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Shirley Temple’s legacy will live on

Shirley Temple

Shirley Temple

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Updated: March 13, 2014 6:30AM

People of a certain age will not soon forget the iconic film footage of a young Shirley Temple and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, dancing on the staircase in the 1935 film “The Little Colonel.”

If you’ve not seen it, I urge you to go to YouTube and watch the footage. I did so, reflecting on the impact that it must have had on moviegoers almost 80 years ago.

You have probably heard the sad news that child star and American diplomat Shirley Temple Black passed away of natural causes on Monday.

In spite of the fact that growing up it was not cool for a young African-American boy to admit being a Shirley Temple fan, somehow it did not matter. In fact, if one of Temple’s movies was on television everyone in the Stanford household watched.

Years later, I discovered that we were not a minority, and that this was the case in many African-American homes. I can’t explain it, but it is similar to the way that, years later, blacks of my generation revealed that they had been huge fans of the Beatles, as did whites make known their love of Motown music.

During the 1930s, the cheery and extremely talented child, whose rise to stardom came during the Great Depression helped a struggling nation forget its troubles, if only for an hour or so.

However, Temple’s contribution was also pivotal in raising consciousness with regard to race relations in America. Intentional or not, Temple was the perfect emissary not only in her movie roles, but also after retiring from show business and being named as the U.S. ambassador to Ghana from 1974 to 1976.

Still, it is fairly safe to say that it will be the images of Temple, the young child star, that will be around for generations to come. In fact, it was my mournful 16-year-old daughter that broke the news to me about Temple’s passing.

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