 1940's and 50's, she actively participated in the Cultural Division of the National Negro Congress and the Committee for the Negro in the Arts, two organizations dedicated to the equality of opportunity for black artists and the eradication of racial stereotypes in all forms of American culture.
Fredi was married twice: to Lawrence Brown, a trombonist with Duke Ellington's orchestra, from 1933 to 1948 and to Anthony Bell, a dentist, from 1952 until his death in the early 1980's.
Fredi died of pneumonia from a stroke on June 28, 1994 in Stamford, Connecticut.
Fredi's film credits include the following:
- One Mile From Heaven (1937)
- Ouanga (1936)
- Mills Blue Rhythm Band (1934)
- Imitation Of Life (1934)
- Emperor Jones (1933)
- Black & Tan (1929)
Check out the following sites for additional information about Fredi:
Fredi Washington@The Internet Movie Database
Fredi Washington@African Publications.com
Fredi Washington@African American Registry
Imitation Of Life@Amazon.com
Time.com: That Old Feeling- Basic Black
Fredi Washington Tribute
Fredi Washington@Classic Movie Stars