Celebrities

The Truth About Shirley Temple’s Relationship With Bojangles

Beloved child star Shirley Temple took the world by storm in the 1930s. She brought smiles to the faces of those living through the Great Depression, making a total of more than two dozen films during the economic collapse (per USA Today). She was so wildly popular that she rivaled the president of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, as the most photographed person in the world. She revolutionized the idea of child acting and paved the way for many future child stars.

Temple did more than bring comfort and joy to people living through an unthinkable crisis. She also managed to break down racial barriers that were in place within the film industry. Her relationship with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson was like nothing that had never been seen on the silver screen before. Temple, a white actress, and Bojangles, a Black actor, shared not just the big screen together. They formed a relationship that was long-lasting, per NPR.

Shirley Temple and Bojangles shared a sweet friendship

It was Bojangles who taught the 6-year-old Shirley Temple how to tap dance. He was in his 50s at the time, but the age difference didn’t seem to matter to the young star. She told NPR, “Bill Robinson treated me as an equal, which was very important to me. He didn’t talk down to me, like to a little girl. And I liked people like that. And Bill Robinson was the best of all.”

The pair would share the screen for a monumental moment. When Bojangles and Temple performed their tap-dancing scene in the 1935 film “The Little Colonel,” it was the first time an interracial dancing pair was shown on the silver screen. That means a 6-year-old Temple paved the way for more actors and actresses to share the screen regardless of their race.

According to Temple, Bojangles lovingly referred to her as “darlin'” while she called him “Uncle Billy.” She maintained great respect and admiration for the acting and dancing legend long after his death in 1949.

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