Rosetta LeNoire (born Rosetta Olive Burton; August 8, 1911 – March 17, 2002) was an American stage, film, and television actress. She was known to contemporary audiences for her work in television. She had regular roles on the series Gimme a Break! and Amen, and is best known for her role as Estelle “Mother” Winslow (Carl’s mother) on Family Matters, which ran from 1989 to 1998. She was the voice of Big Bertha in Ralph Bakshi’s animated feature film Fritz the Cat (1972). She also played Judge R. Woods in the 1985 movie Brewster’s Millions. In 1999, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts.

Lenoire was in several movies and tv shows. She also had roles in soap operas: (1971-1972) The Guiding Light as Leona Herbert Episode: “Not with My Cousin You Don’t”; (1972) Another World as Gloria Metcalf; (1977) Ryan’s Hope Miriam George 6 episodes.

Lenoire was born in Harlem, New York City. As a young girl, LeNoire suffered from rickets (A softening and weakening of bones in children, usually due to inadequate vitamin D), which her godfather Bill “Bojangles” Robinson helped her overcome by teaching her to dance. Stage theater was her first love, and LeNoire performed in the Federal Theater Project’s Bassa Moona and was cast as a witch in Orson Welles’ 1936 production of Macbeth. She also appeared in a 1939 production of The Hot Mikado, starring Robinson, in which she played “Little Maid From School” Peep-Bo. She also appeared onstage, mostly as a singer and dancer, in I Had a Ball, Bassa Moona, Marching with Jimmy, Janie, Decision, Three’s a Family, Destry Rides Again, and the Off Broadway Double Entry (two one-act musicals showcasing Lenoire: “The Bible Salesman,” with a pre-SNL Garrett Morris, and “The Oldest Trick in the World” with Jane Connell).

In 1968, using her own savings, LeNoire founded the AMAS Repertory Theatre Company, an interracial theatre dedicated to multi-ethnic productions in New York City. With this company, LeNoire created an artistic community where members’ individual skills were recognized without regard to race, creed, color, religion, or national origin. She became a successful and groundbreaking Broadway producer.

Throughout its history, many of the company’s productions garnered reviews in The New York Times. The long-running theater’s cramped headquarters were originally located at 1 East 104th Street, in the uptown neighborhood known as East Harlem. The theater continues today as Amas Musical Theatre, now located midtown on West 52nd Street above Jersey Boys, and carries on LeNoire’s dream of diversity in the creative and theatrical arts. Since its inception, Amas has produced over 60 original musicals. Many of them have gone on to Broadway, including Bubbling Brown Sugar, which received a Tony Award nomination in 1976 for Best Musical.

The Actors’ Equity Association awarded her the first award for helping contribute to the diversification of theatre casting; in 1988, the award was named the Rosetta LeNoire Award.

The Rosie Award, named for Rosetta LeNoire, “is given to individuals who demonstrate extraordinary accomplishment and dedication in the theatrical arts and to corporations that work to promote opportunity and diversity”, with past honorees including Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, Geoffrey Holder and Carmen de Lavallade, Leslie Uggams, Maurice Hines, Phylicia Rashad, Woodie King Jr., Dionne Warwick, and George C. Wolfe.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s