Sammy Davis Jr. Legendary entertainer, member of the infamous Rat Pack, comedian, musician and assessor of race relations in America.
This interview, part of the Black Journal series from NET (precursor to PBS) from 1971 is remarkably candid and frank. He talks about his experiences growing up, starting in show business, his experiences with racism in the Military and his then-current situation regarding his own TV series . He talks about his critics, both black and white and his constant battles with Network television executives and his outspoken criticism of double-standards in an effort to break through the glass ceiling.
The subject of considerable criticism from the black community for his converting to Judaism and marrying a white woman, Davis lashes out at his critics for their hypocrisy; their own double standards. His criticism from the white community for his support of radical black causes, his support of Angela Davis and his refusal to scale-back his activism also receives his criticism – since the hypocrisy was just as prevalent on both sides and that racism was still (in 1971) very much alive and well and living everywhere in America.
It’s an informative and illuminating 25 minutes, which could have gone on for much longer – but the interview is only one segment of a larger show. He discusses issues of the black community in a way he didn’t often do during other interviews, and it does a lot to dispel the theory that Sammy Davis Jr. was passive and just a multi-talented entertainer who hung out with Frank Sinatra.
Sadly, since his death, we’ve come to remember Sammy Davis Jr. as the entertainer and not the critic of our race relations – we’ve more or less forgotten who the real person was, instead focusing on the gloss and Show business glitz of the Show Business personality. We often forget, as we do with many iconic figures of our past, that there were very real human emotions and situations they faced on a daily basis.
This interview might change some of that – it’s angry and it’s direct. Listening to it gives a whole new perspective on one of the most popular entertainers of the later 20th century.
Here is that interview from Black Journal from July 21, 1971.