Actress Jane White in a 1941 photograph by Carl Van Vechten. A 1944 graduate of Smith College, White was the daughter of Civil Rights icon Walter White. Ms. White began her career on Broadway in 1945 when Paul Robeson helped her get her first role as the lead in Lillian Smith’s “Strange Fruit,” a story about a doomed interracial love affair. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt praised Ms. White’s work for its “restraint and beauty.” In 1959, Ms. White originated the role of Queen Aggravain (to a young Carol Burnett’s princess) in “Once Upon a Mattress.” For this role, Ms. White was asked to lighten her complexion, lest she “confuse” the audience with her “Mediterranean” looks. She would go on to establish a solid reputation as an actress in Shakespearean and classical roles from the 1960’s through the 1990’s. In 1979, her autobiographical one-woman show, “Jane White, Who?…”, was well received. Ms. White was also a cabaret singer and did work in film and television, including a small part in the film, “Beloved.” In 1992, Ms. White wrote “Life As An Actress: A Mystery Story,” an autobiographical essay for Revealing Women’s Life Stories: Papers from the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College. Ms. White died of cancer on July 24, 2011 in New York City at the age of 88.

Actress Jane White in a 1941 photograph by Carl Van Vechten. A 1944 graduate of Smith College, White was the daughter of Civil Rights icon Walter White. Ms. White began her career on Broadway in 1945 when Paul Robeson helped her get her first role as the lead in Lillian Smith’s “Strange Fruit,” a story about a doomed interracial love affair. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt praised Ms. White’s work for its “restraint and beauty.” In 1959, Ms. White originated the role of Queen Aggravain (to a young Carol Burnett’s princess) in “Once Upon a Mattress.” For this role, Ms. White was asked to lighten her complexion, lest she “confuse” the audience with her “Mediterranean” looks. She would go on to establish a solid reputation as an actress in Shakespearean and classical roles from the 1960’s through the 1990’s. In 1979, her autobiographical one-woman show, “Jane White, Who?…”, was well received. Ms. White was also a cabaret singer and did work in film and television, including a small part in the film, “Beloved.” In 1992, Ms. White wrote “Life As An Actress: A Mystery Story,” an autobiographical essay for Revealing Women’s Life Stories: Papers from the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College. Ms. White died of cancer on July 24, 2011 in New York City at the age of 88.

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