On May 26, 1949, actress Pam Grier was born in Winston-Salem.
Grier’s father was an Air Force mechanic, keeping the family constantly on the move, so it was in Colorado that her acting career got its start. Spotted by an agent at the Colorado state preliminary to the Miss Universe pageant, Grier accepted the agent’s offer to come to Hollywood to try to make it in the film industry.
After making her debut on the silver screen in the 1971 film Big Doll House, Grier quickly became a staple of the so-called “Blaxploitation” genre of films—films geared toward urban black audiences whose plots and characters relied heavily on black stereotypes. She played the starring role in Foxy Brown, perhaps the best-known movie of the genre.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Grier acted in several blockbusters, more mainstream movies and began working in television as well. In her later career, she is perhaps best known for playing the title character in Quentin Tarantino’s 1997 movie Jackie Brown, and she continues to work in movies and television to this day.
Grier was the first black woman to appear on the cover of Ms. magazine in August 1975, and Ebony included her on its list of the “100 Most Fascinating Women of the 20th Century.”
Image from Los Angeles Times photographic archive, UCLA Library.