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Phylicia Rashad directs 'Four Little Girls: Birmingham 1963' (+video)

Phylicia Rashad, aka 'Clair Huxtable,' directed a reading of 'Four Little Girls: Birmingham 1963' on the 50th anniversary of the bombing at the 16th Street Baptist Church. Phylicia Rashad won a Tony award for 'A Raisin in the Sun.'

By Stacy A. AndersonAssociated Press / September 16, 2013

Phylicia Rashad, left, and Keshia Knight Pulliam from the "Cosby Show" in 2002. The Tony Award-winning actress, Rashad, directed a reading of the play "Four Little Girls: Birmingham 1963" at the Kennedy Center Sunday to mark the 50th anniversary of the bombing at 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala.

AP Photo/Tina Fineberg, File

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Phylicia Rashad is best known for starring roles on stage and television, but as a director she decided to commemorate a historic moment that helped spur the civil rights movement.

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The Tony Award-winning actress directed a reading of the play "Four Little Girls: Birmingham 1963" at the Kennedy Center Sunday to mark the 50th anniversary of the bombing at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Four girls were killed in the explosion, which was set by white supremacists and helped spur passage of landmark civil rights legislation.

Rashad, who is recognized for her portrayal as Clair Huxtable, the matriarch on "The Cosby Show" TV series and Broadway's "A Raisin in the Sun," said she wanted the reading to emphasize the "sanctity of joy, human existence and the value of all life."

In February 2008, Rashad appeared in the television adaptation of A Raisin in the Sun. She starred on Broadway as Big Mama in an all-African American production of Tennessee Williams's drama Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, which was directed by her sister Debbie Allen.

This latest play, written by Christina Ham, starred students from Howard University and the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C.

Rashad, an alumna of Howard University, said acting and directing are both challenging and rewarding. In her role as director, Rashad said she works to keep the creative energy in line with the writer's vision, "while leaving room for people to add to the vision in a collaborative effort."

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