The family of Emmy-Award winning actress Esther Rolle, best known for her role as Florida Evans on television's long-running Good Times, gifted the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center with a collection of Ms. Rolle's personal items including letters, drama memorabilia, awards, artwork and other collectables.
"Esther was always interested in helping children and promoting education, especially for African-American children," explains Daria Jackson, Esther Rolle's niece. "We thought that the African-American Research Library would be perfect for Esther's collection, especially since it's so close to the area where she grew up."
Ms. Rolle, who was born and raised in Pompano Beach, was the tenth of 18 children who formed a family drama troupe that performed in churches on the East Coast. She graduated from Spelman College in 1942, and from there she set out to New York City to break into performing.
"Back then you had to really want to be on Broadway - it was hard work," says Rolle's sister, Roseanna Carter, who was also an actress. "Esther would make only two dollars a day when she was an understudy, but she never quit."
A member of the Asadata Dance troupe and later the Calypso Carousel company, Esther Rolle acted in performances with other African-American luminaries such as Cicely Tyson and Lou Gossett, Jr. and played the role of Florida Evans in two successful sitcoms, Maude and Good Times; the latter, which debuted in 1974, became known as the first African-American sitcom. She also appeared in feature films such as I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Driving Miss Daisy, and How to Make an American Quilt, and won another Emmy for her role in the TV movie Summer of My German Soldier, as well as, the PBS televised play A Raisin in the Sun.
The Esther Rolle Collection contains personal letters, possessions and photos, as well as, an assortment of Ms. Rolle's many awards and accolades, such as, her Emmys, NAACP Image Award statuettes, beaded gowns, commemorative t-shirts and more. An exhibit is planned for the fall that will showcase this extraordinary collection; scheduled to run approximately six to eight weeks, the exhibit will be the centerpiece of a variety of programs and events that will celebrate the life of thisgroundbreaking actress.
"It's such an honor to have the Esther Rolle Collection here at AARLCC," says Julie Hunter, Associate Director for Public Service. "We know the Collection will have a special home here in our community, and we are so pleased to be able to share this slice of history with South Florida."
For more information or to set-up an appointment to personally view the Esther Rolle Collection, contact Special Collections at 954-357-6217.