BEQ Today

BEQ Pride Celebrates Black History Month: François Clemmons

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LGBTQIA+ History Maker

François Clemmons (Birmingham, AL) is an actor and opera singer most known for his role as Officer Clemmons on Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. This role made him one of the first Black people to have a recurring role on American television. Clemmons received a bachelor of music degree from Oberlin College, master of fine arts from Carnegie Mellon University, and an honorary degree of doctor of arts from Middlebury College. He is also a renowned opera star with over seventy opera roles in his career, including the recording of Porgy and Bess in 1973 for which he won a Grammy.

Though he was openly gay in 1968 when he started his role as Officer Clemmons, Mr. Rogers, his mentor, told him that he needed to keep his sexuality out of the public eye due to fear of the public controversy that might occur from having a Black gay character on a children’s television program, in keeping with the norms of the era. He is now a professor of music at Middlebury and currently writing his autobiography, DivaMan: My Life in Song.


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Reproduced with permission from ©2019 Stout, Zaylore “Our Gay History in Fifty States”

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