Howard University in Washington, D.C., confirmed his death Friday night but details weren't immediately available. Freeman taught acting there for years and served as chairman and artistic director of its theater arts department.
"He was a brilliant professor,
a renowned actor and a master director who made his mark in the classroom as well as on stage, screen and television. ... He has mentored and taught scores of outstanding actors. He was a resounding voice of Howard and will be missed," university spokeswoman Kerry-Ann Hamilton said in a statement.
Freeman earned an NAACP Image Award for playing Malcolm X's mentor in Lee's 1992 biography. He also received an Emmy nomination for his role as Malcolm X in the 1979 miniseries "Roots: The Next Generations." He won a best-actor Daytime Emmy that year for his work as Capt. Ed Hall on the soap opera "One Life to Live."