Ms. Holland was 61. The cause of death was complications of ataxia.
Her most famous play told of her rise from poverty in the South to academic success and efforts on behalf of Civil Rights.
She was an emeritus professor of theatre are the University of Southern California. She retired from USC in 2003 and earlier taught in the American studies department at the State University of New York, Buffalo.
From the Mississippi Delta opened Off-Broadway in 1991 at the Circle in the Square Downtown. Jonathan Wilson directed a cast that included Cheryl Lynn Bruce, Sybil Walker and Jacqueline Williams.
Sexual abuse, grinding poverty and a single-parent environment punctuated her early life growing up in Mississippi. She turned to prostitution to avoid harder labor, according to The Times. "Since I didn't want to go to the cotton fields and work all day, I figured this was a way that I could make money. And I started turning tricks," Ms. Holland once told Ebony magazine in 1992.
She added the name Endesha later in her life.
Her heart and mind were sparked by contact with Civil Rights workers and became an activist. She earned a high school equivalency diploma and later studied at the University of Minnesota, earning a bachelor's degree in African-American studies there. She then earned a master's in American Studies in 1984 and a Ph.D., also in American studies, in 1986.
Ms. Holland wrote a handful of plays, including Second Doctor Lady and The Reconstruction of Dossie Ree Hemphill, about her mother.
She also penned a memoir, also called "From the Mississippi Delta."
She was married and divorced three times. Survivors include a sister, Jean Beasley; a brother, Charlie Nellums; a son, Cedric; and a granddaughter, according to the University of Southern California.