Who Is the First Black Movie Star?

In the early days of Hollywood, there were very few opportunities for black actors to appear in films. However, there was one man who broke through the barriers and became the first black movie star. His name was Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry, but he was better known by his stage name, Stepin Fetchit.

Early Life and Career

Stepin Fetchit was born on May 30th, 1902 in Key West, Florida. His parents were Bahamian immigrants who had moved to the United States in search of a better life. As a child, Stepin showed an early interest in entertainment and began performing in local talent shows.

In 1919, Stepin moved to New York City to pursue his dream of becoming a professional entertainer. He started out as a dancer and comedian in vaudeville shows and eventually made his way to Hollywood.

Breakthrough Role

In 1927, Stepin landed his breakthrough role in the film “In Old Kentucky.” He played a lazy and shiftless character named Jeff who provided comic relief throughout the movie. While some critics accused him of perpetuating negative stereotypes about black people, audiences loved his performance and he quickly became a household name.

Over the next several years, Stepin appeared in dozens of films playing similar characters. He often portrayed slow-witted or lazy individuals who spoke with a drawl and walked with a shuffle. Despite criticism from activists who believed that he was reinforcing racist stereotypes about African Americans, Stepin remained incredibly popular with audiences.


Stepin Fetchit’s legacy is complicated. On one hand, he was the first black movie star and broke down barriers for other black actors in Hollywood. On the other hand, many people feel that his performances perpetuated harmful stereotypes about African Americans.

Regardless of how you feel about Stepin’s work, one thing is certain: he was a trailblazer who paved the way for future generations of black actors. Today, we have stars like Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, and Lupita Nyong’o who are able to play complex and nuanced characters on screen thanks in part to Stepin’s pioneering work.


In conclusion, Stepin Fetchit was the first black movie star and a groundbreaking figure in Hollywood history. While his performances may not have aged well and are often criticized for perpetuating negative stereotypes about African Americans, his influence on the entertainment industry cannot be denied. He opened doors for other black actors and helped pave the way for greater representation on screen.