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Tue, 09.22.1925

Virginia Capers, Actress, and Singer born

Virginia Capers

*Virginia Capers was born on this date in 1925. She was a Black actress and singer.

From Sumter, South Carolina Eliza Virginia Capers attended Howard University in Washington, D. C., and studied voice at Juilliard in Manhattan. She was introduced to band leader Abe Lyman, who hired her for his radio program and on-the-road tours.  In the late 1950s she played in the Broadway productions of "Jamaica" and "Saratoga." Capers topped her stage career with a Tony Award for her role as the matriarch Lena Younger in the 1974 musical "Raisin," a musical version of "A Raisin in the Sun."  In 1979 she performed in the straight dramatic version of the Lorraine Hansberry play.

As a heavyset Black woman, she worked thoroughly to fight off typical stereotypes in the movie business.  On occasion Capers played judges, nurses and other professional characters.  Still she sometimes still found herself in the same category as Theresa Merritt, Mabel King, and others before a live audience in the dominant mother or hired help category.  Her stage recognition moved into TV where she appeared often from the 1960s on in both drama’s "Daniel Boone," "Mannix," "Knot's Landing," "ER" and comedies "Evening Shade," "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," "The Hughleys".

Her best known roles in films were as Mama Holiday in Lady Sings the Blues (1972) and as Nurse Sparrow in Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (1986). With plenty of talent, musical actress Capers made music her focus and passion for most her career. Virginia Capers died of pneumonia on May 6, 2004 at age 78.

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