William Henry Cosby was born July 12, 1937, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was the oldest of four children. The Cosby family had an income suitable to their needs until Bill’s father began drinking heavily. His father then enlisted in the Navy. Young Bill became a parental figure for his younger brothers thereafter.
During his middle school years, Cosby began working in order to help out around the house. He shined shoes and worked at a supermarket. Despite having an inadequate income, Cosby’s mother emphasized the importance of education.
While in school, he was often reprimanded for telling jokes. He was bright but unmotivated. After scoring high on an IQ test, he was sent to a school for gifted students. He didn’t apply himself, however, and ended up failing the tenth grade twice. He transferred to a school in Philadelphia. After failing there as well, he eventually dropped out and joined the Navy.
During his military years, Cosby worked as a medical aide. He also joined the Navy’s track team and did significantly well. He regretted dropping out of high school. As a result, he earned his high school equivalency diploma. Once he left the Navy, he attended Temple University with the assistance of a scholarship.
While attending Temple University, Cosby began working at a coffee shop. Simultaneously, he began performing stand-up comedy at a local comedy club. He was inspired by Dick Gregory’s acts involving racial issues. He mimicked Gregory but eventually incorporated more universal themes into his acts.
Cosby dropped out of college in order to pursue comedy full time. He began performing in Greenwich Village, New York. In 1963, he made his first appearance on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. That same year, he landed a recording contract and released his first comedy album, Bill Cosby Is a Very Funny Fellow…Right!He won a Grammy Award as a result.
The Bill Cosby Show
Throughout the 1960s, Cosby released several more records. He won five more Grammy Awards for his work. In 1965, he landed a role in the TV series, I Spy. The show ran for three seasons and he won three Emmy Awards. After I Spyended, he starred in his own sitcom, The Bill Cosby Show. His show ran for two seasons from 1969 to 1971.
More Iconic Works
In the mid-1970s, Cosby created his animated series, Fat Albert. His show earned him a doctorate degree in Urban Education from the University of Massachusettes. He later co-starred in Uptown Saturday Night, Let’s Do It Again, and A Piece of the Action. In the 1980s, Cosby developed, produced, and starred in the iconic TV series The Cosby Show. That show later spun off into the show A Different World.
Bill Cosby worked diligently to change the social stigmas surrounding the Black community. He put positive images of Black people on TV that countered many stereotypes. After the success of The Cosby Show, he has since worked a number of projects.
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