The Equal Employment Opportunity Committee of Actors’ Equity Association is pleased to announce the Frederick O’Neal Award. Established in 2020, the award uplifts an Eastern region member or non-Broadway theatre whose work demonstrates a long-lasting commitment to representing and welcoming people from all walks of life on their stage, in the wings, and in all aspects of theatre. The award is named after Frederick O’Neal, the first African American president and president emeritus of Equity and is administered by Equity’s Equal Employment Opportunity Committee. 
Frederick O'NealPresident O’Neal was appointed the namesake of this award in July 2020 after a nomination process voted upon by EEOC membership. President O’ Neal was nominated by EEOC members Sid Solomon and Leslie Sears, who hailed O’Neal’s work to nurture diversity in American theatre. Sears noted that O’Neal organized and founded, “multiple Black theater companies, all of which supported and encouraged Black actors, writers and directors.” Solomon concluded, “President O'Neal is a legendary figure in the history of American theater, Actors' Equity and the American labor movement. His biography and his legacy speak for themselves.” 

The award is named in honor of actor, producer, director, and first African-American president of Equity Frederick O’Neal. As a noted trade unionist, he served as President of Equity (1964-1973), and was named President Emeritus after his leave from office. He also served as President of the Associated Actors and Artistes of America (1970-1988) and as Vice President of the AFL-CIO (1969-1988). 

O'Neal was a member of several service organizations, including the Catholic Interracial Council (treasurer), the Catholic Actors Guild (vice president), the Negro Actors Guild (president 1960-1964), the Afro-American Guild of Performing Artists (treasurer) and the American Committee for the First World Festival of Negro Arts, Dakar, 1966 (treasurer). He also served on the board of the African-American Labor Council, A. Philip Randolph Institute, and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA).

“President O'Neal is a legendary figure in the history of American theater, Actors' Equity and the American labor movement. His biography and his legacy speak for themselves.”

A prolific actor and director, O’Neal co-founded the British Negro Theatre and the legendary American Negro Theater (ANT), where Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier began their careers. In 1944 O’Neal made his Broadway debut in the acclaimed Anna Lucasta with Hilda Simms, which was originally produced by the ANT. O'Neal's feature credits include Elia Kazan's Pinky (1949), Richard Brooks' Something of Value (1958), Anna Lucasta (1958) and Ossie Davis' Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970). O'Neal was also a regular on the 1960s sitcom, Car 54, Where Are You?

Nominations for the 2020 Frederick O’Neal Award are now open and can be submitted through this link. Nominations can be submitted by Equity members from all regions and will be voted upon by EEOC members from the Eastern region. All nominations must be received by 5:00 PM ET on Friday, January 29, 2021.