James Earl Jones is a famous African American actor known for his deep, booming voice. You might know him as Darth Vader or Mufasa, but his story began long before his film career.
- James Earl Jones was born in 1931 in Arkabutia, Mississippi.
- Life was tough for African Americans living in the South after the Civil War. Many of them migrated to northern cities during World War I and the Great Depression. James’ family was among those immigrants.
- When James was four years old, he boarded a train headed for the north with his grandmother. All he owned was packed in a crate. His grandmother brought fried chicken and boiled eggs on the train. They couldn’t eat in the train’s dining room because they were black.
- James’ father had left the family and his mother was off working. His grandfather had purchased some land in Michigan and was already there waiting for them. James didn’t know when he would see his mother again. He worried that he would be left behind.
- When the family got to Michigan, James started stuttering, probably because he was so worried and scared. The other children at Sunday school laughed at him and pretty soon, he stopped talking to anyone but the cows and pigs.
- For eight years, he didn’t speak a word. He wrote down his answers to questions people asked him.
- In high school, an English teacher encouraged James to write poetry and he found he was good at it. Eventually he began reading his poems and talking again.
- He considered becoming a doctor but decided to be an actor instead. He attended the University of Michigan. Later he moved to New York to study theater and worked as a janitor to support himself.
- James Earl Jones has been an actor for more than 70 years. He has done movies, television, and plays, as well as voiceovers.
- He was married to Cecilia Hart until her death in 2016. They had one child.
Watch a video about James’ role in Lion King.