Born in the Harlem section of New York on August 29, 1917, Sanford was the only survivor at birth of seven children. Though her mother was against acting, Sanford’s dream of acting often had her sneaking out of her house to perform in nightclubs. She soon married, had three children and put those to dream aside.
In her late 20’s she joined the American Negro Theater and made her stage debut. After thirty years of Broadway acting, Sanford packed her family and moved them to Hollywood. She soon landed parts on Bewitched, The Mod Squad and The Carol Burnett Show. She also took a role in Sidney Poitier’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.
Sanford was soon cast as Louise “Weezy” Jefferson in the television comedy series All in the Family. Soon after, Sanford and Sherman Hemsley were given their own spin-off The Jeffersons. In 1981, Sanford made history as the first African- American woman to win an Emmy for Best Actress in a Comedy Series. She died July 9, 2004, a month and a half before her 87th birthday.