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Stepin Fetchit, Hollywood's First Black Movie Star

Stepin Fetchi

It was the 1930s and film had grown to new heights. However, one of the peaks in film at the time has been lost to history. That peak was Stepin Fetchit whose real name is Lincoln Perry, the first ever black movie star. Perry first started out as a comic character actor before growing to become a vaudeville artist, according to a book entitled Stepin Fetchit: The Life and Times of Lincoln Perry.

It wasn’t long before Perry began playing the role of Stepin Fetchit, a ‘befuddled, mumbling, shiftless fool,’ as described by NPR. He then played this Fetchit character in a number of films back in the 1930’s, eventually growing from that success to become a millionaire. This accomplishment was truly remarkable as black men and women were still struggling for equality and representation in America.

Although the personality Perry donned on-stage was described widely as the ‘laziest man in the world’ and was generally regarded as stupid and uneducated, Lincoln Perry himself was actually quite intelligent. Mel Watkins, the writer of Stepin Fetchit: The Life and Times of Lincoln Perry, expressed: “This is an amazingly complex man. Intelligent -- and he was anything but what people take him to be."