A longtime advocate for civil rights, she was administrative secretary for the Joint Actors Equity-Theater League Committee on Hotel Accommodations for Negro Actors throughout the United States.
As a co-founder of the Negro Actors Guild, the Guild's officers at the time included Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Ethel Waters, Paul Robeson and Adam Clayton Powell Jr., who was married to her sister Isabel Washington. Later Fredi was editor and columnist for "The People's Voice", a weekly paper founded by Powell in 1938. She wrote the regular features "Headlines and Footlights" And "Fredi Speaks".
Attended St. Elizabeth Convent in Cornwells Heights, Pennsylvania, and later, for dramatic training, the Egri School of Dramatic Writing and the Christopher School of Languages.
First husband was Lawrence Brown, a trombonist in the Duke Ellington band. Following their divorce in 1951, she married a Connecticut dentist, Hugh Anthony Bell, and retired. She worked at the Stamford branch of Bloomingdale's from 1954 to 1980.
For better or worse, she was stereotyped as the "tragic mulatto", never better than as Peola, the light-skinned daughter of Louise Beavers in Imitation of Life (1934) who tries to pass for white. So realistic was her portrayal that many filmgoers thought she was antiblack in real life.
In the 1940s and early 1950s, she actively participated in the Cultural Division of the National Negro Congress and the Committee for the Negro in the Arts.
Played the lead opposite Paul Robeson in the Broadway play "Black Boy" under the (then) stage name of Edith Warren. She later worked with Robeson again in The Emperor Jones (1933), in which her skin was darkened with makeup for fear that audiences might think Robeson was actually filming love scenes with a white woman.
Radio: Was a regular on the Jewish comedy "The Goldbergs".
She moved to New York at the age of 16 and started her career as a chorus girl two years later at the Alabam Club. She spent four years (1922-1926) in the landmark play "Shuffle Along".
Sister of Isabel Washington.
Was the third of nine children.