Today's Articles

People, Locations, Episodes

Tue, 07.09.1901

Jester Hairston, Actor born


Jester Hairston was born on this date in 1901. He was a Black choral composer and actor.

The grandson of slaves from the Hairston plantation at Belew's Creek, North Carolina, Jester Hairston often suffered the indignities of Hollywood racism.  A cum laude graduate from Tufts University with a major in music, he also studied music at the Julliard School.  He spent 13 years as assistant conductor of the Hall Johnson Negro Choir, where he often arranged and conducted choirs for Broadway.

He first came to Hollywood in 1936 to conduct choir work and spent 15 years on radio and TV Amos 'n' Andy, even though white actors played other black characters.  Hairston’s early acting roles included playing a “Witch Doctor” in the 1955 film, "Tarzan's Hidden Jungle." TV fans perhaps best recognize Hairston as “Rolly Forbes” on the 1986 series "Amen"; his presence in Hollywood was often hidden on the other side of the camera.

As one of America's greatest choral music directors, Hairston composed or arranged more than 300 gospel spirituals in films such as "Green Pastures" and "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon."  Among his notable works, one of the first Black actors in the Screen Actors Guild was the song “Amen” from the Sidney Poitier film, "Lilies of the Field." Jester Hairston died on January 18, 2000, at 98.

To become an Actor or Actress

New Poem Each Day

Poetry Corner

Mahogany men with massive hands and broad mustaches who outlived wars and married feisty oak-imaged women be tight with money tender of heart and close to me a gallery of... UNCLES by Nikki Finney
Read More