By Ishan Sen
Samuel L. Jackson, one of the most prolific American actors and one of the finest Black actors of all time, was born on December 21, 1948 to Elizabeth Jackson in Washington, D.C. He and his mother moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee, after his father had abandoned the family only to die later of alcoholism.
After graduating from Riverside High School, Jackson was intent on pursuing a degree in marine biology at Morehouse College in Atlanta. However, he eventually developed in interest in acting and majored in dramatic arts in 1972, but not before establishing the “Just Us Theatre.” His Civil Rights Movement involvement saw him, along with several others, holding members of the Morehouse College board of trustees hostage on the campus in 1969, demanding reform in the school’s curriculum and governance.
While in Atlanta, Jackson met Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, and other active leaders of the Black Power movement. He also joined the Black Image Theatre Company where he met and fell in love with LaTanya Richardson. The couple wed in 1980 and was blessed with a daughter two years down the line.
Jackson moved to Harlem in 1976 with dreams of becoming a stage actor. He began acting in multiple plays, the notable among them being Home and A Soldier’s Play. Mentored by none other than Morgan Freeman, Jackson secured small roles in films like Coming to America. He went on to feature in School Daze (1988), Do the Right Thing (1989) and Martin Scorsese’s benchmark film, Goodfellas (1990).
As he was recovering from a cocaine addiction, courtesy of a successful rehabilitation, Jackson was signed for a role as a crack cocaine addict in Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever – a role he later described as “cathartic.” The movie catapulted Jackson to fame overnight as he won the Cannes Film Festival award for the Best Supporting Actor and a New York Film Critics Award.
His career peaked in the 1990s with films like Jurassic Park, Pulp Fiction and Star Wars prequel trilogy, accumulating massive amounts at the box office. In fact, it was his portrayal of Jules Winnfield in Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 blockbuster that skyrocketed his value. He was nominated for the best supporting actor at the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes for that film.
In 2011, a confirmation from the Guinness Book of World Records found Jackson surpassing Frank Welker as the highest grossing actor of all time with approximately $7.2 billion in earnings.