Vinnette Justine Carroll (March 11, 1922 — November 5, 2002) was an American playwright and actress, and the first African-American woman to direct on Broadway, with the 1972 musicalDon't Bother Me, I Can't Cope.
Born Vinnette Justine Carroll in New York City, to Edgar Edgerton, a dentist, and Florence (Morris) Carroll. She and her family moved to Jamaica when she was three and she spent much of her childhood there as well as in the West Indies. She returned to New York, where she received a B.A. from Long Island University in 1944 and an M.A. from New York University in 1946. Carroll’s father encouraged his daughters to become physicians, and as a compromise, she chose psychology. She later completed doctoral work in psychology at Columbia University and she worked as a clinical psychologist with the NYC Bureau of Child Guidance before pursuing acting.
She left the field of psychology to study theater, and in 1948, she accepted a scholarship to attend Erwin Piscator’s Dramatic Workshop at the New School for Social Research and studied withLee Strasberg, Stella Adler, Margaret Barker, and Susan Steele. She made her professional stage debut at the Falmouth Playhouse acting in Androcles and the Lion. Later, in due to the shortage of roles, Carroll created a one-woman show and toured the United States and the West Indies. For eleven years she taught theater arts and directed productions as a member of the faculty of the high school of Performing Arts in New York City. She made her Broadway debut in 1957, and in 1962 she won an Obie Award for her role in Errol John’s Moon on a Rainbow Shawl. In 1964 she won an Emmy Award for Beyond The Blues, which dramatized the works of Black poets. She founded the Urban Arts Corps in 1967 to foster participation by minority groups in all aspects of the theatrical arts, specialized in works by African-American writers and composers. In 1972 she became the first African-American woman to direct on Broadway with her staging of Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope. This hit gospel revue was conceived by Carroll, with music and lyrics by Micki Grant. It was nominated for four Tony Awards. Her success was repeated in 1976, collaborating withMicki Grant and Alex Bradford, with Your Arms Too Short to Box with God, which garnered three Tony nominations. This show was an adaptation of The Gospel According to Matthew.
Ms. Carroll remains the only African-American woman to receive a Tony nomination for Direction. As an actress, Carroll appeared in Up the Down Staircase (1967), Alice's Restaurant (1969), and other films. She also worked in television, and in 1964 she received an Emmy Award for Beyond the Blues.
She appeared in The Last Home Run, which was filmed in 1996 and released in 1998.
She died of heart disease and diabetes in Lauderhill, Florida, on November 5, 2002, at the age of 80.