Prior to their advocacy and activism, stunts for black actors were done by white performers “painted down” to a darker complexion. The organization filed lawsuits against several major movie studios to help bring an end to this discriminatory practice and to ensure equal opportunity and access to stunt roles for all races.
Members of the Black Stuntmen’s Association went on to redefine the profession, performing in iconic films and television programs like “Dirty Harry,” “I Spy,” “Uptown Saturday Night” and “Buck and the Preacher.”
Willie Harris of Las Vegas, Nevada was one of the first members of the Black Stuntmen’s Association.
“It was racism, pure and simple,” Harris told reporters in a 2009 interview. Harris retired from stunt work after suffering a back injury in 1974. “They didn’t want to pay us the same price or give us the same protection they were giving white stuntmen, and a lot of guys were getting hurt.”
Edward “Eddie” Smith co-founded the Black Stuntmen’s Association in 1967 and fought to generate jobs for African-American stuntmen in Hollywood. Smith died in 2005 at age 81.
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