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Robert Adams

(1906-1965), Actor; wrestler; barrister; founder member of the League of Coloured Peoples

Sitter in 1 portrait
Born in Georgetown, British Guiana (now Guyana), Adams graduated from Mico Teacher's College in Jamaica. Whilst working as a teacher in British Guiana he took an interest in amateur dramatics and began producing and acting in plays. He came to Britain in the 1920s to establish a career as an actor. In a bid to make ends meet he worked as a labourer and a wrestler known as 'the black eagle, winning the title of champion heavyweight for the British Empire. He founded the Negro Repertory Arts Theatre, one of the first professional black theatre companies in Britain and in 1931 was a founding member of Harold Moody's League of Coloured Peoples. He began his acting career as a film extra in London in 1934. In 1937 he appeared in Theatre Parade: Scenes from Hassan, making him the first black actor on British television. In 1945 he played a Nubian slave in Caesar and Cleopatra and the following year starred in the critically acclaimed Men of Two Worlds. In 1947 he became the first black actor to play a Shakespearean part on television in the role of the Prince of Morocco in The Merchant of Venice. In his final film role he played Judas in The Criminal (1960) before returning to British Guiana the same year.

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