Every week a group of men would get together, drag out some old mattresses and learn how to do stunts. Harris had no idea back then who Gould was, but the two had a good conversation and Gould offered to help Harris get into SAG. I said, ‘Lord, don’t let me hit the man.’ But I guess I did something right.” Harris went on to work on shows like “Mc Millan & Wife,” “The Carol Burnett Show,” “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” and in films such as “They Call Me Mr.
Soon it would become a relic of Hollywood’s bad old days. On other films he worked as Morgan Freeman’s double. In 2012, the NAACP Image Awards honored the organization, and it will soon be featured in an exhibit in the Smithsonian.
Through Smith, who had connections in Hollywood, guys in the group began working as extras earning or a day. Gould enlisted the help of Robert Altman, who wrote on Harris’s behalf. “Hollywood was just as bad as Mississippi,” he says, minus the hoods and the cross burnings.
Membership in the Screen Actors Guild meant better-paying assignments — and the opportunity to accept stunt work if they were hired — but SAG membership was expensive. But another problem arose when he went to sign up for SAG membership. The film industry marginalized and minimized the lives of African-Americans — onscreen and off.
“Growing up in Mississippi, I wasn’t even allowed on the capitol grounds,” Harris says.
Such honors are a measure of how much things have changed, as well as a confirmation of the black stuntmen’s role in bringing about that progress.