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Ji-Tu Cumbuka Dies: ‘Roots’, ‘Harlem Nights’, ‘Brewster’s Millions’ Actor Was 77

Deadline logo Deadline 7/9/2017 Denise Petski
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Ji-Tu Cumbuka, who appeared in films including Harlem Nights and Brewster’s Millions and on 1977 TV miniseries Roots, has died. Cumbuka died Tuesday in Atlanta after a long illness, his niece Amber Holifield wrote on Facebook.

Cumbuka received critical praise for his role as the slave Wrestler in Alex Haley’s Emmy-winning 1977 ABC miniseries Roots. His more recent television work includes roles in CSI, Walker Texas Ranger, In the Heat of the Night and Knots Landing. He also was a series regular on the 1979 series A Man Called Sloane.

Cumbuka was a good friend of the late Richard Pryor and appeared with him in the films Harlem Knights, Moving and Brewster’s Millions. He also played former NBA guard Oscar Robertson in the 1973 biodrama pic Maurie about the life of Maurice Stokes. His other films include Doin’ Time (1985), Volunteers (1985), Caged in Paradiso (1990), among others.

In 2011, Cumbuka published his autobiography A Giant to Remember: The Black Actor in Hollywood.


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