Lincoln Perry was the actor who invented and played
the Steppin’ Fetchet character. For years he has been
maligned by virtually everyone, black and white, for the
damage his character did to the image folks have of
black people. I wonder how how many folks have
studied how the Stepnin Fetchet Character came into
being. First, lets look at the mentality of the country at
the time. There was no meaningful civil rights
movement. There was a general attitude that nothing
was in the offing that would change race relations at the
time. The notion of how one individual through his
behavior might have a profound impact on society as a
whole was not part of life. Lincoln Perry’s Steppin
Fetchet character , in the beginning , entertained black
What type of comedy was popular in the 1930s? It was
nothing like what is popular today. An element of cruelty and self effacement was where the money was for comedians.
Lets look at how Steppin’ Fetchit looks next to his competition. Successful comedians
knew the paradigm for success at that time.
There was a difference. Lincoln Perry was a better actor than the others. The stand up
comedy venue had not been that well developed. This kind of humor is what audiences
demanded and received.
It is common knowledge that Perry was the first black actor to make one million dollars
in Hollywood. He was an intellectual and a writer as well as a comedian.
Society needs scapegoats , I suppose. It seems to be human nature to look at the past and
believe that there was nothing different about how people thought and behaved.
Like many other celebrities, Perry’s private life was not at all stellar. W.C. Fields was a
hopeless alcoholic and died as a result.
That doesn’t have anything to do with his act as a comedian.
Some questions are never asked like, during his career how many other Americans were
doing all they could to present a prettier race picture than what existed at that time in
I think we can say that Lincoln Perry was no saint. That doesn’t seem to bother anyone.
There was nothing demeaning to black people that he is responsible for. He was just a comedian practicing his craft. He made people laugh and they paid to see him. That is a comedian’s job. As a comedian, Lincoln Perry was one of the best ever.