PopMatters: How Did Four Young Black Boys Become Hollywood Stars During the Height of Jim Crow?

By Mark Reynolds
PopMatters

Our Gang by Julia LeeAs it turns out, Sunshine Sammy was a race man. Farina and Stymie too, and even Buckwheat for a minute or so.

This may be hard to fathom, considering the designation was generally applied, back around the ‘20s, to men who exemplified the most righteous and upstanding attributes of black people, and advocated for fair and dignified treatment. It’s also hard to fathom because, at the time, they were just young black boys.

But they were young black boys with starring roles in Hollywood, and among the most popular performers of their time. There weren’t very many blacks of any age getting any sort of featured screen time back then, at least not in roles that didn’t demean the race. Thus, these young people were heralded in the black press, and even by the NAACP, as some of the leading exemplars of blackness, well before any of them were old enough to drive.

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