Dorothy Carter, Actress Who Appeared in Broadway's Strange Fruit, Dead at 94

By Kenneth Jones
24 Sep 2012

Dorothy Ateca Carter, an African-American stage actress who starred in three pre-Civil Rights-era plays, including a Broadway adaptation of the novel "Strange Fruit," about an interracial relationship, died Sept. 14 in New York City following a fight with bladder cancer. She was 94.



She later became a teacher, stage director and an author of children's books. Her Broadway credits include Lillian Smith's Strange Fruit in 1945; Walk Hard, a 1946 play about a boxer; and Louis Peterson's Take a Giant Step (1953), which also starred Jane White and Louis Gossett, Jr.

The Kissimmee, FL, native studied theatre at Spelman College in Atlanta, graduating in 1942. She received a Rosenwald Fellowship to The New School's Dramatic Workshop, studying with Stella Adler and workshop founder Erwin Piscator in New York City. She made her Broadway debut in Strange Fruit, directed by Jose Ferrer, concerning a white doctor's son who gets a black woman pregnant, with tragic results. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt wrote about the story in her syndicated column.

Following the 1957 death of her husband, Dr. James M. Carter, she earned her teaching certification in 1958, and an M.S. in Education, specializing in Reading and Children's Literature, in 1964. She studied at Teachers College, Columbia University, and received her Ed.D. in 1981.

Dr. Carter was one of the first African-American Graduate Faculty members at Bank Street College of Education in New York City from the late 1960s to her retirement in the 1980s. She also worked at Bank Street in the 1990s.

Dr. Carter taught child development and language, literature and emergent literacy, according to the Bank Street College website

In her late career, when she was semi-retired, she wrote three children's books: "Bye, Mis' Lela" (1998), "Wilhe'mina Miles: After the Stork Night" (1999) and "Grandma's General Store — the Ark" (2005).

Dr. Carter also directed plays for the Morningside Players. She is survived by her children, Carol Anne Carter and James M. Carter, Jr.; a grandson, James Yates Carter; three half-brothers; and many nieces and nephews.