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Ellen Holly, Trailblazing Star in ‘One Life to Live,’ Dies at 92

Ellen Holly, Trailblazing Star in ‘One Life to Live,’ Dies at 92


Ellen Holly, whose star turn in the soap opera “One Life to Live” made her the first Black actress to play a lead role in daytime TV, died on Wednesday at a hospital in the Bronx. She was 92.

Her publicist, Cheryl L. Duncan, confirmed her death in a statement. No cause was given.

Ms. Holly was born in Manhattan on Jan. 16, 1931, and grew up in the Richmond Hill neighborhood of Queens. After graduating from Hunter College, she debuted on Broadway in 1956 in “Too Late the Phalarope,” then went on to perform in several other Broadway productions.

She starred in the hit ABC show “One Life to Live,” between 1968 to 1985, becoming the first Black person to star in a soap opera. The television producer, Agnes Nixon, chose her for the role after reading a New York Times column, which Ms. Hollly wrote in 1968 about the difficulty of finding roles as a Black woman with lighter skin.

In the show, her character, Carla, for a time passed as white, before revealing that she was Black, amid a love triangle with two doctors, one white and the other Black.

Her autobiography, “One Life: The Autobiography of an African American Actress,” was published in 1996. Over the years, she wrote opinion columns for The New York Times about the arts, race and civil rights.

She is survived by several grand-nieces, cousins and other family members.



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