Al Freeman Jr., Actor Prominent in Civil Rights Era, Dies at 78.
Al Freeman Jr., a star among a generation of black actors that emerged during the civil rights era, who made his mark in both drama and race relations with his portraits of some of the movement’s most forbidding personalities—angry young men in the 1960s plays of James Baldwin and LeRoi Jones, Malcolm X in a television drama, and the black separatist Elijah Muhammad in Spike Lee’s 1992 movie “Malcolm X”—died on Aug. 9 in Washington. He was 78.
…Mr. Freeman, who was born in San Antonio in 1934, had withdrawn somewhat from acting when Mr. Lee, preparing to direct “’Malcolm X,” asked him in 1991 to audition for the role of Elijah Muhammad, the Nation of Islam leader who inspired Malcolm X. …Mr. Freeman later told interviewers that he felt he could bring to the part a feel for the times and a sense of the promise people saw in the young Malcolm. “Certainly Spike didn’t pay me that much,” he told Ebony. “The point was that it had to do with my life.”