Samuel George Davis Jr.

Born: 8th December 1925

Died: 16th May 1990

Birth Place: United States

Known for: For being a performer.

Sammy Davis Jr. was also known as “Mr. Entertainment”.

He was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

He was awarded the Spingarn Medal by the NAACP for civil rights work.

You always have two choices: your commitment verses your fear.

Samuel George Davis Jr.

Life story


Performing roots


Sammy Davis Jr. was born and raised in Harlem by his grandmother. He began performing at the age of three, with his father and uncle, and learned how to tap dance at a very young age. After serving in the U.S. Army, the young Samuel performed as a singer, dancer, comedian, mimic, and became a popular recording artist.

Davis was often subject to racism during his younger days, and was often refused access to stay in hotels he performed because he was black. He refused to accept this and would protest against discrimination by not performing at venues that practiced separating black and white people and treating them differently.

Unfortunately, Davis had an accident which resulted in him losing an eye. This did not stop Davis, as he continued to perform with a signature glass eye which he later became known for.


Performing success


Davis’s biggest recording success was with the song The Candy Man (1972), which went to number one on the Billboard Hot 100. Other popular recordings were Something’s Gotta Give (1955), What Kind of Fool Am I? (1962), and I’ve Gotta Be Me (1969).

Davis also earned success on Broadway in Mr. Wonderful (1956), and in a 1964 revival of Clifford Odets’s Golden Boy. He first appeared in motion pictures in 1959, and played the character Sportin’ Life in the screen adaptation of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess.

In 1969, he starred opposite Shirley Maclane in the film version of the Broadway hit Sweet Charity. He also appeared in a series of motion pictures – Ocean’s Eleven (1960), Sergeants 3 (1962), and Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964) – with the “Rat Pack”, a group of Hollywood friends that included Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.

During the 1960s, he was very popular and at the time he was often referred to as a ‘the greatest living entertainer in the world’.


Civil rights work


In 1968, Davis received the Spingarn Medal, awarded by the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP), for civil rights work.

In your opinion, what was Sammy’s greatest success? Give reasons for your answer. What do you think was the turning point in Sammy’s career? Give reasons for your answer. In your opinion, why did Sammy receive the Spingarn medal from NAACP?

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