A Brief History
On February 16, 1904, African American movie actor and singer James Franklin Baskett was born in Indianapolis. You may not know his name, but the character he played in the Disney classic movie, Song of the South in 1946, Uncle Remus, is a beloved part of Americana as is his rendition of the song, “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.”
In 1948, Baskett was awarded an honorary Oscar, becoming the first Black actor to receive an Academy Award.
Other notable African American births on February 16th include pianist and organist Bill Doggett in 1916, actor LaVar Burton in 1957, both rapper/actor Ice-T and NBA star Herb Williams in 1958, football Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis in 1972, and 2 time Oscar winner Mahershala Ali in 1974.
Question for students (and subscribers): Do you know why February was chosen as African American History Month? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
O’Neill, Bill. The Great Book of Black Heroes: 30 Fearless and Inspirational Black Men and Women that Changed History. LAK Publishing, 2021.
Schulman, Michael. Oscar Wars: A History of Hollywood in Gold, Sweat, and Tears. Harper, 2023.
The featured image in this article, a photograph by Lioneldecoster of Jazz organ player Bill Doggett in France, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
You can also watch video versions of this article on YouTube.