Claudia McNeil Movies and Career Information

Claudia McNeil profile image
Aug 13, 1917

Claudia McNeil (August 13, 1917 – November 25, 1993) was an American actress known for premiering the role of matriarch Lena Younger in both the stage and screen productions of A Raisin in the Sun. She later appeared in a 1981 production of the musical version of the play, Raisin presented by Equity Library Theater. She was twice nominated for a Tony Award, first for A Raisin in the Sun in 1959, and again for the play Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright in 1962. She was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award for the screen version of "A Raisin in the Sun" in 1961. McNeil was born in Baltimore, to Marvin Spencer McNeil, an African-American, and Annie Mae Anderson McNeil, an Apache Indian. The family moved to New York City soon after her birth. She was raised by her mother after her father left the family. At the age of twelve, McNeil began working for the The Heckscher Foundation for Children. There she met a Jewish couple who later adopted her, and McNeil became fluent in Yiddish. She became a licensed librarian, but soon began singing in vaudeville theaters, and performing in nightclubs in Harlem, Greenwich Village and on 52nd Street. McNeil also sang for the Katherine Dunham Dance

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