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Bill Cosby is a man of many “firsts.” Cosby was the first Black comedian to conquer white American audiences. He was the first African- American to take a starring role in a network television series in the 1960s, “I Spy”; and the first to star in and produce a #1 TV show in the 1980s, “The Cosby Show.” He became the first successful Black “pitchman” for American consumer products too, from Jell-O to Kodak to Coca-Cola. Bill Cosby both defined and defied what it meant to “cross over.” On the one hand, Cosby was undeniably the first Black celebrity to transcend race — he wasn’t America’s top Black TV star; he was America’s top TV star, period. On the other, Cosby’s mainstreaming was controversial. To some critics, Cosby’s refusal to “deal with racial issues” in his work was a dereliction of duty. But Cosby, even more than Oprah Winfrey, was the foremost archetype for the racially transcendent ascendance of Barack Obama, now the 44th President of the United States.

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VIDEO: Bill Cosby talking about dentists during a famous stand-up routine.

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