In the late '30s she worked in Chicago's WPA Theater. She moved to New York City in the early '40s, where she was a member of the Rose McClendon Players. She debuted on Broadway in 1941, portraying the sister of Bigger Thomas (Canada Lee) in Orson Welles's production of Native Son (1941). She established herself as a serious stage actress. She was one of the founders of the American Negro Theater. Over the years she landed a small handful of film roles, debuting onscreen in The Phenix City Story (1955). In the '70s she became recognizable to a large audience through her appearances on a number of sitcoms; she was a regular on Baby, I'm Back and 227, and she had guest appearances on many other shows.