The Trailblazing Journey of the First Black Child Movie Star

Ernest Morrison: The Trailblazing Journey of the First Black Child Movie Star

Ernest Fredric “Ernie” Morrison, known as “Sunshine Sammy,” was born on December 20, 1912, in New Orleans, Louisiana.

He was the oldest child and only son of Joseph Ernest Morrison, a grocer and later actor, and his wife, Louise Lewis. He had three younger sisters named Florence, Vera, and Dorothy.

Morrison made his film debut at the age of 3 in the 1916 film, The Soul of a Child. His father’s connections in the film industry led to his audition.

Ernest Morrison the first black movie star.

Morrison’s positive disposition earned him the nickname “Sunshine Sammy,” which was later modified to “Sammy.” He appeared in numerous shorts from 1917 to 1922, usually opposite Baby Marie Osborne.

He also acted in Harold Lloyd shorts and later with Snub Pollard and Marie Mosquini. The Sunshine Sammy Series, which only produced one segment, was created for him. Some critics believed that this episode inspired Hal Roach’s Our Gang film shorts, also known as the Little Rascals.

Morrison earned $10,000 a year as the oldest cast member of Our Gang, making him the highest-paid Black actor in Hollywood.

He appeared in 28 episodes from 1922 to 1928 before leaving Hollywood for vaudeville stages in New York City. He shared bills with up-and-coming acts such as Abbott and Costello and Jack Benny.

After a few years, he returned to Hollywood and acted in the Dead End Kids movies. He spent three years with the gang before joining the Step Brothers act, a prominent Black stage and film dance act.

Morrison was drafted into the army during World War II and entertained troops stationed in the South Pacific as a singer-dancer-comedian.

After being discharged from the war, he turned down several offers to return to show business. Instead, he worked in an aircraft assembly plant for the next 30 years, where he did well financially.

After his retirement, Morrison was rediscovered by film enthusiasts who learned of him after the Little Rascals’ revival in the 1970s. He made guest appearances in several television sitcoms, including Good Times and The Jeffersons.

Morrison died of cancer in Lynwood on July 24, 1989. He is interred at Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California. Morrison acted in 145 motion pictures and was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame in 1987.

Norbert Bwire

Norbert Bwire is a writer and founder of upasho.co.ke. He specializes in trending stories and local news. His goal is to share the best tips and news articles so as to help you understand what happens around the world.

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