(1926 – 2001)
“At times, cultures that seem exotic are represented through gross exaggerations. My mission will be to clarify and reveal the truth about Haitian culture.”
Josephine Premice was one of the premier stage actresses of the 1940s and 1950s. She appeared in numerous Broadway plays including Blue Holiday, Jamaica, A Hand is on the Gate, and Bubbling Brown Sugar, garnering Tony award nominations for her performances.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, her parents were Haitian immigrants. She studied dance with renowned instructors and choreographers Martha Graham and Katherine Dunham. By 1943, she had lived up to the expectations and was acclaimed as an outstanding performer when she danced in the first African Dance Festival at Carnegie Hall to sold-out audiences that included Eleanor Roosevelt.
Her initial Broadway performance was in the 1945 production of Blue Holiday at the Belasco Theatre with Ethel Waters and Josh White. She followed this in 1947 with a performance in Caribbean Carnival at the International Theatre. She returned to Broadway in 1956 in Mr. Johnson at the Martin Beck Theater, in which she played the wife of Earl Hyman who starred in the title role. Premice was also known for her calypso music which she often performed at night clubs between acting stints, and went on to record for Virgin Records.
Though she left the acting business for close to six years in the mid 1960s, she came back strong in the 1970s, performing not only on the stage but branching out into television as well with roles on popular programs such as The Jeffersons and A Different World. When Premice died in 2001, she was hailed by many in the acting industry as a role model of how to survive through adversity and how to change with the times to keep an acting career alive.