Camille Cosby

Camille Olivia Cosby (née Hanks; born March 20, 1944) is an American television producer, philanthropist, and the wife of comedian Bill Cosby. The character of Clair Huxtable from The Cosby Show was based on her. Cosby has avoided public life, but has been active in her husband's businesses as a manager, as well as involving herself in academia and writing. In 1990, Cosby earned a master's degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, followed by a Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.) in 1992.

Camille Cosby
Camille Cosby 1998.jpg
Cosby in 1998
Camille Olivia Hanks

(1944-03-20) March 20, 1944 (age 78)
Alma materUniversity of Maryland (MA)
University of Massachusetts Amherst (Ed.D.)
OccupationTelevision producer, author, philanthropist
Years active1986–present
Known forPhilanthropy
(m. 1964)
Children5; including Erika and Ennis
AwardsCandace Award (1992)[1]

Early life and educationEdit

Camille Olivia Hanks was born on March 20, 1944, in Washington D.C., to Guy A. Hanks Sr. and Catherine C. Hanks[2] and grew up in Norbeck, Maryland, just outside Washington. She is the oldest of four children.[3] Cosby's father was a chemist at Walter Reed General Hospital and her mother worked at a nursery. Both of her parents had college educations, with her father earning a graduate degree from Fisk University and her mother earning an undergraduate degree from Howard University.[4]

Cosby attended private Catholic schools. First, she attended St. Cyprian's, followed by St. Cecilia's Academy.[5] Cosby stated,

"The Oblate Sisters were my first formal educators. They did what all educators should do, that is, convey the knowledge of wide-ranging possibilities, and, more importantly, give a stamp of self-value for every single student."[6]

After high school, Cosby studied psychology at the University of Maryland, where she met Bill Cosby.[7]

In June 1987, Johnetta Cole of Howard University in Washington, D.C., presented Cosby with a Doctor of Humane Letters, an honorary doctoral degree.[8]

In 1990, Cosby earned a master's degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, followed by an Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.) in 1992.[9] In a 2014 interview with Oprah Winfrey, she said,

"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."[7]


Judith James (left) and Camille Cosby (right) at the 59th Annual Peabody Awards (2000)

Cosby avoided public life.[10] She acted as manager for her husband and has been depicted as a "shrewd businesswoman." During an interview with Ebony, Bill Cosby stated, "People would rather deal with me than with Camille. She's rough to deal with when it comes to my business."[11] She also "help[ed] in the development of her husband's material", including suggestions for The Cosby Show, like suggesting the Huxtable family be middle rather than working class.[3] The character of Clair Huxtable from The Cosby Show was based on her.[12]

Cosby supports African-American literature, and has written forewords for several books: In 1993 for Thelma Williams' Our Family Table: Recipes and Food Memories from African-american Life Models;[13] In 2009 for Dear Success Seeker: Wisdom from Outstanding Women by Michele R. Wright;[14] and in 2014 for The Man from Essence: Creating a Magazine for Black Women, a book by Edward Lewis of Essence.[15]

In 1994, Cosby 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."[16] The book was originally intended to be the subject of her thesis for her doctoral degree.[17]

Cosby worked with David C. Driskell on his book The Other Side of Color: African American Art in the Collection of Camille O. and William H. Cosby Jr., which focused on the Cosby's art collection in 2001.[18] Together, Cosby and Renee Poussaint edited A Wealth of Wisdom: Legendary African American Elders Speak in 2004.[19]

In 2001, Cosby was a co-founder of the National Visionary Leadership Project, a group whose mission is to "develop the next generation of leaders by recording, preserving, and sharing the stories of extraordinary African American elders".[20]

Cosby was co-producer for the Broadway play Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years, based on 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.[21] Following the success of the show, Cosby acquired the film, stage and television rights to the story and later acted as executive producer for the 1999 made-for-television movie of the same name.[22]


Cosby's history of philanthropy includes donations 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.[23]

Beginning at the start of the 1980s, Cosby and her husband donated $100,000 to Central State University (CSU), a historically black university in Ohio, with a second gift of $325,000 in 1987. In September 1989, CSU held the "Camille and Bill Cosby Cleveland Football Classic" in honor of their contributions to the school.[24]

In January 1987, the Cosbys donated $1.3 million to Fisk University.[25] In November 1988, they donated $20 million to Atlanta's Spelman College, a women's college with a predominantly Black enrollment. According to The New York Times, the gift was the largest donation to a black college in American history.[26] The college has since named the five-storey 92,000 square foot Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby Academic Center after her as well as designating a Camille Cosby Day.[27] A few months after the Spelman donation, Cosby and her husband donated $800,000 to Meharry Medical College and $750,000 to Bethune-Cookman University.[28]

In July 1992, during a gala held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Coalition of 100 Black Women awarded Cosby the Candace Award, a recognition of minority women who have made valuable contributions to their communities.[1] In April 2005, Cosby donated $2 million to St. Frances Academy, a Black Catholic high school in Baltimore. Because of the donation, the school could endow 16 scholarships in Cosby's name.[29]

Bill Cosby sexual assault casesEdit

Cosby has defended her husband against accusations he has sexually assaulted women over his career. In 2014, Cosby released a statement saying that her husband had been the victim of unvetted accusations: "The man I met, and fell in love with, and whom I continue to love, is the man you all knew through his work. He is a kind man ... and a wonderful husband, father and friend."[30]

On December 9, 2015, attorney Joseph Cammarata subpoenaed Cosby to give a deposition in a defamation lawsuit filed against her husband by seven women.[30] A U.S. Magistrate Judge later dismissed her motion to quash the subpoena, and she was ordered to testify under oath.[30] In the deposition of February 2016, Cosby invoked spousal privilege when asked whether Bill had been faithful to her.[31] Cosby's support of her husband has been questioned; in The Progressive Revolution, author Ellis Washington wrote "...I am transfixed by the slavish complicity and psychotic denial of Camille" positing she may be "the greatest sexual sociopath sympathizer in history".[32]

After her husband's conviction for sexual assault on May 3, 2018, Cosby released a three-page statement defending her husband in which she compared his conviction to the racially charged killing of Emmett Till, a fourteen-year-old boy who was lynched after a white woman said she was offended by him in her family's grocery store. Cosby also called for a criminal investigation into the Pennsylvania prosecutor behind the conviction and argued that her husband had a "binding agreement" with Bruce Castor that he would not be charged in the case.[33] The Undefeated stated, "Camille Cosby's words show she's trapped in an outdated space."[34] Huffington Post called the statement "bizarre".[35]

Personal lifeEdit

While studying at the University of Maryland, Cosby went on a blind date during her sophomore year with Bill.[7] Engaged shortly after they began dating, the pair married on January 25, 1964 in the Catholic Church (Camille being notably devout).[36][37]

Following their marriage, Cosby and her husband had five children: Erika (born 1965), Erinn (born 1966), Ennis (April 15, 1969 – January 16, 1997), Ensa (April 8, 1973 – February 23, 2018),[38] and Evin (born 1976).

Ennis was murdered on January 16, 1997, at age 27. After his murder, Cosby wrote a letter to USA Today titled "America Taught My Son's Killer to Hate Blacks", in which she "excoriat[ed] America for teaching her son's murderer the bigotry that fueled his lethal act."[39] The controversial letter was not well received by pundits or the press.[39][40] Authors Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom wrote they believed Cosby's article was "misguided despair ... [that] threatens further progress" in the development of race relations in the United States.[41]

Cosby's daughter Ensa died February 23, 2018, of renal disease while awaiting a kidney transplant at age 44.[42]

In 1982, Cosby joined the Reverend Jesse Jackson and his wife, Jacqueline Jackson; congressman William H. Gray III; and historian Mary Frances Berry to meet Pope John Paul II at the Vatican, where the group was pictured with the pope.[43]

Along with Bill, Cosby was featured on the cover of Ebony's September 1966 issue.[44] In 1996, she was named one of the "15 most beautiful Black women" by the magazine.[10]

Art collectionEdit

Cosby is an avid art collector, including African American-made quilts.[45] In her personal collection she has multiple works by Ellis Ruley.[46] She has been the subject of multiple portraits by artist Simmie Knox.[47] In December 1981, Cosby purchased Henry Ossawa Tanner's The Thankful Poor at Sotheby's, which she gave to her husband for a Christmas gift.[48] In 2018, Cosby and her husband sold a painting titled Going West by Thomas Hart Benton, which had only been displayed publicly twice since being painted in 1926, for an undisclosed sum.[49]


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


  1. ^ a b "Camille Cosby, Kathleen Battle Win Candace Awards". Jet. 82 (13): 16. July 20, 1992.
  2. ^ Contemporary Black Biography (Volume 14), p. 72.
  3. ^ a b Whitaker, Matthew C. (2011). Icons of Black America: Breaking Barriers and Crossing Boundaries, Volume 1. ABC-CLIO. p. 194. ISBN 9780313376429.
  4. ^ Whitaker, Mark (2014). Cosby: His Life and Times. Simon and Schuster. pp. 106–107. ISBN 9781451697995.
  5. ^ Roig-Franzia, Manuel (December 23, 2014). "Camille Cosby: A life spent juggling her role as public figure with desire to be private". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on March 12, 2016. Retrieved October 14, 2016.
  6. ^ Morrow, Diane Batts (2002). Persons of Color and Religious at the Same Time: The Oblate Sisters of Providence, 1828-1860. University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 9780807854013. Retrieved May 6, 2020.
  7. ^ a b c Telusma, Blue (November 20, 2014). "Camille Cosby, another victim of the controversy?". No. November 20, 2014. CNN. Archived from the original on December 20, 2014. Retrieved December 16, 2014.
  8. ^ "Camille Cosby Delivers Howard Graduation Address; Receives Honorary Degree". Jet. 72 (10): 24. June 1, 1987. Archived from the original on November 8, 2020. Retrieved December 17, 2014.
  9. ^ Cosby, Camille. "DISSERTATION: The influence of television imagery on selected African-American young adults' self-perceptions". ScholarWorks @UMassAmherst. University of Massachussetts, Amherst. Retrieved April 8, 2022.
  10. ^ a b Dow, Sheila M., ed. (1998). Business Leader Profiles for Students, Volume 1. Gale Group. p. 177. ISBN 9780787629359.
  11. ^ Norment, Lynn (February 1988). "Three Great Love Stories". Ebony: 152. Retrieved December 19, 2014.
  12. ^ McCrystal, Laura; Roebuck, Jeremy (April 20, 2018). "Bill Cosby's wife is not at his trial. But Camille Cosby's presence looms". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on November 8, 2020. Retrieved May 6, 2020.
  13. ^ Williams, Thelma (1993). Our Family Table: Recipes And Food Memories From African-American Life Models. Diane Pub Co. ISBN 978-0756780937.
  14. ^ Wright, Michele R. (2009). Dear Success Seeker: Wisdom from Outstanding Women. 978-1416570790.
  15. ^ Lewis, Edward (2014). The Man from Essence: Creating a Magazine for Black Women. Atria Books. ISBN 978-1476703480.
  16. ^ "Camille Cosby's Book Explores Negative Images of Blacks in Media". Jet. 87 (16): 60. February 1995.
  17. ^ Pope, Kitty (2005). Beside Every Great Man-- is a Great Woman: African American Women of Courage, Intellect, Strength, Beauty & Perseverance. Amber Books Publishing. p. 69.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ A Wealth of Wisdom: Legendary African American Elders Speak. Atria. 2004. ISBN 978-0743478922.
  20. ^ "Camille O. Cosby". C-SPAN. Archived from the original on June 12, 2017. Retrieved April 30, 2020.
  21. ^ "Camille Cosby's Broadway Play, 'Having Our Say', Wins Critical Acclaim". Jet. 87 (25): 62–64. May 1, 1995.
  22. ^ Ross, Lawrence C. (January 1, 2001). The Divine Nine: The History of African American Fraternities and Sororities. Kensington Books. p. 98. ISBN 9780758202703.
  23. ^ "Bill and Camille Cosby Discuss the Secrets of Living a Better Life". Jet. 76 (26): 59. October 2, 1989.
  24. ^ "Central State U. Honors Cosby Family Generosity at Cleveland Classic". Jet. 76 (23): 10. September 11, 1989.
  25. ^ "Bill and Camille Cosby Make $1.3 Million Gift to Aid Fisk University". Jet. 71 (16): 52. January 12, 1987.
  26. ^ Daniels, Lee A. (November 8, 1988). "A Black College Gets Cosby Gift Of $20 Million". The New York Times. Archived from the original on December 20, 2014. Retrieved December 16, 2014.
  27. ^ "Spelman College in Atlanta Opens Center Honoring Dr. Camille Cosby". Jet. 89 (18): 22–23. March 18, 1996. Archived from the original on December 20, 2020. Retrieved December 17, 2014.
  28. ^ "Bill and Camille Cosby Give $1.5 Million To Meharry and Bethune-Cookman Colleges". Jet. 75 (14): 5. January 9, 1989. Archived from the original on November 8, 2020. Retrieved December 19, 2014.
  29. ^ "Camille Cosby Donates $2 Million to High School in Baltimore". Jet. 107 (17): 41. April 25, 2005.
  30. ^ a b c Karimi, Faith (December 30, 2015). "Bill Cosby's lawyers fight subpoena against his wife, Camille Cosby". CNN. Archived from the original on December 12, 2018. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
  31. ^ Winter, Tom (May 20, 2016). "Bill Cosby's Wife, Camille Cosby, Defends Comedian in Unsealed Deposition". NBC. Archived from the original on October 14, 2016. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
  32. ^ Washington, Ellis (2016). The Progressive Revolution: History of Liberal Fascism through the Ages, Vol. V: 2014-2015 Writings. Hamilton Books. p. 258. ISBN 9780761868507. Archived from the original on November 8, 2020. Retrieved May 6, 2020.
  33. ^ Wootson Jr., Cleve R.; Rao, Sonia (May 3, 2018). "Camille Cosby on her husband's conviction: 'This is mob justice, not real justice'". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on May 3, 2018. Retrieved May 3, 2018.
  34. ^ O'Neal, Lonnae (May 4, 2018). "Camille Cosby's words show she's trapped in an outdated space". The Undefeated. Archived from the original on September 18, 2020. Retrieved April 30, 2020.
  35. ^ Vagianos, Alanna (May 3, 2018). "Camille Cosby Says Husband's Guilty Verdict Is 'Mob Justice' In Bizarre Statement". Huffington Post. Archived from the original on November 8, 2020. Retrieved April 30, 2020.
  36. ^ "Life With Bill Cosby". Ebony. 21 (11): 36. September 1996.
  37. ^ Brown, Stacy (December 21, 2014). "Inside the Cosbys' marriage". Page Six. Retrieved June 30, 2021.
  38. ^ Respers France, Lisa (February 26, 2018). "Ensa Cosby, daughter of Bill Cosby, dies at 44". CNN. Archived from the original on February 27, 2018. Retrieved February 27, 2018.
  39. ^ a b Dyson, Michael Eric (2008). Is Bill Cosby Right?: Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind?. Basic Books. ISBN 9780786722075.
  40. ^ Lopez, Alfred J. (2012). Postcolonial Whiteness: A Critical Reader on Race and Empire. SUNY Press. p. 79. ISBN 9780791483725.
  41. ^ Thernstrom, Stephen; Thernstrom, Abigail (2009). America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9781439129098. Archived from the original on November 8, 2020. Retrieved May 6, 2020.
  42. ^ Mandell, Andrea (February 26, 2018). "Bill Cosby's daughter Ensa dies at 44 from renal disease". USA Today. Archived from the original on March 5, 2020. Retrieved November 8, 2020.
  43. ^ "Blacks Remember Pope John Paul II". Jet. 107 (17): 54–55. April 25, 2005. Archived from the original on November 8, 2020. Retrieved May 6, 2020.
  44. ^ "Life With TV Award Winner Bill Cosby". Ebony. XXI (11). September 1966. Archived from the original on November 8, 2020. Retrieved May 6, 2020.
  45. ^ The International Review of African American Art, Volume 18. Museum of African American Art. 2001.
  46. ^ Fishbone, Beryl (2014). Legendary Locals of Norwich. Arcadia Publishing. p. 81. ISBN 9781439645888. Archived from the original on December 20, 2020. Retrieved May 6, 2020.
  47. ^ Smith, Jessie Carney (December 1, 2012). Black Firsts: 4,000 Ground-Breaking and Pioneering Historical Events. Visible Ink Press. p. 58. ISBN 9781578594245. Archived from the original on November 8, 2020. Retrieved May 6, 2020.
  48. ^ Valentine, Victoria (September 2001). "The Cosby Collection". The Crisis. 108 (5): 68. Archived from the original on December 20, 2020. Retrieved May 6, 2020.
  49. ^ Saul, Emily (November 9, 2018). "Bill Cosby is selling pieces from his art collection". Page Six. Archived from the original on November 8, 2020. Retrieved April 30, 2020.

External linksEdit