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Spencer Williams Jr. was born on this date in 1893. He was a Black film and TV actor and director.
Born in Vidalia, Louisiana, Williams was a large, boisterous actor-singer best known for playing Andy Brown in the early-1950s TV series "Amos 'n' Andy.” In early talkies in Hollywood he had worked as a sound technician for Christy Studios, helped write a series of Black-cast short films, and appeared in all four Herb Jeffries' Black Westerns. His career was in the generation of race movies. To his credit, the only Black director who received frequent commissions from his white bosses to make movies was Spencer Williams, Jr.
In 1940, he wrote and appeared in the low budget Black-cast horror movie "Son of Ingagi." He was then hired by Dallas exhibitor Al Sack to write and direct films, apparently with a minimum of front-office interference. During that decade he made nine or ten of them: "Girl in Room 20," "Dirty Gertie from Harlem U.S.A.," "Juke Joint" and (rare in race movies, religious epics) "The Blood of Jesus," "Go Down, Death," "Of One Blood."
Aesthetically, much of Williams' work vacillates between unmoving and very bad. Yet Williams’ debut film "Blood of Jesus" (1941), has a raw magnificence to match its subject, a morality play about an angel and a devil fighting for a woman's soul, all scored to inspiring gospel music.
Fifty years after it was made, this film was selected for insertion in the Library of Congress' National Registry of Films. Spencer Williams, Jr. died on December 13, 1969.
The Encyclopedia of African American Heritage
by Susan Altman
Copyright 1997, Facts on File, Inc. New York