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The Paul Robeson Award

Paul Robeson Award Goes to Mercedes Ellington

L-R: Phoebe Jacobs, EEO Co-Chair Julia Breanetta Simpson, Mercedes Ellington, Andre De Shields Seated: Ruth Batts

By Stephanie Masucci, Communications Associate

Equity's 2007 Paul Robeson award was presented to dancer, director and choreographer Mercedes Ellington at the Eastern Regional Membership Meeting on October 5, 2007. Julia Breanetta Simpson, Co-Chair with Christine Toy Johnson of the Eastern Region Equal Employment Opportunity Committee, made the presentation.

Ms. Ellington, a graduate of The Juilliard School of Music, has been involved with more than ten Broadway shows, including NO, NO, NANETTE, HELLO, DOLLY! and PLAY ON, for which she received the DramaLogue Award for Best Choreography during its West Coast premiere. She was the first and only woman of color to become a June Taylor Dancer on THE JACKIE GLEASON SHOW, and her work with such dance artists as Maurice and Gregory Hines, "Honi" Coles and Graciela Daniele, inspired Ms. Ellington to form her own tap dance company, Dancellington. She received Equity's coveted Gypsy Robe when she appeared in SOPHISTICATED LADIES and most recently received the Barrymore Award for Choreography/Musical Staging for her work with DREAMGIRLS at the Prince Music Theatre in Philadelphia. Ms.Ellington served on Council from 1983 to 1984 and is a current Board member of Career Transition For Dancers.

"Mercedes Ellington personifies each of the precepts on which the Paul Robeson Award is based: concern for and service to fellow humans, respect for the dignity of the individual, freedom of expression, universal brotherhood, and the artist's responsibility to the profession and to the greater society," said Ms. Simpson to a room full of Ms. Ellington's peers, friends and family members.

Pictured (L-R)
EEO Co Chair Christine Toy Johnson, Courtney, Mercedes Ellington, Marguerite Wesley, Kent Drake

Throughout her varied career, Ms. Ellington has received numerous awards for her talents and humanitarian work. Most notably are the Woman of the Year Citation, presented by Boys' Town of Italy, Inc., for her support of their special mission to homeless children from across the globe, and the President's Award from the Mayor's Office of the city of Paris, France for her dedication to maintaining the works and legacy of her grandfather, Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington.

The Paul Robeson Award was established in 1974 to recognize a person who best exemplified the principles by which Mr. Robeson lived. It was created by donations from members of the acting profession. Past recipients include Lloyd Richards, Judith Jamison, Carl Harms, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee.


Award pages:

Arizona Theatre Service

On June 1, 1971, the Council of Actors' Equity Association established what is now known as the Paul Robeson Committee, and designated Frederick O'Neal as Chair. The Committee resolved to present annual citations to the individual or organization that, during the preceding year or years, best exemplified and practiced the principles and ideals of this great humanitarian, Paul Robeson. For a complete list of recipients click here.

Paul Robeson as Othello

Recipients of the Paul Robeson Award are:

Year Recipient
1974 Paul Robeson
1975 Ossie Davis & Ruby Dee
1976 Lillian Hellman
1977 Pete Seeger
1978 Sam Jaffe
1979 Harry Belafonte
1980 Alice Childress
1981 Studs Terkel
1982 Ed Asner
1983 John Henry Faulk
1984 Lena Horne
1985 Arthur Mitchell
1986 Vinie Burrows
1987 Joe Papp
1988 Jacques D'Amboise
1989 Bill Ross & Dr. Margaret Burroughs
1990 Maya Angelou
1991 Gordon Parks
1992 Art D'Lugoff
1993 Katherine Dunham
1994 Lloyd Richards
1995 Gil Noble
1996 George C. Wolfe
1997 Athol Fugard
1998 Leonard Etienne de Paul
1999 Loften Mitchell
2000 Rosetta LeNoire
2001 Brock Peters
2002 Gertrude Jeanette
2003 Woodie King, Jr.
2004 Judith Jamison
2005 Carl Harms
2006 Bill Cosby
2007 Mercedes Ellington
2008 Sidney Poitier
2009 Micki Grant
2010 Charles Randolph-Wright
2011 James Earl Jones
2012 William Greaves
2013 Shauneille Perry
2014 Baayork Lee
2015 Arthur French
2016 ASTEP
2017 Jamal Joseph

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