James Tolbert, Lawyer To Black Hollywood, Dies At 86

Source: Valerie J. Nelson / Los Angeles Times

The longtime entertainment attorney, also an NAACP branch president, was a pioneer in pushing for more industry jobs for African Americans.

In a Hollywood auditorium, James L. Tolbert tried to induce a room packed with broadcasting and advertising executives to essentially join the civil rights movement in 1963 by pointing out the obvious.

Tolbert, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease years ago, died April 22 at UCLA-Santa Monica Hospital, his family said. He was 86.

“What Tolbert and other activists intuited was that entertainment is just as important as any other aspect of civil rights. The storytellers transmit the culture. If you have black people invisible in the main storytelling, that means they are invisible,” said Watson, a professor of electronic media and film studies at Eastern Michigan University.

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