This Day in Black History: June 1, 1937

Actor Morgan Freeman was born.

Posted: 06/01/2014 12:00 AM EDT

Celebrated as much for his widely acclaimed film performances as his unmistakable voice, actor, producer and narrator Morgan Freeman was born on June 1, 1937, in Memphis, Tennessee. 

His passion for acting and his natural talent for the stage were evident throughout Freeman’s childhood. Yet, despite having received top honors in his junior high school’s drama competition and a partial drama scholarship upon graduating high school in 1955, the young man decided to follow his dreams of becoming a fighter pilot. Time spent as a mechanic and radar technician in the U.S. Air Force would soon change Freeman’s mind, prompting him to leave the Air Force in 1959.

"I had this very clear epiphany," Freeman told AARP Magazine about his fighter pilot aspirations. "You are not in love with this; you are in love with the idea of this.”

The newly aspiring actor headed for Hollywood then New York City to try and make it as an actor. From the early 1960s through the late 1980s, Freeman was cast in many small parts on Broadway and the silver screen and achieved limited success. But it was not until his performance as the volatile pimp Fast Black in the 1987 film Street Smart, which earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, that he began to land bigger and better roles and win both critical and popular acclaim.

Driving Miss Daisy, The Shawshank Redemption, Million Dollar Baby (for which he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 2005), Invictus and the Dark Knight trilogy are just a few of the dozens of films in which Freeman has appeared during his notable career. The remarkable list of awards and nominations that he has racked up, including 15 Film Critic Awards, seven NAACP Image Awards and six lifetime achievement awards, is equally impressive. 

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(Photo: Maurizio Gambarini/ DPA /LANDOV)

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