Mass Mutual and NewsOne join together to present 28 dynamic people that make up the diverse tapestry of Black History. For the entire month of February, Black History Month, we will feature one Person of the Day and highlight their lives and achievements.
Bill Cosby has left an undeniable mark through his intertwining careers as a comedian, actor and educator. Despite some setbacks in his younger days, Cosby’s ambitious aims and will to succeed transformed him dramatically. Coupled with the fact that he remains a champion of education and family values, Cosby’s contributions to the world are numerous.
Born on July 12, 1937, William Henry Cosby Jr. was one of four sons to his parents William Sr. and Anna Pearl. Despite his talents in athletics, Cosby wasn’t as focused on his studies. Failing the 10th grade and eventually dropping out, Cosby followed his father’s footsteps by joining the Navy.
Realizing his folly in not finishing school, Cosby obtained his equivalency diploma while still in the service and eventually won an athletic scholarship to Temple University. However, Cosby realized he had a knack for jokes, something he was known for as a younger student. Leaving Temple to chase his dreams of becoming a stand-up comic, Cosby became a fixture on the scene.
After becoming the first Black man to star in a dramatic role on network television in the series I Spy, Cosby later won an Emmy for his role. Amazingly, Cosby found a way to return to his studies in the 1970s despite massive fame as a comedian and actor in classic films such as Uptown Saturday Night. Yet failure visited Cosby’s career in the form of critically panned films and shows that were canceled despite the comedian being universally beloved.
Things changed in 1984 with the introduction of The Cosby Show on NBC, which featured a successful, educated African-American family. The sitcom was such a smash, remaining atop the ratings until it went off the air in 1992. Cosby didn’t catch fire in the television world again quite to that level; but like his earlier Fat Albert show in the 1970s, his children’s series, Little Bill, became a hit.
Cosby’s entertainment success are as impressive as his academics achievements. Cosby earned his MA and doctorate in Education from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in between recording albums and acting. Cosby also won several Grammy Awards for his comedy and children albums.
Cosby and his wife, Camille, are known for their charitable giving. The couple gave $20 million gift to Spellman College, one of the largest such donations ever made. Along with giving money to Fisk University, the Cosbys started the Ennis William Cosby Foundation in honor of the couple’s only son who was slain in 1997, which focused on assisting children with disabilities.
Cosby’s pointed stances on family matters and his sharp criticism against African-Americans have been met with disdain by many, but he has never wavered in his position. Cosby continues to be active in a variety of humanitarian causes and continues to work as a comedian after releasing a stand-up special last fall.
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