Juanita Hall was a stage actress and singer who made history on this day in 1950. For her role in Rogers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific, Hall became the first Black person to win a Tony Award across all categories.
Born Juanita Long in Keyport, New Jersey on November 6, 1901, Hall was classically trained at New York’s Juilliard School of Music. She worked for several years as a singer and choir director, and was also a member of the traveling troupe, The Lafayette Players. Her first time on the Broadway stage took place in 1943 in the play The Pirate. Several small Broadway roles came after ahead of her big break in 1949.
Cast as “Bloody Mary,” Hall dazzled audiences and won the hearts of critics as well. She won the Tony for Best Performance for a Featured Actress in a Musical, and continued to sing and perform in other celebrated stage plays. In 1954, she joined the cast of Harold Arlen’s House of Flowers alongside Pearl Bailey and Diahann Carroll. She also starred in the 1958 film version of South Pacific in her star-making role as Bloody Mary.
Hall married actor Clement Hall, who passed in the ’20’s and the pair never had children. In her later life, Hall’s health began to fail her and several of her acting peers rallied around her and even held a benefit concert to help her with bills. She passed on February 28, 1968 in Bay Shore, Long Island.
PHOTO: Public Domain
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