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Simply put, the culture lost a giant in Richard Roundtree. The legendary movie and television star’s contributions to Black entertainment will never be forgotten.

As we reflect on his life and legacy, we remember him as a trailblazer who truly broke barriers for many generations of Black actors on screen.


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While his credits spanned over 50 years, the star was most notably revered as the ‘first Black action hero’ following his debut performance in ‘Shaft.’

The 1971 film was a pillar of the Blaxploitation era, and Roundtree’s portrayal earned him a Golden Globe nomination.

The suave detective returned for highly anticipated sequels “Shaft’s Big Score” in 1972 and “Shaft in Africa” in 1973, then reprised his role in 2000 for a ‘Shaft’ revival, starring Samuel L. Jackson.

In a social media post after news of Roundtree’s passing, Jackson called him the “prototype” and the “best to ever do it.”

“SHAFT, as we know it is & will always be his Creation,” Jackson wrote. “His passing leaves a deep hole not only in my heart, but I’m sure a lotta y’all’s, too.”

Roundtree officially closed the book on ‘Shaft’ in the 2019 film starring Jessie T. Usher.

In his 2015 episode of Unsung:Hollywood, the incomparable actor recalls the process of auditioning for the legendary role and how he learned it was his.

Richard Roundtree reportedly had a brief battle with pancreatic cancer prior to his passing. He was 81.

As we continue to remember this beloved trailblazer, follow along as we also dig into TV One archives and pay tribute to him.

TV One will air Richard Roundtree’s episode of Unsung: Hollywood on Thursday, October 26! Tune in at 8/7c only on TV One!

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