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Betty White refused to remove a black dancer from her show in 1954: "He Stays"

Betty White refused to remove a black dancer from her show in 1954: "He Stays"

Betty White refused to move a black dancer from, "The Betty White Show" ever after being threatened by the cancellation of the show.

In the 1950s, racial segregation was at its peak in America, however, this wasn't the case with Betty White's show. She rejected all attempts in removing a black dancer in "The Betty White Show." There were several discussions on removing Arthur Duncan, the dancer, on the accounts of race, however, Betty White rejected them all in 1954, reports USA Today. White, 99, died last Friday just a few weeks before her 100th birthday. Her demise has encouraged people to look back on her successful career and talk about the advocacy she displayed for her beliefs and justice. Duncan said in an episode of Steve Harvey's Little Big Shots that White gave him his first job in the industry. He recalls, "I was on the show, and they had some letters out of Mississippi and elsewhere that some of the stations would not carry the show if I was permitted to stay on there,” 

 



 

 

He added, "Well, Betty wrote back and said, ‘Needless to say, we used Arthur Duncan every opportunity we could." According to her PBS Biography, Betty White said, "I'm sorry, but, you know, he stays," That letter aided Duncan's retention on television and launched his career. He became the first Black regular on a variety program when he was employed on The Lawrence Welk Show, per PEOPLE. In his episode, Harvey also brought on White and surprised Duncan. He performed a tap dance for White and received great appreciation for his skills and talent. 

 



 

 

In the 2018 Documentary, Betty White: First Lady of Television, Duncan was featured who had nothing but praises for this great woman. He says in the documentary, "I credit Betty White for really getting me started in show business." He adds, "People in the South, some of them resented me being on the show and wanted me thrown out. And it was never a question at all." Addressing the incident in her one words, White clarified, "All through the South there was this whole ruckus, they were going to take the show off the air if we didn't get rid of Arthur because he was Black."

 



 

 

There was a lot of pressure on White from the South stations to let go of Duncan, but she listened to nobody and continued to feature him on the show. Unfortunately, her show was canceled and it stopped airing in 1954, according to USA Today. Sometime before her death White spoke to PEOPLE regarding her feelings about turning 100. She said she was born as a "cockeyed optimist" and always had an energetic character. She said, "I got it from my mom, and that never changed. I always find the positive." The entire country is honoring this legend by remembering her work. She accurately left the world a better place than what she found it in through her determination and positive demeanor. 

References:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/entertainment/celebrities/2022/01/01/betty-white-black-dancer-arthur-duncan/9067252002/

https://people.com/tv/betty-white-once-helped-launch-the-career-of-a-black-tap-dancer-by-hiring-him-for-her-variety-show/

Cover Image Source: Getty Images/Jesse Grant/Stringer