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James Baskett

James Baskett (1904-1948) was an African American actor best known for his portrayal of Uncle Remus in the 1946 Disney feature film, Song of the South. After abandoning his studies of pharmacology for financial reasons, Baskett supported himself as an actor, moving to New York and joining the company of Bill Robinson, better known as Mr. Bojangles. His reputation secure, he moved to Los Angeles, where he joined the cast of the Amos 'n' Andy radio show and got roles in several films.

In 1945, he auditioned for a bit part dubbing one of the animals in the new Disney feature film Song of the South, based on the Uncle Remus stories by Joel Chandler Harris. Walt Disney himself was so impressed with Baskett's talent, that he hired him on the spot for the lead role as Uncle Remus. As such, he was the first live actor hired by Disney to play in a feature film. Baskett was so admired by Disney that he was also given the voice role of Brer Fox, one of the film's animated protagonists, and even filled in as the other main animated protagonist, Brer Rabbit, in one sequence.

Despite his stardom, the fact that Baskett was Black in a racially divided America hindered him in many ways. For example, he was unable to attend the films premiere in Atlanta, Georgia because no hotel in the city would give him a room for the night. In some way, this was rectified in 1948, when Baskett was given an honorary Academy Award for his performance as Uncle Remus. He died a few months later of heart disease.