Weird History
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10 Heartwarming Stories About Famous Figures Who Simply Refused To Allow Segregation

March 29, 2021 12.7k votes 1.7k voters 37.8k views10 items

List RulesVote up the most inspirational stories about standing up for what's right.

The civil rights movement during the 20th century was a time of immense heartache and atrocious acts against humanity. The fight for the integration of races continued for many years until change occurred. During this turbulent time in US history, many famous figures who were not in the political realm did their part to fight the injustices of segregation, and their voices aided the fight for equality in America. Arguably, without the support of famous figures and the power they possessed due to their fame, segregation might have continued longer than it did. So, even in a time of heartbreaking wrongdoings against people for simply being a part of another race, people joined together to push for equality for all. 

Vote up the inspiring stories of famous figures standing up against racism that give you chills.

  • Betty White is one of the most well-known American celebrities, but she wasn’t always as loved as she is today. In 1954 during the midst of the American civil rights movement, White brought a young Black guest onto her show even though she knew it might get her show canceled. The Betty White Show gave the young Black performer Arthur Duncan his big break as a tap dancer and entertainer. According to accounts, Duncan appeared on three episodes of The Betty White Show, which drew immense criticism from white audiences, especially those in Southern states.

    When the first episode aired, there was an outcry from the US Southern states, which threatened to boycott the show if Duncan was not removed. In response to this, White gave Duncan more screen time and famously said to her Southern viewership, “I’m sorry. Live with it.” Despite the criticism, White did not regret her decision even though her show was canceled in 1954. Duncan’s appearances on The Betty White Show enabled him to have an exemplary career for which he is eternally grateful to White for giving him a chance. 

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  • Photo: Unknown / Wikipedia / Public domain

    The Beatles had a powerful voice during the civil rights movement in America as they were firmly against prejudice. Their music was influenced by genres associated with African American music, and they did not care for racially segregated audiences when they performed. The band once stated that they always wanted to perform in front of mixed-race crowds, so when it came time for their performance in Florida in 1964, there was noticeable tension. When the Beatles learned that the 1964 concert at Jacksonville’s Gator Bowl planned on racially segregating the audience, which was a direct violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, they threatened to cancel the show.

    Ultimately the band refused to play unless African Americans were free to sit wherever they pleased in the audience. Around the times of the talks surrounding the audience’s segregation, John Lennon, one of the band’s more prominent figures, was quoted as stating that they have never played to segregated audiences. He further went on to say that the band would not begin performing to segregated audiences at the Gator Bowl. Five days before the show, the Beatles released an official statement to the event promoters stating that they would not perform unless the audience was racially integrated. With immense pressure from fans and the band, the promoters had no choice but to adhere to the Beatles' wishes.

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  • Arguably, Hollywood star Clark Gable would never have achieved the feat of desegregating the Gone With the Wind set without the assistance of a young African American extra. This extra was named Lennie Bluett, who was just 18 years old when he approached Gable about the shocking segregation issue that he found on set. Bluett discovered that the toilets set up for the cast were racially separated, which enraged the young actor. He immediately tried to rally other older Black actors on set, but they were afraid of losing the money they needed to support their families. Eventually, with the help of two other extras, Bluett searched for Gable and went straight to his dressing room with the issue.

    Upon finding Gable, he asked for a moment of his time as he found an issue affecting himself and other Black actors on set. Gable agreed to be shown the issue and was taken to see the segregated toilets. Gable was outraged by the segregation and shocked that this issue would present itself on a movie set he was working on. He immediately phoned the Gone With the Wind director and told him that if the segregated toilets were not made racially inclusive, he would no longer be playing the lead role of Rhett Butler. The discriminatory signs segregating African Americans were shortly afterward taken down, and the set was desegregated thanks to the efforts of both Bluett and Gable.

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  • Frank Sinatra was one of the greatest pop culture musicians of his time, and his music has managed to stay incredibly relevant even in today’s modern age. As many are likely aware, Sinatra was a complicated man who led a troubled and dangerous life. However, many might not know that this musician was a fierce advocate for racial inclusion and despised segregation. Sinatra played a massive role in the American civil rights movement and was always willing to assist the movement in any way he could, including through financial fundraisers. In the 1950s, Sinatra wielded immense power in the entertainment industry, and during this decade, he began insisting that the orchestra that backed him on his albums be racially integrated.

    Not only did this open doors for Black musicians at the time, but this move on Sinatra’s part also demonstrated that he was not a prejudiced nor racist man. In Las Vegas, during the 1950s and 1960s, Sinatra was a frequent performer at many of the hotels, and he became one of the key figures in the desegregation of Las Vegas. It soon came to Sinatra’s attention that Black performers were not allowed to stay in the hotels they had performed at but instead would have to stay in dilapidated quarters in dangerous parts of Las Vegas. Sinatra was infuriated by this practice and threatened to leave Las Vegas and never perform at the hotels again. His actions contributed to the desegregation of Las Vegas.

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