The late Isabel Sanford enjoyed one of the longest television runs in a lead role as part of CBS hit series, The Jeffersons. On this day in 1981, Sanford become the first Black woman to win an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, becoming just the second Black woman to ever win an Emmy.
Sanford was born Eloise Gwendolyn Sanford on August 29, 1917 in Harlem, New York. She began chasing her acting dreams out of high school, appearing on the world-famous Apollo stage not far from her home. After a marriage that ended in divorce and with three children, Sanford relocated to California after performing in off-Broadway productions. She made her official Broadway debut in 1965 in James Baldwin’s “The Amen Corner” and then made her big screen debut in a small role in 1967’s “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner.”
All In The Family producer Norman Lear took notice of Sanford’s acting chops in “Dinner” and cast her and Sherman Hemsley as George and Louise “Weezy” Jefferson. The characters were so popular that Lear developed the spin-off series, which debuted in 1975. Running for 11 seasons, Sanford was nominated for the Emmys seven times and the Golden Globe Awards five times.
After The Jeffersons was canceled, Sanford continued to act in small roles up until her passing in 2004.
PHOTO: Emmy Awards screenshot
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