Holland, Endesha Ida Mae 1944-

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HOLLAND, Endesha Ida Mae 1944-


Born August 29, 1944, in Greenwood, MS; daughter of a midwife; married, 1963 (divorced, 1966); married second husband (a professor; divorced); married third husband (divorced); children: Cedric. Education: University of Minnesota, B.A. (African American studies), 1979, M.A., 1984, Ph.D., 1986.


Agent—Flora Roberts, Inc., 157 W. 57th St., Penthouse A, New York, NY 10019.


Playwright. State University of New York, Buffalo, began as lecturer, then associate professor of women's and American studies. University of Southern California, Los Angeles, playwright in residence and professor. Volunteer at Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Greenwood, MS, 1962; civil rights worker, 1963-66; University of Minnesota African American studies program, founder.


Best play, Lorraine Hansberry Award, 1981, for The Second Doctor Lady; best nonresident play for From the Mississippi Delta; October 18, 1991, declared Dr. Endesha Mae Holland Day in Greenwood, Mississippi.


The Second Doctor Lady (two-act play), produced at Young Vic Theatre, London, England, 1979, revised version produced as From the Mississippi Delta, Circle in the Square, New York, NY, 1991.

From the Mississippi Delta: A Memoir, Simon & Schuster, 1997.

Contributor to periodicals, including Ms.


Endesha Ida Mae Holland is an activist and educator who has also won acclaim as a playwright. She was born in 1944 in Greenwood, Mississippi, where racism was freely practiced against blacks. Her own childhood reflected the arduous circumstances in which blacks then lived in the South. At age eleven Holland was raped by a white man, and at age thirteen she was compelled to quit school and find employment to help provide for her mother and siblings. For the next several years she worked as a prostitute, abandoning the practice only after becoming acquainted with student activists, after which she began devoting herself to the civil rights movement.

During the 1960s Holland traveled extensively promoting civil rights. She was arrested on several occasions as a result of these activities. In addition she became the target of violence. Her home was firebombed in 1965 and her mother died from the ensuing flames.

Holland eventually left Mississippi and traveled north. She entered the University of Minnesota, where she studied playwriting. While a student Holland remained active in black issues, and she helped establish the school's department for African-American studies. She also founded Women Helping Offenders, a program designed to provide aid to women in prison. Holland received her doctorate from the University of Minnesota in 1986 and has taught at the State University of New York at Buffalo and the University of Southern California.

In 1991 Holland won recognition as a gifted playwright. Her two-act, autobiographical drama, From the Mississippi Delta—which she revised from the earlier The Second Doctor Lady—was produced in London before playing Off-Broadway. The play includes some of the more harrowing moments from Holland's own life, including her rape, and has been acknowledged as an intense, and ultimately, inspirational work. William A. Henry, III, from Time called the play "unforgettable" and wrote, "She has an infallible ear for the emotional pace of the scene, letting the horror be just blunt enough for just long enough, then sequeing into the release of laughter." Commenting on the dramatization of her life—and her triumph over poverty and immorality—Holland was quoted by Glenn Collins in the New York Times, declaring that today's "young people need to know that they can do wrong things and yet still change and grow."

Six years after the first production of her play, Holland published From the Mississippi Delta as a memoir. Like the play, her book won rave reviews and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. A reviewer from Publishers Weekly wrote, "This inspiring memoir … beautifully captures the language spoken in her impoverished African American community." Grace Fill from Booklist declared Holland's book to be full of "humor," "tremendous insight," and "astounding candor." Fill concluded, "Holland's powerful and inspiring story of her life in book form is truly a gift to readers."



Contemporary Black Biography, volume 3, Gale (Detroit, MI), 19, pp. 88-90.

Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, Volume 11, Gale (Detroit, MI), pp. 232-233.


Booklist, September 15, 1997, Grace Fill, review of From the Mississippi Delta, p. 206.

Boston Globe, June 4, 1991.

Nation, July 1, 1991, pp. 29-30.

New Yorker, September 5, 1988.

New York Times, June 9, 1991; November 5, 1991, pp. B1-B2; November 12, 1991.

People, December 2, 1991, p. 201.

Publishers Weekly, September 29, 1997, review of From the Mississippi Delta, p. 78.

Time, November 25, 1991, William A. Henry, III, "Playwrights Own Story from the Mississippi Delta," p. 92.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), January 14, 1990.

Variety, June 10, 1991.

Wall Street Journal, February 13, 1991.*

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