This Day in Black History: April 6, 1937

Actor Billy Dee Williams was born in New York City.

Posted: 04/06/2014 12:00 AM EDT

Actor and singer Billy Dee Williams was born in New York City on April 6, 1937. He was raised in Harlem and attended the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art in Manhattan, where actress Diahann Carroll was one of his classmates. 

He received his big break on Broadway in 1945 in the play The Firebrand of Florence. He later portrayed Martin Luther King Jr. in the play I Have A Dream (1976). Williams began his film career inThe Last Angry Man (1959).

Williams rose to fame in the television movie Brian's Song, in which he played former Chicago Bears star football player Gale Sayers. His talents brought him to a series of Black films, such as Lady Sings the Blues (1972) and Mahogany (1975), and also such mainstream flicks as Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1976) and Batman (1989).

He has also made appearances and had starring roles in a multitude of television shows, including Dynasty (1984-1985), A Different World (1993) and The Jacksons: An American Dream (1992).

In 2014, Williams joined the cast of Dancing with the Stars, but withdrew from the competition by episode three upon his doctor's recommendation. 

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(Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

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