French will be presented with the award Oct. 16 at the Eastern Regional Membership Meeting of Actors’ Equity Association.
Previous recipients of the award include Paul Robeson; Maya Angelou; Harry Belafonte; Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee; James Earl Jones; Athol Fugard; Lena Horne; Joseph Papp; Sidney Poitier; Pete Seeger; and, in 2014, Baayork Lee.
Created in 1971, the award, according to press notes, honors "individuals or organizations that best exemplify and practice the principles to which Mr. Robeson devoted his life: dedication to the universal brotherhood of all humankind, commitment to the freedom of conscience and of expression, belief in the artist’s responsibility to society, respect for the dignity of the individual and concern for and service to all humans of any race or nationality."
Arthur French has been a working actor for more than 50 years, from his early work with the Negro Ensemble Company to his most recent appearance on Broadway in The Trip to Bountiful (2013). For his extensive body of work Off-Broadway, he received an Obie Award for Sustained Excellence in 1997. In 2006 he received the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in August Wilson’s Two Trains Running.
The Actors Equity Foundation, a philanthropic and humanitarian non-profit organization, was created in 1962 to "aid and assist the members of the acting profession and to promote the theatre arts." It is separate from Actors’ Equity Association and receives its funding from estate bequests and individual donations.