Ruth Attaway

Ruth Attaway (June 28, 1910 – September 21, 1987) was an American film and stage actress. Among the films she appeared in include Raintree County (1957), Porgy and Bess (1959) and Being There (1979).[1]

Ruth Attaway
Born(1910-06-28)June 28, 1910
DiedSeptember 21, 1987(1987-09-21) (aged 77)
Cause of deathfire injuries[1]
OccupationActress, social worker
Years active1936–1979
Spouse(s)Allan Morrison
(m. 19??; died 1968)

Early life

Attaway was born on June 28, 1910, in Greenville, Mississippi.[1][2][3][4] She was the daughter of physician W.A. Attaway, PhD.[5] Her siblings included a sister, Florence,[1] and a brother, novelist and writer William.[6][7] She graduated from the University of Illinois, where she majored in sociology.[1][3][8]


Theatre work

Attaway made her Broadway debut in 1936 in the Pulitzer Prize winning play, You Can't Take It with You.[1][9]

Attaway was the first director of the New York Players Guild, a black repertory theater company formed in New York in 1945.[1][3]

From 1954 to 1955, Attaway portrayed Anna Hicks in the play Mrs. Patterson at the National Theater.[10][11][12]

From 1964 to 1967, Attaway was with the Repertory Society of Lincoln Center.[1]

Film work

Attaway made her film debut by portraying Moll in The President's Lady (1953), opposite Susan Hayward and Charlton Heston.[8][13][14] She went on to play a variety of characters in film such as Philomena in The Young Don't Cry (1957), Serena Robbins in Porgy and Bess (1959), the Farmer's Wife in Terror in the City (1964), Edna in Conrack (1974) and Louise in Being There (1979).[13]

Television work

In 1954, Attaway was within the cast of an unaired pilot titled Three's Company.[15]

She also played Delia in the 1978 television movie, The Bermuda Depths.[16]

Other ventures

In addition to acting, Attaway was also trained as a social worker[17][18] and, between acting jobs, worked with the American Red Cross, the New York State Department of Social Welfare and New York's Metropolitan Hospital.[1][3]


On November 10, 1953, Attaway was one of three people cited by the Coordinating Council For Negro Performers at a special benefit in Harlem.[19]

Personal life and death

Attaway was married to Allan Morrison, an editor of Ebony.[8][20] He died on May 29, 1968, at the age of 51.[21]

Attaway died on September 21, 1987, in New York Hospital of injuries resulting from a Manhattan apartment fire.[1][22] She was 77 years old.[1]

Partial filmography


  1. "Ruth Attaway, Actress, Dies Of Injuries in Apartment Fire". The New York Times. 24 September 1987. Retrieved 26 September 2015.
  3. Ruth Attaway biography at The New York Times
  4. Peterson, Bernard L. (2001). Profiles of African American Stage Performers and Theatre People, 1816-1960. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 9780313295348.
  5. Cruse, Harold (1967). The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual: A Historical Analysis of the Failure of Black Leadership. New York Review of Books. ISBN 9781590171356.
  6. Aschenbrenner, Joyce (2002). Katherine Dunham: Dancing a Life. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 9780252027598.
  7. Battat, Erin Royston (2014). Ain’t Got No Home: America's Great Migrations and the Making of an Interracial Left. UNC Press Books. ISBN 9781469614038.
  8. "Ruth Attaway In First Film Role". Baltimore Afro-American. 24 March 1953. Retrieved 26 September 2015.
  9. Tracy, Steven C. (2011). Writers of the Black Chicago Renaissance. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 9780252093425.
  10. "Eartha Returns to 'Mrs. Patterson' After Fold-Up". Jet. 24 February 1955. Retrieved 26 September 2015.
  11. Peterson, Jr., Bernard L. (1993). A Century of Musicals in Black and White: An Encyclopedia of Musical Stage Works By, About, or Involving African Americans: An Encyclopedia of Musical Stage Works By, About, or Involving African Americans. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9780313064548.
  12. Hischak, Thomas S. (2009). Broadway Plays and Musicals: Descriptions and Essential Facts of More Than 14,000 Shows through 2007. McFarland. ISBN 9780786453092.
  13. Ruth Attaway
  14. "Ruth Attaway Scores In First Movie". Jet. 30 October 1953. Retrieved 1 October 2015.
  15. Bogle, Donald (2015). Primetime Blues: African Americans on Network Television. Macmillan. ISBN 9781466894457.
  16. "Videos: Exploring 'The Bermuda Depths'". Bernews. 9 January 2012. Retrieved 10 October 2015.
  17. "The Negro on Broadway". Ebony. April 1964. Retrieved 26 September 2015.
  18. "New York Beat". Jet. 9 August 1962. Retrieved 26 September 2015.
  19. "To Honor 2 Actresses, Playwright at Benefit". Jet. 5 November 1953. Retrieved 10 October 2015.
  20. Smith, Judith E. (2014). Becoming Belafonte: Black Artist, Public Radical. University of Texas Press. ISBN 9780292756700.
  21. "EDITOR OF EBONY DIES". The Crisis. June–July 1968. Retrieved 20 April 2016.
  22. Ruth Attaway at Turner Classic Movies
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