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James Earl Jones
*James Earl Jones was born on this date in 1931. He is a Black actor.
From Arkabutla, Mississippi Jones's father, the actor Robert Earl Jones left his family before his son was born, and young Jones was raised by his grandparents in Michigan. As a boy, Jones had such a relentless stutter that, for eight years, he refused to talk and was functionally speechless. While in high school Jones’s teacher discovered his gift for writing poetry, and encouraged public speaking of his works to help him out of his silence. The educator insisted that he recite a poem to the class each day.
In 1953, Jones graduated from the University of Michigan, majoring in drama, after which he had a brief stint in the U.S. Army. One special experience with oration came when he left the army in the mid-1950s. (Then) young Jones found his father and performed a monologue of the impulsive young soldier character Hotspur from Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part I. Jones went to New York City and studied at the American Theatre Wing and with Lee Strasberg.
He played in his first off-Broadway production in 1957 and subsequently, with the New York Shakespeare Festival, played a number of Shakespearean roles from 1961 to 1973. He also performed in other New York productions and won a Tony award for his boxer role in Howard Sackler's The Great White Hope (1968), later starring in the film version (1970). Through the 1970s and '80s he received critical acclaim for a number of stage, film, and television roles, notably in the two-character stage play Paul Robeson (1978) and in the title role of Othello, opposite Christopher Plummer's Iago (1981-82).
Recently he was the voice of CNN News and Bell Atlantic, and after a long career as a theatre, film and television actor, Jones’s steady, authoritative voice is among the most recognizable in the world.
Africana The Encyclopedia of the African and
African American Experience
Editors: Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates Jr.