He was a child actor known to most as the character Buckwheat in the Our Gang/Little Rascals shorts from 1934 to 1944.
I was looking for something else when I stumbled upon him. It's so common for me. One never knows what might pop up nor why.
I used to watch those shorts. They were funny and fun to me. I regarded the kids as just that, kids. All of them. It was kid to kid, where one could get into the action and suspend disbelief before I understood that process.
There are several places William Thomas, Jr's bio and facts can be found. Apparently Wikipedia is reliable in this instance.
I agree with Billie's defense of his character. The kids were indeed equals, they were all in it together. As for the 'pickaninny' perception, it was a cultural reference to kids who came from slave backgrounds, had language and culture, but were certainly not stupid nor did they feel put down., at least among each other. Our neoracists delight in disparaging any difference as just that, racist. Instead of finding similarity, they prefer to exaggerate difference. As mentioned in Rd Guard, we have neosegregationists spewing hate and attempting to undo Dr King's Dream.
You can peruse for yourself the evolution of the character. I'm more interested in how I felt about Buckwheat and the others. I contend, though some see stereotypes, I see a portrayal of humanity and common concerns. They were morality plays for kids and adults alike.
The Rascals were sometime brats. Did they learn lessons or did the audience? That's a mixed bag. I knew right from wrong, in what seems to be the old fashioned sense. I knew in my childlike way, that we make mistakes and we must learn to do better.
A lot of the skits were nonsense of course, with lots of slapstick. Still I say there was a message in the ravioli. One sees what one wants methinks.
As for Billie, he grew up, served honorably in the Army and went on to a film lab technician career.
And the famous 'otay' was originated by Porky, Buckwheat's cohort played by Eugene Lee.
As for attitude, the kids were naïve, not stupid. What better way to get a point across than to poke fun.
Just an example of never knowing until one digs what one might find.
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