Richard Pryor (1940–2005)

Inspired by Bill Cosby, went o New York in 1963 and gained recognition for his club work as a stand-up, performing on the same bill as such famous personalities as Bob Dylan and Richie Havens and was tutored by great Woody Allen


Comedian Dick Gregory was known for his sophisticated, layered humor that took on racial issues of the day. He and was a trailblazer for other African-American comedians, including Richard Pryor and Bill Cosby.
Gregory’s big break came in 1961, at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Club in Chicago, where the comedian, a replacement act, performed in front of a room of white executives visiting from the segregated South. Gregory was a hit. “It was the first time they had seen a Black comic who was not bucking his eyes, wasn’t dancing and singing and telling mother-in-law jokes,” Gregory said in a 2000 Boston Globe interview. “Just talking about what I read in the newspaper.”

Stepin Fetchit (1902–1985)

The first black/comedian actor to become a millionaire, he owned 12 automobiles and had 16 servants at the height of his fame. By 1947, he had squandered his immense fortune and was forced into bankruptcy.

Moms Mabley (1894–1975)

One the most successful entertainers of the Black vaudeville stage, also known as the Chitlin Circuit, was Jackie “Moms” Mabley, born Loretta Mary Aiken in 1894. At the apex of her long career, she was earning $10,000 a week at Harlem’s Apollo Theatre. Mabley focused on conventional topics such as family and others not normally covered by comedians of the era, white or Black, such as infidelity, poverty, welfare, and inebriation.


In 1949, Cambridge won a scholarship to Hofstra University.  Three year later, he dropped out of school to become an actor. He earned national fame for his comedy after he appeared on The Jack Paar Show in 1964.  That appearance led to performances in top-tier comedy clubs and earned him a contract with Epic records. Cambridge recorded four comedy albums: Ready or No, Here’s Godfrey Cambridge, Them Cotton Pickin Days Is Over, Godfrey Cambridge Toys with the World, and The Godfrey Cambridge Show between 1960 and 1965.