Driving Miss Daisy: Remembering the Real-Life 'Hokes'

Some people saw Driving Miss Daisy, the movie, as an affirmation of black stereotypes. But Hoke, the chauffeur played by Morgan Freeman and now by James Earl Jones on Broadway, represents a generation of black men who worked hard so their children and grandchildren wouldn't have to.

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Uhry's family was more class conscious than Jewish conscious; their roots in Atlanta went back to the antebellum period, but they always knew they were Jewish rather than regular white folks in the eyes of many. He remembers going to an Atlanta department store with his mother and seeing the white and colored water-fountain signs.  He drank from the colored fountain. “She said, 'You’re not supposed to do that,' and I said, ‘Why?’ ” She laughed, and he continued to drink from the "wrong" fountain. He recalled that the synagogue his family attended was bombed, not because it was a hotbed of black liberation but because it was a Jewish institution.

Jones, whose voice is memorable as Darth Vader's in Star Wars and from countless other voiceovers, is a well-known stutterer who found his voice through performing, which he said allows one to "tap into various aspects of yourself that you might not have had a chance to explore." When one of the participants in the evening chat with theater enthusiasts asked last month, "If you were to select one word to describe your voice, what would it be?" he quietly replied: "Mine."  With, of course, a whole lot of Uhrys and Hokes and Big Daddys in the mix.

E.R. Shipp is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and frequent contributor to The Root.

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