Black History Minute!!! Stepin Fetchit (1902 - 1985)
Stepin Fetchit (May 30, 1902 – November 19, 1985) was the stage name of American comedian and film actor Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry.
Perry parlayed the Fetchit persona into a successful film career, eventually becoming a millionaire, the first black actor in history to do so. He was also the first black actor to receive a screen credit.
Perry's typical film persona and stage name have long been controversial, and seen as illustrative of negative stereotypes of African-Americans. Seen through a modern lens, Perry's "laziest man in the world" character can be "painfully racist" but also "subversive".
Perry played comic relief roles in a number of films, all based on his character known as "The Laziest Man in the World". In his personal life, Perry was highly literate and had a concurrent career writing for the Chicago Defender.
Perry began entertaining in his teens as a comic character actor. His stage name was a contraction of "step and fetch it", or perhaps, "step in [and] fetch it". According to his entry in Ephraim Katz's The Film Encyclopedia, he borrowed his screen name from a racehorse that won him some money in his pre-Hollywood days.
While Perry was the first black actor to become a millionaire, he was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1947, stating assets of $146 (equal to about $1,520 today).Perry reportedly converted to Islam in the 1960s and became a friend of heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali. Perry also found himself in conflict during his career with civil rights leaders who criticized him personally for the film roles he portrayed. Nonetheless, in 1976 the Hollywood chapter of the NAACP awarded him a Special NAACP Image Award. Two years after that, Perry was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame.
Fetchit appeared in 54 films between 1925 and 1976, and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the category "Motion pictures".