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Tribeca Film Festival 2017

Source: ullstein bild / Getty

To the uninitiated, acting legend Burt Reynolds was just another white actor who reaped innumerable benefits from decades of him being the top-billed name on the marquee above other names of other white actors. But a closer look at the cinematic career of the actor who died Thursday morning showed that he was not only a champion of diversity in Hollywood, but that his films and TV shows often featured Black actors, something that at the time was a rarity.

In fact, he acted and performed alongside more Black people than people give him credit for.

Notable Black actors and celebrities who appeared alongside Reynolds range from the old school (Paul Winfield, Flip Wilson, Bernie Casey and Ossie Davis, to name but a few) to more recent stars like Chris Rock and even the rapper Nelly. But what’s indisputable is that each of the names is a legend in his or her own right.

Reynolds was outspoken about needing more diversity in Hollywood both behind and in front of the cameras. He told the BBC in 2015 that he gets “quite angry about” racism in Hollywood. “”I was the first one to speak up to the director and the producer and say – you have to change these things because it’s not right the way we’re talking about them,” he added.

It was unclear if he ever did more to help bring more color to a lily white industry, but just being a white matinee idol who at least seemed willing to perform alongside Black talent likely helped convince the Hollywood decision-makers who were (and still are) decidedly not Black to look outside of their comfort zone for actors of color, both men and women.

As proof, we’ve assembled dozens of photos of Reynolds acting or otherwise appearing alongside Black actors or celebrities. Take a look below, as some of the pictures just might surprise you.


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