( 1944- )
Ida Mae Holland was born in Greenwood, Mississippi, where she lived with her mother, who served as the midwife for the rural black community and operated a brothel. At the age of eleven, Holland was raped by the father of a white toddler whom she was baby-sitting. That experience and the need to help support her mother and siblings led the thirteen-year-old Holland into prostitution. Cedric, Holland's son, was born in 1961. Her life was transformed, however, when she walked into the local office of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1962. She worked first as a volunteer at the local level and then traveled around the nation to promote the cause of the civil rights movement. Her support of Martin Luther King, Jr., landed her in jail on numerous occasions. Her activism led to a firebombing that destroyed the Holland home and killed her mother.
Holland headed north, and eventually she enrolled at the University of Minnesota were she earned a BA in African-American studies in 1979, an MA in American studies in 1984, and a Ph.D. in American studies the following year. It was in 1979 that Holland adopted the Swahili name Endesha (driver) to celebrate her capacity to drive herself forward. Perhaps the most telling sign of her saga from prostitute to professor came in 1991 when her hometown of Greenwood, Mississippi, declared October 18 to be Dr. Endesha Ida Mae Holland Day. Some of her recollections are included in her Mississippi Writers: Reflections of Childhood and Youth ( 1985).
Her playwriting career was launched by accident. When she found herself four credits short for her undergraduate degree, she was advised to take a course in the theatre department. She enrolled in playwriting and found an artistic outlet for her natural storytelling abilities. While living in Minneapolis, Holland was