Camille Cosby

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Camille O. Cosby
Born Camille Olivia Hanks
March 20, 1944[1]
Washington, D.C.
Nationality American
Other names Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby[2]
Alma mater University of Maryland
University of Massachusetts (PhD)
Occupation Television producer
Known for Philanthropy
Spouse(s) Bill Cosby
Children Ennis William Cosby
Ensa Camille Cosby
Erinn Chalene Cosby
Erika Ranee Cosby
Evin Harrah Cosby
Parents Guy A. Hanks, Sr.
Catherine C. Hanks
Awards 1992 Candance Award[3]

Camille Cosby, PhD, (born Camille Olivia Hanks, March 20, 1944) is a television producer, author, philanthropist, and wife of comedian Bill Cosby. The character of Clair Huxtable from The Cosby Show was based upon Camille.

Early life[edit]

Camille was born Camille Olivia Hanks to Guy A. Hanks Sr. and Catherine C. Hanks (b. 1922) in Washington D.C. as the oldest of the couple's four children.[4] Camille is a direct descendant of Nancy Hanks Lincoln, President Abraham Lincoln's mother.[5] Both of Camille's parents worked, with her father operating as a Walter Reed General Hospital chemist and her mother operating a nursery. Solidly middle class, both Camille's parents had attended and graduated college; her father earned his Masters from Fisk University and her mother earned her Bachelors from Howard University. The Hanks collected African art, listened to classical music and valued earning an education.[6][7]

Camille's three younger siblings were Guy A. Hanks Jr., Eric Hanks, and René Hanks.[8] All of the Hanks children attended St. Cyprian Elementary-Middle School, a private Jesuit Catholic school in Washington, D.C. ran by nuns.[6]

Camille's husband Bill Cosby in 1969, five years after their marriage

After high school, Camille went on to study psychology at the University of Maryland. While at UM, she went on a blind date with the 26-year old Bill Cosby during her sophomore year, who was seven years her senior.[9] Bill asked Camille to marry him after a short time, and Camille's parents were not accepting of the engagement. They sent her to visit relatives in Virginia to give her time to think, and Camille called the engagement off. When Bill came into the city for a show, however, the two went on a date and Camille changed her mind. Camille's father Guy was able to be convinced to give his consent, but Catherine did not approve of Bill. The two were married on January 25, 1964.[7]

Together Camille and husband Bill had five children, being: Erika Ranee, Erinn Chalene, Ensa Camille, Evin Harrah, and Ennis William.[10]


Camille acts as a business manager for her husband Bill. She has been depicted as a "shrewd businesswoman", with Ebony Magazine quoting Bill as stating, "People would rather deal with me than with Camille. She's rough to deal with when it comes to my business."[11] Camille often "helps in the development of her husband's material", including suggestions for The Cosby Show. It was she that suggested the Huxtable family in the show be middle class instead of working class, which changed the dynamic of the series.[5]


Camille has supported African American literature and has written forewords for certain collections. In 1993, Camille wrote the foreword for Thelma Williams' Our Family Table: Recipes And Food Memories From African-american Life Models.[12] In 2009, Camille wrote the foreword for Dear Success Seeker: Wisdom from Outstanding Women by Dr. Michele R. Wright.[13] In 2014, she did the foreword for The Man from Essence: Creating a Magazine for Black Women, a book by Edward Lewis of Essence.[14]

In 1994, Camille released Television's Imageable Influences: The Self-Perception of Young African-Americans, a book that "dramatically charts the damaging impact of derogatory images of African Americans produced in our media establishments."[15] The book was originally her doctoral thesis while earning her Doctorates degree.

In 2001, Camille worked with David C. Driskell for his book The Other Side of Color: African American Art in the Collection of Camille O. and William H. Cosby Jr., which focused on Camille and Bill's extensive art collection.[16]

In 2004, Camille and Renee Poussaint edited the collection A Wealth of Wisdom: Legendary African American Elders Speak. The collection was photographed by Howard Bingham.[17]


Camille co-produced the Broadway play Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years, based off the book Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years by Sarah "Sadie" L. Delany and A. Elizabeth "Bessie" Delany with Amy Hill Hearth. The show won critical acclaim, with Joel Siegel stating "The entire cast should be Tony nominated."[18] Indeed, the show ended up being nominated for three Tony Awards. The show ran for nine months at the Booth Theatre before embarking on a national tour. After the success of the Broadway production, Camille acquired the film, stage and television rights to the story. She ended up also acting as executive producer for the made-for-television movie, which was released in 1999.[19][20][21]


Year Title Credit Notes
2014 OMG Insider Self Archive footage - 16 Dec 2014 episode
2014 CNN Newsroom Self Archive footage - 21 Nov 2014 episode
2014 Extra Self Archive footage - Episode #21.55
2010-2012 Obkb Executive Producer 38 episodes
2010 Queen Victoria's Wedding Special thanks Film short
2004 Fat Albert Executive Producer
2004 Fatherhood Special thanks
2002 Sylvia's Path Executive Producer TV movie
2001 Essence Awards Self
2000 Ennis' Gift Executive Producer Documentary film
2000 The Oprah Winfrey Show Self Episode 27 Nov 2000
1999 Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years Executive Producer TV movie
1997 10th Anniversary Essence Awards Self
1996 Bill Cosby: Mr. Sapolsky, with Love Co-Executive Producer
1994 The American Experience Special funding Episode: Malcolm X: Make It Plain
1994 No Dreams Deferred Executive producer
1987 Bill Cosby: 49 Director
1986 The Cosby Show Extra (uncredited) Episode: Off to the Races


Camille has had a long history of philanthropy with most donations going to schools and educational foundations. Her philanthropic memberships include Operation PUSH, The United Negro College Fund, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the National Council of Negro Women, and Jesse Jackson's National Rainbow Coalition.[22]

In the early 1980s Camille and husband Bill donated $100,000 to Central State University, a historically black university in Ohio. This gift was followed by $325,000 in 1987. In 1989, CSU held the "Camille and Bill Cosby Cleveland Football Classic" in honor of their contributions to the school.[23]

In 1987 Camille and Bill donated $1.3 million to Fisk University, where Camille's father had earned his Masters degree. The personal check was presented to the president of the university, Dr. James E. Cheek, over a dinner at the Cosby's home.[24]

In 1988, Camille and Bill donated $20 million to Atlanta's Spelman College, the elite black women's college. Johnetta B. Cole made the announcement about the gift at an inauguration dinner for Cole's new presidency at the college. As reported by the New York Times, the gift was the largest donation to a black college in America's history.[25] The college unveiled an academic center named after Camille, called The Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby Academic Center. The building is five stories and 92,000 square feet.[26] The event was attended by many American society members, including David C. Driskell, Dr. Alvin Poussaint from Harvard University, journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Laurence Rockefeller (son of John D. Rockefeller, Jr.), Mary French Rockefeller, Laura Rockefeller Chasin, Gloria Bromell Tinubu, and Dorothy Height.[27]

Just a few months later in 1989, Camille and Bill gave Meharry Medical College President David Satcher $800,000 for the school. At the same private dinner in their New York City home, they gave Bethune-Cookman University President Oswald Bronson $750,000 for his university.[28]

In 1992, the National Coalition of 100 Black Women awarded Camille the Candance Award, an award for minority women that have made valuable contributions to their communities during a gala held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.[3]

In 2005, Camille (without husband Bill) donated $2 million to Saint Frances Academy of Baltimore High School. The school endowed 16 scholarships in Camille's name for the donation.[29]


After high school, Camille attended University of Maryland for psychology until her sophomore year. She dropped out to marry Bill.[9]

At Howard University, Camille was a Omega Psi Phi Fraternity beauty queen in 1961.[30]

In 1987, Camille had her first public speaking engagement at Howard University, located in her home town of Washington D.C. Camille spoke about the need for "black people as a race" to stick together and stressed the importance of family unity. She was presented with an honorary doctoral degree, specifically the Doctor of Humane Letters. Johnetta b. Cole had asked Camille to speak at the graduation, which Camille accepted.[31]

Camille went back to school to finish her education after her children were grown. In 1990, she earned her Master's degree from the University of Massachusetts, followed by her Doctorate in 1992.[32] In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Cosby stated, "I became keenly aware of myself in my mid-thirties. I went through a transition. I decided to go back to school, because I had dropped out of college to marry Bill when I was 19. I had five children, and I decided to go back. I didn't feel fulfilled educationally. I dropped out of school at the end of my sophomore year. So I went back, and when I did, my self-esteem grew. I got my master's, then decided to get my doctoral degree. Education helped me to come out of myself."[33]


  1. ^ Contemporary Black Biography (Volume 14), p. 72
  2. ^ "Oprah Talks to Camille Cosby". Oprah Magazine. Retrieved 16 December 2014. 
  3. ^ a b "Camille Cosby, Kathleen Battle Win Candace Awards". Jet. Vol. 82, No. 13: 16. 20 Jul 1992. 
  4. ^ Smith, Jessie Carney (1992). Notable Black American Women. Gale Research. p. 228. ISBN 9780810347496. 
  5. ^ a b Whitaker, Matthew C. (2011). Icons of Black America: Breaking Barriers and Crossing Boundaries, Volume 1. ABC-CLIO. p. 194. ISBN 9780313376429. 
  6. ^ a b Whitaker, Mark (2014). Cosby: His Life and Times. Simon and Schuster. pp. 106–107. ISBN 9781451697995. 
  7. ^ a b "Life With Bill Cosby". Ebony. Vol. 21, No. 11: 36. Sep 1996. 
  8. ^ Harris, Juliette (2001). Tenderheaded: A Comb-bending Collection of Hair Stories. Pocket Books. p. 251. ISBN 9780671047559. 
  9. ^ a b Telusma, Blue. "Camille Cosby, another victim of the controversy?" (20 Nov 2014). CNN. Retrieved 16 December 2014. 
  10. ^ "Bill Cosby Biography (1937-)". Film Reference. Retrieved 17 December 2014. 
  11. ^ Norment, Lynn. "Three Great Love Stories". Ebony: 152. Retrieved 19 December 2014. 
  12. ^ Williams, Thelma (1993). Our Family Table: Recipes And Food Memories From African-american Life Models. Diane Pub Co. ISBN 978-0756780937. 
  13. ^ Wright, Michele R. (2009). Dear Success Seeker: Wisdom from Outstanding Women. 978-1416570790. 
  14. ^ Lewis, Edward (2014). The Man from Essence: Creating a Magazine for Black Women. Atria Books. ISBN 978-1476703480. 
  15. ^ "Camille Cosby's Book Explores Negative Images of Blacks in Media". Jet. Vol. 87, No. 16: 60. Feb 1995. 
  16. ^ Driskell, David C. (2001). The Other Side of Color: African American Art in the Collection of Camille O. and William H. Cosby Jr. Pomegranate. ISBN 978-0764914553. 
  17. ^ A Wealth of Wisdom: Legendary African American Elders Speak. Atria. 2004. ISBN 978-0743478922. 
  18. ^ "Camille Cosby's Broadway Play, 'Having Our Say', Wins Critical Acclaim". Jet. Vol. 87, No. 25: 62–64. 1 May 1995. 
  19. ^ "Sarah 'Sadie' Delany, 109, Subject of Best-Selling Memoir and Broadway Play, Dies". Jet. Vol. 95, No. 12: 16. 22 Feb 1999. 
  20. ^ Smith, Jessie Carney (1996). Notable Black American Women, Book 2. VNR AG. p. 173. ISBN 9780810391772. 
  21. ^ Ross, Lawrence C. (1 Jan 2001). The Divine Nine: The History of African American Fraternities and Sororities. Kensington Books. p. 98. ISBN 9780758202703. 
  22. ^ "Bill and Camille Cosby Discuss the Secrets of Living a Better Life". Jet. Vol. 76, No. 26: 59. 2 Oct 1989. 
  23. ^ "Central State U. Honors Cosby Family Generosity at Cleveland Classic". Jet. Vol. 76, No. 23: 10. 11 Sep 1989. 
  24. ^ "Bill and Camille Cosby Make $1.3 Million Gift to Aid Fisk University". Jet. Vol. 71, No. 16: 52. 12 Jan 1987. 
  25. ^ Daniels, Lee A. (8 Nov 1988). "A Black College Gets Cosby Gift Of $20 Million". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 December 2014. 
  26. ^ "Spelman College in Atlanta Opens Center Honoring Dr. Camille Cosby". Jet. Vol. 89, No. 18: 22–23. 18 Mar 1996. Retrieved 17 December 2014. 
  27. ^ "Bill and Camille Cosby Attend Ground Breaking for Spelman's Cosby Center". Jet. Vol. 80, No. 2: 5. 29 Apr 1991. 
  28. ^ "Bill and Camille Cosby Give $1.5 Million To Meharry and Bethune-Cookman Colleges". Jet. Vol. 75, No. 14: 5. 9 Jan 1989. Retrieved 19 December 2014. 
  29. ^ "Camille Cosby Donates $2 Million to High School in Baltimore". Jet. Vol. 107, No. 17: 41. 25 Apr 2005. 
  30. ^ "Bill and Camille Cosby Discuss the Secrets of Living a Better Life". Jet. Vol. 76, No. 26: 58. 2 Oct 1989. 
  31. ^ "Camille Cosby Delivers Howard Graduation Address; Receives Honorary Degree". Jet. Vol. 72, No. 10: 24. 1 Jun 1987. Retrieved 17 December 2014. 
  32. ^ "Millionairess Camille Cosby Says She Had to Earn PhD 'Because You Have To Do What You Urge Others To Do'". Jet. Vol. 82, No. 8: 12. 1992. 
  33. ^ "Opinion: Camille Cosby, another victim?". KLXY. 19 Nov 2014. Retrieved 17 December 2014.