Pioneer of African Americans on television, acclaimed comedian, ideal father embodiment, philanthropist… Bill Cosby was all that before he became a disgraced outcast accused by dozens of women of sexual assault.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned his conviction for spending three to nine years in prison for drugging and molesting a young woman who was a guest in his home in 2004.
This new decision allowed him, at the age of 83, to regain his freedom after spending more than two years in a state prison. But it is based on procedural issues and will not erase the stain left by his trial.
During the three weeks of hearings in April 2018, he appeared tired and claimed to be partially blind, and stood without saying a word as six women recounted his alleged abuse, including Andrea Constand, the only one who had succeeded in bringing him to trial because her allegations were not time-barred by the statute of limitations.
An image that clashed with the image of the man he had once been: a man of natural charisma and a husky voice, able to make the audience laugh with a simple raise of the eyebrows.
You can read: What you need to know about $500 NJ tax rebate checks
William Henry Cosby Jr. was the first African-American actor to play a leading role in a hit television series, “I Spy”. He was the first black to win an Emmy, the highest award in American television, for his role in this series in 1966. And he won two more in 1967 and 1968, something never seen at the time.
Before television, Cosby worked in theater, and it was on stage that he began to make his mark on American popular culture.
His one-man shows influenced several generations of comedians, with Jerry Seinfeld at the forefront, for his ability to transfer his universe to an audience, while using a language devoid of any vulgarity.
Although he also worked in the movies (“Uptown Saturday night” with Sidney Poitier in 1974, and “Bob and Carole and Ted and Alice”, among others), it was on television that he made his name, especially with “The Bill Cosby Show”, which he created and which was broadcast between 1984 and 1992.
This series about a bourgeois African-American family, centered around the patriarchal figure of Cliff Huxtable, a respected gynecologist with a great sense of humor, won two Golden Globes and many other awards, and became one of the biggest hits in television history.
TV host Oprah Winfrey estimated in 2013 that we probably wouldn’t havea Barack Obama in the White House if we hadn’t had The Cosby Show. She said the Cosby Show made America discover a way of looking at black people and black culture that they didn’t know.
With his image as an ideal father who off-screen championed family values and encouraged young black men to stay in school, Cosby became a role model for the African-American community.
His fall was traumatic, and many of his fans felt betrayed.
Accused by more than 60 women of harassment, sexual assault or rape, he embodied an incredible social ascent.
Born July 12, 1937 in Philadelphia (East), the actor grew up with a mother who did housekeeping, a father who was a cook in the Navy and three brothers, while quickly earning a reputation as a class clown.
After entering the Navy in the late 1950s, his athletic abilities earned him a scholarship to Temple University in Philadelphia in 1961, before he debuted as a stand-up comedian on the stage of improvisational theaters.
He was a longtime Temple honorary trustee , and was fired from the board in 2014, as allegations of sexual assault against him were beginning to come to light. In late 2015 he was formally charged with sexually assaulting Constand.
He lost many other honorary titles and almost all of his media endorsements, such as that of singer Jill Scott or actress Whoopi Goldberg.
During his second trial, no celebrity came to support him in court.
He had five children by his wife, Camille. One of them, Ennis, was shot and killed in 1997. She still continues to stand by his side claiming his innocence.
Translated by: José Espinoza