Fredi Washington by Carl Van Vechten on December 8, 1938.
Fredericka Carolyn “Fredi” Washington (December 23, 1903 – June 28, 1994) was an African American actress, best known for her role as Peola in the 1934 version of the film Imitation of Life.
Washington turned down a number of chances to pass for white as an actress, which might have led to greater acting opportunities. Her light competition and green eyes led directors to choose darker skinned actresses for the stereotypical “maid” roles.
She wanted to perform in more complicated, versatile roles. Frustrated she quit acting and focused her efforts on civil rights.
Fredi Washington: “You see I’m a mighty proud gal and I can’t for the life of me, find any valid reason why anyone should lie about their origin or anything else for that matter. Frankly, I do not ascribe to the stupid theory of white supremacy and to try to hide the fact that I am a Negro for economic or any other reasons, if I do I would be agreeing to be a Negro makes me inferior and that I have swallowed whole hog all of the propaganda dished out by our fascist-minded white citizens.
I am an American citizen and by God, we all have inalienable rights and wherever those rights are tampered with, there is nothing left to do but fight…and I fight. How many people do you think there are in this country who do not have mixed blood, there’s very few if any, what makes us who we are, are our culture and experience. No matter how white I look, on the inside I feel black. There are many whites who are mixed blood, but still go by white, why such a big deal if I go as Negro, because people can’t believe that I am proud to be a Negro and not white. To prove I don’t buy white superiority I chose to be a Negro.”