LESSONS IN BLACK HISTORY – Herb Jeffries

bronzebuckHERBERT “HERB” JEFFRIES – Herb Jeffries (a.k.a. Herb Jeffrey) started his career as a jazz singer, before venturing into film in the late 1930s. Jeffries starred in a series of westerns, and became known as the “black singing cowboy” thanks to The Bronze Buckaroo, Harlem Rides the Range, Two Gun Man from Harlem, and Harlem on the Prairie. He also went on to enjoy a career that included singing with Duke Ellington. Jefferies is often credited as being both one of the first African-American action heroes and matinee idols. Neither of these accomplishments is nearly as impressive as the fact that Jeffries is not black. As detailed in the documentary A Colored Life, and by his own admission, both of Jeffries parents were white. His mother married an Ethiopian man, and Jeffries began telling people that he was half Ethiopian. He often used make-up to appear darker, but unlike white minstrel performers in blackface, Jeffries lived his life as a black man.

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