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Pop culture is as American as apple pie. Enjoy the stories behind favorite hobbies, sports, and collectibles.


Jackie “Moms” Mabley (1894-1975): Trailblazing Comedian

  • Moms was a first; no previous stand-up female comedian preceded Mableycolor Moms Mabley
  • First woman comedian to be featured at the Apollo Theater (1930s); she went on to appear there more times than any other performer.
  • Oldest person to have a song on the Top 40 Billboard chart. Her recording of “Abraham, Martin and John” reached #35 in 1969.

Jackie “Moms” Mabley was a trailblazer in every sense of the word—there were no female standup comedians that preceded her—yet, despite a 50-year career in show business, she might have fallen into oblivion had it not been for two women who resurrected her story.

The first woman to step forward to explore Mabley’s story was Clarice Taylor, an actress who played Bill Cosby’s mother on The Bill Cosby Show. One day at lunch with friends, Taylor realized no one knew who Moms Mabley was, so in the early 1980s, she began working with Harlem-born playwright Ben Caldwell to create a play about Moms’s life that went on to be a big hit off-Broadway.

More recently, Whoopi Goldberg took an interest in what Mabley has meant to African-American performers. Goldberg directed Whoopi Goldberg presents Moms Mabley (2013). To Whoopi, it was Moms ability to tell a great story.

Childhood

From Clarice Taylor’s research, we now know the story of what Moms Mabley never shared about her childhood.  Born in Brevard, North Carolina, Loretta Mary Aiken—who was to become Jackie “Moms” Mabley—was a great-granddaughter of a slave and part of a very large family of 16 children, who experienced much sadness and trauma.

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Alice Coachman (1923- ): First African-American Woman to Win an Olympic Gold Medal

World-class athlete specializing in the high jump First African-American woman to win an Olympic gold medal…

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Hattie McDaniel (1895-1952), First African-American to Win an Oscar

First African-American woman to sing on radio First African-American to win an Oscar (Best Supporting Actress for her role in Gone with the Wind); however, McDaniel was not permitted to…

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Roy Campanella (1921-1993), Negro League Superstar Chosen to Move to Major Leagues

Top National League catcher of his day Second African-American player selected to play in the Major Leagues Inducted into the…

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Eddie Anderson (1905-1977): Created Role of Rochester

• First African-American to have a regular role on a nationwide radio–and then television–program • Though the character of Rochester was a valet, Anderson, working with Jack Benny, developed…

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The Early Days of Football: Far Removed from the Super Bowl

My grandfather was the quarterback for the University of Colorado in 1917. This photo…

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Will Rogers (1879-1935): His Wisdom Still Applies Today

Will Rogers was a part-Cherokee American who grew up in Indian Territory and began his career in vaudeville doing rope tricks; he went on to become one…

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