Ellen Holly Dies: First Black Soap Star On ‘One Life to Live’ Was 92

Ellen Holly, the first Black person to star in a soap opera with her lead role on One Life to Live, died Wednesday at Calvary Hospital in the Bronx, N.Y. She was 92 and died in her sleep.

Her first roles on television included appearances on The Big Story (1957), The Defenders (1963), Sam Benedict (1963), Dr. Kildare (1964) and The Doctors and the Nurses (1963 and 1964).

Holly played the groundbreaking character Carla Gray on the hit ABC show One Life to Live from 1968 to 1980 and 1983 to 1985. She was personally chosen for the role by television producer Agnes Nixon after she saw a New York Times opinion piece that Holly wrote, called “How Black Do You Have To Be?” about the difficulty of finding roles as a light-skinned Black woman.


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