Do you remember the singing the song #Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah along with #Uncle Remus? The role of Uncle Remus was played by an African-American man named #James Baskett for Walt Disney in the 1946 film, Song of the South. Baskett received an honorary Academy Award for his role, making him the first #black male performer to receive an Oscar.
James Basket was born on February 2, 1904, in Indianapolis, Indiana. He was a passionate studier of pharmacology, but left his studies because lack of money. He then went on to pursue his untrained dramatic talent. While in Chicago visiting, he was persuaded on stage and performed under the Salem Whitney and Homer Tutt Troupes before moving to New York to join Bill “Bojangles” Robinson’s company. Baskett was able to quickly establish himself as one of the leading black performers in New York. He appeared in several of Lew Leslie’s annual Blackbird productions.
Freeman Gosden of the “Amos “N” Andy” radio program approached Baskett about joining the radio casts. Baskett’s role as the fast-talking lawyer. Gabby Gibson, earned him a nationwide reputation and roles in B-rated movies such as Harlem in Heaven 1932, Straight to Heaven and Policy Man 1938, Comes Midnight 1940, and Revenge of the Zombies 1943.
In 1945, Baskett answered an ad to provide the voice of a talking butterfly in Walt Disney’s Song of the South. Upon review of his voice, Walt Disney wanted to meet James personally. Not only did he get the part of the butterfly’s voice, but also the voice of Brer Fox and as actor the part of Uncle Remus, becoming the first live actor to be hired by Walt Disney. Baskett was also given the voice role of Brer Fox, one of the film’s animated antagonists, and even filled in as the main animated protagonist, Brer Rabbit. This was actually one of the first Hollywood portrayals of a black actor as a non-comic character in a leading role in a film that was meant for general audiences. However, Baskett was not allowed to attend the film’s premiere in Atlanta, Georgia because Atlanta was racially segregated by law.