Dr. William Henry "Bill" Cosby,
Jr. (born July 12, 1937) is an American actor and comedian.
He was the first black man to star in his own television
series (I Spy with Robert Culp, in the mid-1960s), and also broke racial
with his stand-up comedy career in the 1960s and 1970s. After I Spy,
he starred in other series, but none were very successful (with the
exception of the long-running cartoon Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids)
until his sitcom, The Cosby Show in the mid-1980s. The Cosby Show was
a runaway hit (rescuing NBC from possible bankruptcy), and notable
for being one of the first to star a well-to-do middle-class Black
family. During the 1980s, Cosby was among the highest-paid entertainers
in the United States.
His popularity has diminished somewhat in recent years, and his reputation
has suffered due to allegations of sexual harassment, but overall Cosby
remains an icon of popular culture.
In 1997, Cosby was the target of allegations from Autumn Jackson,
a young woman who claimed she was his daughter. In court, Cosby
testified that he had sex once with Jackson's mother, when he was
already married to his wife. Cosby further admitted he gave financial
support to Jackson's mother. Cosby said he told Jackson he would
be a father figure to her, but that he was not her father. Autumn
Jackson was later convicted on extortion charges.
In January 2005 a woman alleged she was drugged and fondled by Cosby.
The woman made the allegations nine months after it allegedly took
place. In a statement from Cosby's publicist, Cosby's attorney said, "the
charges are categorically false and we have no further comment."
In February 2005 a second woman, California lawyer Tamara Green
(maiden name Lucier), came forward alleging that in the 1970s she
was drugged and groped by Cosby. She claims that as she slipped under
the influence of the drug, Cosby attempted to undress her, and as
she grew to understand what was occurring she stated that if he tried
to rape her he would have to kill her. Upon realizing she would not,
in her words, "be put into submission," he left her in
her apartment with two one-hundred-dollar bills. Cosby's attorney
continues to deny any merit to the allegations, claiming "Mr.
Cosby does not have any knowledge of a woman named Tamara Green or
While prosecutors have declined to press charges against Cosby,
the first accuser has filed a federal civil suit against the performer.
Attorneys for the woman suing Bill Cosby for sexual assault claim
that at least ten other women are prepared to testify about "prior
similar sexual assaults and/or drugging incidents" perpetrated
by the comedian.
Cosby was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at Northwest Philadelphia's
Germantown Hospital at 3:00 A.M. He joined the Navy in tenth grade
and completed high school through correspondence courses (GED). Later,
he won an athletic scholarship to Temple University. After working
as a bartender for several years, he began his career as a stand-up
comic, winning fame for his performances and a series of record albums
beginning in 1963. As a comedian, Cosby told stories rather than
jokes. His breakout routine was an imagined conversation between
God and a skeptical Noah, but Cosby found his richest vein of humor
in his Philadelphia childhood, particularly in tales about his friends
Fat Albert, Cosby's brother Russell, and Old Weird Harold.
TV producer Sheldon Leonard landed Cosby a break-out television
role in I Spy (1965), the first time an African-American actor starred
in a weekly dramatic television series. Cosby won two Emmy Awards
for his portrayal of an undercover CIA agent.
Cosby then appeared in a series of shows named after himself: The
Bill Cosby Show, The New Bill Cosby Show, the animated Fat Albert
and the Cosby Kids, Cos, The Cosby Show, The Cosby Mysteries, and
Cosby (based upon the British series One Foot In The Grave). He has
producer, writer, director and even composer credits on many of his
Cosby was a regular on the Captain Kangaroo show in the 1980s, presenting
the "Picture Pages" segment which was later syndicated
on its own.
He won several Grammy awards for comedy albums, had a top forty
song ("Little Old Man") in 1969, and sang on a number of
albums. He won more Grammies for comedy than any other artist, winning
every year from 1965 to 1970 and again in 1987. As of 2005, he had
3 gold- and 6 platinum-certified comedy albums. He has also written
several humorous books about different aspects of life, based on
his stand-up comedy such as Fatherhood and Love and Marriage. In
fact, Fatherhood and Time Flies were the best selling non-fiction
hardback books of 1986 and 1987, respectively.
Cosby has also made occasional forays into film acting, but the
critical and popular success which came so abundantly to his stage
and television work has not blessed his movie performances: His natural
charisma has often been undermined by mediocre scripts in films like
The Devil and Max Devlin (1981) and Ghost Dad (1990), and the notorious
flop Leonard Part 6 (1987), although his work in ensemble casts in
Uptown Saturday Night and Let's Do it Again, a pair of productions
headed up by Sidney Poitier in the mid-1970s, received favorable
One of Cosby's more colorful performances was his portrayal as a
bigot in Bill Cosby on Prejudice (1971).
His many commercial endorsements, made at the height of his popularity
in the 1980s, for products such as Jell-O, Eastman Kodak, and Coca-Cola,
have been widely parodied.
Cosby earned a doctorate in education from the University of Massachusetts
in 1977: his thesis concerned the use of the Fat Albert series as
a teaching aid. He has attempted to integrate education with television
in some projects, such as Picture Pages, where Cosby taught children
how to draw in a series of shorts aired by PBS. Notably, he structured
the 80's Cosby family to represent children at all ages, and the
addition of daughter Sondra (Sabrina LaBeouf) as a Princeton-educated
lawyer is meant to send the message that good parenting and education
of children leads to success. The Cosby Show also addressed social
issues, such as drugs, illiteracy, teen pregnancy, and gang violence.
Cosby is now a leading educational philanthropist.
He hosted the television program Kids Say the Darndest Things, which
aired from 1996 through 2002.
He is married to Camille Hanks and they have four daughters. Their
only son Ennis Cosby, aged 27, was murdered on January 16, 1997,
while changing a flat tire in Los Angeles, California. On March 12,
1997, his assailant, Mikail Markhasev, was arrested in Los Angeles
and charged with attempted robbery and murder. He was convicted on
July 7, 1998 and is currently serving a life sentence without the
possibility of parole.
Cosby, as of 2005 maintains a home in Shelburne, Massachusetts.
Cosby received Kennedy Center Honors in 1998 and the Presidential
Medal of Freedom in 2002.
In a British 2005 poll to find The Comedian's Comedian, he was voted
amongst the top 50 comedy acts ever by fellow comedians and comedy
Bill Cosby's sociopolitical views, especially about the African-American
community, are quite complex and has often been reduced to a simplistic
representation. He has a long history of philanthropic endeavors
to encourage equality and advancement while other statements he made
were taken by the U.S. public as being indictful of the Black Community.
During the 1970's, Cosby was on the "enemies list" of
President Richard Nixon.
He was the first bigtime entertainer to cancel an appearance in
Cincinnati after a boycott was called in response to the 2001 Cincinnati
Riots. His support of the Black community's struggle encouraged other
stars to follow & was pivotal to demonstrate it was a nationally
Cosby has been critical of Black communities regarding those who
hold low standards and allowing fatherless single parent households,
high crime rates, and high illiteracy rates. He encouraged ownership
of those problems and a more proactive effort from within Black community
to fix those problems. He expanded upon his remarks in San Jose,
CA during an event to promote the Read-2-Lead Classic. The way his
speeches were portrayed by popular media provoked a great deal of
anger from black communities. U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) has
made similar remarks regarding the decline of the Black American
The Ghettosburg Address In May 2004 as his address during the 50th
Anniversary commemoration of the Brown vs Topeka Board of Education
ruling, Cosby made public remarks critical of low-income Blacks whom
he believed to be deprioritizing education in favor of sports and
fashion. When his address was reported by the national media the
titles were very suggesting the patriachal Cosby placed the blame
of socioeconomic disparity solely on the Black community.
Bill Cosby has more harsh words for black community SanFransico
Chronicles Thursday, July 1, 2004
Bill Cosby Remarks Divide Black Community Black America Web, Monday,
May 31, 2004 (Associated Press)
There were other lead-in paragraphs that suggest a huge division:
CHICAGO — Bill Cosby went off on another tirade against the
black community Thursday, telling a room full of activists that black
children are running around not knowing how to read or write and "going
nowhere." Fox News, Friday, July 02, 2004 (Associated Press)
Cosby again came under sharp criticism, and again he was largely
unapologetic for his stance. Cosby made similar remarks during a
speech on July 1 at a Rainbow Coalition meeting commemorating the
anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. During that speech, he
admonished struggling young men to "stop beating up your wife
because you can't find a job" and stated that Blacks had forgotten
the sacrifices of those in the Civil Rights Movement. The talk was
interrupted several times by applause and received praise from leaders
such as Jesse Jackson.
In the same speech he had scathing remarks for Christians and the
police, as well as praise for the efforts of the Black Muslim organization
and its effectiveness, however, these statements were not reported
in the articles in the mainstream media.
Human beings are the only creatures that allow their children to
come back home and be happy."
I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying
to please everybody."
Our children are angry. The profanity is out in the street. It's
on the buses and in the subway. Our children are trying to tell us
something, and we are not listening."
The very first law in advertising is to avoid the concrete promise
and cultivate the delightfully vague."
Bill Cosby is a Very Funny Fellow--Right! 1963
I Started Out as a Child 1964
Why is there air? 1965
Silver Throat: Bill Cosby Sings 1967
To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With 1968
200 mph ~1968
Bill Cosby Sings: Hooray for the Salvation Army Band 1968
8:15 12:15 1968
The Best of Bill Cosby 1969
It's True! It's True 1969
Live Madison Square Garden Center 1970
More of the Best of Bill Cosby 1970
For Adults Only 1971
Talk to Kids About Drugs 1971
When I Was a Kid 1971
Inside the Mind of Bill Cosby 1972
Fat Albert 1973
At Last Bill Cosby Really Sings 1974
Bill Cosby is Not Himself These Days 1976
Disco Bill 1977
My Father Confused Me... What Must I Do? What Must I Do? 1977
Bill's Best Friend 1978
Himself (live performance) 1982
Hard Headed Boys (EP) 1985
Those of You With or Without Children, You'll Understand 1986
Oh Baby 1991
20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Bill
The Bill Cosby Collection 2004