VICKSBURG FACTS: Two-time Emmy Award Winner, Beah Richards

Published 8:00 am Friday, September 30, 2022

Did you know Vicksburg was the home of the two-time Emmy Award winner Beah Richards?

Born as Beulah Richardson on July 12, 1920, in Vicksburg as the daughter of Beulah Molton Richardson and Wesley R. Richardson. Most people knew her as Beah Richards. According to the Mississippi Encyclopedia website, Richards attended college at Dillard University in New Orleans in 1948. 

In 1950, Richards decided to move to New York City where she could pursue a career as a stage actress. It wasn’t until 1956 that she landed her first acting role in an off-Broadway production called “Take a Gaint Step” where she performed the role of an 84-year-old grandmother. In 1959, she reprised the same role from “Take a Giant Step” for the film adaptation of the play, as stated in the Mississippi Encyclopedia. 

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In 1965, Richards received a Tony nomination and a Theater World Award for her performance in “The Amen Corner.” Then in 1967, she received an Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for Best Supporting Actress for her role as the mother of Sidney Poitier’s character in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” as mentioned on the Mississippi Encyclopedia website. She is also the recipient of the 1970 Image Award from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People as Best Supporting Actress in her role in “The Great White Hope.”

Toward the end of the 1960s, Richards performed mainly on television. In 1998, she received an Emmy Award as Outstanding Guest Performer in the comedy series “Frank’s Place” and in 2000 received another Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series for “The Practice.” 

Richards was also known as a poet, playwright and political activist. Her first authored play, according to the IMDb website, is “All’s Well That Ends.” The play addresses the issues of racial segregation. In 1950, one of her poems she wrote was “A Black Woman Speaks of White Womanhood, of White Supremacy, of Peace,” and performed the poem at the American People’s Peace Congress in 1951 as stated in a JSTOR Daily article by Ashawnta Jackson. This poem helped spark a movement for black women and inspired many activists to come together. 

Richards was approached by activist and educator, Louise Thompson Patterson, and asked if she would like to start a political group. Soon, Richards became one of the co-founders of the civil rights organization Sojourners for Peace and Justice and the organization used her poem as the framework of its efforts according to the JSTOR Daily article by Jackson. During their fight for justice, Richards and other members of the Sojourners were being watched by the government under the suspicion of being Communists even after the group dissolved in 1952. 

On Sept. 14, 2000, Richards passed away due to emphysema in Vicksburg just three days after winning her second Emmy Award.