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Bill Cosby, a Black entertainer, author, educator, and businessman, was born on this date in 1937.
William Henry Cosby, Jr., was born in Germantown, PA. He attended college on a football scholarship at Temple University. He received his master's and doctorate in education, from the University of Massachusetts. He entered show business as a stand up comedian at the Gaslight Cafe, New York (1962), but his career took off with the TV show "I Spy," (1965-1968). It was here that Cosby became the first African American to star in a dramatic series on television. In 1965, Cosby married Camille Hanks; the couple has five children.
Cosby has amassed a global reputation through his diverse media ideas using records, books, television, and film. He affected society as a humanitarian. His humor connected with real life situations separates him from many of his peers. His other television credits include: "The Bill Cosby Show" (1969-1971), "The New Bill Cosby Show" (1972-1973), "The Cosby Show" (1984-1992), "You Bet Your Life" (1992-1993), and "Cosby" (1996-Present). His movies credits are: "To All My Friends On Shore" (1971) "Hickey & Boggs" (1972) "Man and Boy" (1972) "Uptown Saturday Night" (1974) "Let's Do It Again" (1975) "Mother, Jugs & Speed" (1976) "A Piece of the Action" (1977) "California Suite" (1978) "Top Secret" (1978) "The Devil and Max Devlin" (1981) "Bill Cosby — Himself" (1982) "Leonard Part 6" (1987) "Ghost Dad" (1990) "The Meteor Man" (1993) "I Spy Returns" (1994)and "Jack" (1996).
He and his wife donated $20 million to Spelman College. He owns an extensive collection of art by Blacks. Cosby’s list of honors included four Emmy awards, eight Grammy awards, the NAACP Image Award, and induction into the the Hall of Fame of the Academy of TV Arts & Sciences.
As a civic activist he was president of the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame, a board member of Sickle Cell Anemia Foundation, a board member of United Negro College Fund, and a board member of Operation PUSH. Without question, the tragedy of his life was the death of his son, Ennis, who was shot to death in 1997 while changing a tire on a Los Angeles freeway.
Cosby had affair during the 1970’s with Shawn Upshaw, mother of Autumn Jackson, but insists he is not Jackson's father; the 22-year-old was recently sentenced to 18 months in prison for trying to extort $40 million from Cosby by threatening to give her story to tabloids. He became very wealthy, and became a benefactor primarily to African American groups.
Bill Cosby was one of the most visible African Americans in the last 50 years. In 2004, Cosby took the 50th anniversary of Brown v. B.O.E. to convey "tough love" for his community, a point of view that is controversial among the Black population. He said, "My biggest cry is for us to really reflect on who we are. Who are we in our manhood? Who are we in our responsibility to the black woman and the black child?" In 2005, he released his newest book, "I Am What I Ate and I'm Frightened." It offers a hip, humorous, hard-earned wisdom on the healthy lifestyle and the behavior behind it.
In the mid 2010's, over 60 women have accused Cosby of drug-facilitated sexual assault, although he has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged with any crime. The dates of the alleged assaults span from 1965 to 2008. Attorney Gloria Allred has represented seventeen of the accusers. In July 2015, the Associated Press obtained court records from (one of his accusers) Andrea Constands 2005 civil lawsuit that was settled out of court.
In a deposition, Cosby testified he obtained Quaaludes, a then-legal prescription sedative, to give to women he wanted to have sexual relations with and that he had given the drug to at least one woman and other people. Cosby was found guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault and sentenced to three to ten years in prison in September 2018. On June 30, 2021, the state court of Pennsylvania released him from custody.
Black Heroes of The Twentieth Century
Edited by Jessie Carney Smith
Copyright 1998 Visible Ink Press, Detroit, MI