#RespectYourElders: Samuel Leroy Jackson, 71, is an American actor and film producer. From Marvel to Star Wars, he is one of the most well-known names in Hollywood and one of the highest-grossing actors of all time.
Jackson was born in Washington D.C., but his mother and grandparents raised him in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Jackson attended the historically black Morehouse College in Atlanta. In his sophomore year in 1968, James Earl Ray assassinated Dr. Martin Luther King. Four days later, Jackson joined a march in Memphis in support of King’s garbage worker’s strike. He also served as an usher at Dr. King’s funeral in Atlanta.
Jackson’s involvement in politics grew following King’s death and he became a member of the Black Power movement. Morehouse suspended him for two years in 1969 for locking several school members in a building for two days in protest of the mostly white school board of trustees. Jackson left for Los Angeles and worked as a social worker before returning to Morehouse three years later to study acting.
The aspiring actor moved to New York in 1976 to pursue his dream. Jackson spent many years acting in plays. While appearing in Charles Fuller’s Pulitzer Prize-winning A Soldier’s Play, Jackson met Morgan Freeman and Spike Lee, and began to work with them through the 80s and 90s. Jackson battled a serious drug addiction during this time and his first sober role out of rehab was Jungle Fever in 1991, a film written by Spike Lee where Jackson played a drug addict and won best supporting actor at Cannes Film Festival. He credits this film for helping him get clean forever.
A few years later, Jackson gave one of his most well-known performances when he starred as Jules Winnfield in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction alongside John Travolta and Uma Thurman. All three actors were nominated for Oscars and Jackson won the BAFTA film award for best supporting actor. Jackson worked with Tarantino several times following Pulp Fiction’s success including in Jackie Brown, Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight.
By the 2000s, Jackson’s career took off. He starred in several Star Wars prequel films as Mace Windu and in Marvel’s films as Agent Nick Fury. He also voices Frozone in the popular animated films, The Incredibles and The Incredibles 2.
Jackson’s box-office dominance is clear. He has starred in over 120 movies, and these films generated $5.76 billion at the U.S. box office and $13.3 billion worldwide as of 2019. While Jackson is very wealthy, he often talks about the hard life he lived prior to becoming famous and the racial injustice he’s witnessed.
“The best advice given to me was that I had to be ten times smarter, braver and more polite to be equal. So I was.” Jackson once said. “In other words: Don’t give in to prejudice and never let anything deter you from your ambitions. If you have a goal, work towards it positively and push yourself to get there.”