The great thing about the history of Black America and the methods African-American leaders have used to seek full equality and acceptance in this country is that there have been many roads to that goal. Yes, the great social, political, legal and even military movements that were led to free African Americans from slavery and gain full citizenship were crucial. And the great black leadership of dynamic figures like Martin Luther King and George Washington Carver made things possible that would never have been possible otherwise.

But not all of society’s gains were achieved through tears and anger. In fact, great black leadership can be found in a place you’d never think to look. It can be found in comedy nightclubs and cutting-edge TV shows, as black comedians helped everyone, black and white, laugh together at the differences between the races rather than cry separately.

sammy davis Jr

Some of the most revered figures in comedy over the past thirty years belonged to the African-American community. There are many notable names that immediately come to mind who have used the « podium » of a microphone and a comedy stage to talk about issues of race, color, discrimination and race relations in a way that all can appreciate their thoughts and come to a common understanding. . The names Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy and many others stand out as both very funny performers and people who have represented the African-American community with pride and intelligence that all can admire.

Many African-American children have taken hope in the idea of climbing out of poverty and the difficulty of achieving greatness because they’ve seen these black artists do it. Just using their success to show young people in black America that they too can succeed, and that with hard work, intelligence and a willingness to try, they too can be someone to their family and community. That’s really the role of a great role model, and these men gave a lot of hope to young people to make something of themselves and make a difference.

Sometimes, it was difficult for these artists to achieve equality. When Sammy Davis Junior was first recruited to make his valuable contribution to Frank Sinatra’s team, many in that society didn’t think it was appropriate for a black man to play on an equal footing with his white contemporaries. We can also be grateful for the openness of others in the entertainment community, that they wouldn’t put up with racism keeping talent like Sammy down. It was Sinatra himself who made it possible for Sammy Davis to perform with the « Rat Pack » and, in doing so, another door of racism was blown open in this country.

See also our article: Maroons

Stories like this are common. The Hollywood establishment has always been forward-thinking in presenting artists on the basis of their talent, not their skin color or other artificial divisions. It was also television that broke down barriers and opened up the discussion of race and color so that we could all engage. By making it « okay » to talk about race relations, it also makes it possible to see these relations healed and pave the way for reconciliation and healing.

Often, when a black comedian makes his crowd laugh, he can say « the important thing is that we talk about these things and laugh about them together ». And that’s the important thing. We can be grateful that we’ve had such outstanding leadership in entertainment to bring blacks and whites together in a way that eliminates hate and hostility. Because it’s hard to hate your brother when you’re busy laughing with him.

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