Camille Cosby spent the early years of her marriage trying to live a private life. While it worked at first, it wasn’t long before her husband, Bill Cosby, made it big.
Showtime’s four-part documentary series, We Need To Talk About Cosby, aired Sunday night, leaving fans curious about the disgraced comedian’s wife and her role throughout his life.
Camille Cosby before Bill Cosby
The Washington Post reports Camille Olivia Hanks dropped out of college at 19 to marry Bill Cosby, much to the displeasure of her parents.
Camille Cosby grew up in Norbeck, a city that was originally founded by freed black people before the Civil War. She grew up in an upper-middle-class family with two college-educated parents, a rarity for Black families at the time.
Camille attended Catholic schools, took part in civil-rights-era protests to end segregation, and was a debutante presented by the prestigious Bachelor-Benedict Club. She was meant to be someone well-known and successful, her marriage to Bill Cosby was not an anticipated turn in her life.
Bill Cosby is seven years older than Camille. He’s from a poor neighborhood in Philadelphia and dropped out of college to pursue comedy. After they were married, the two moved to New York for a short time before moving onto Hollywood when Bill’s career took off.
Camille Cosby’s marriage, philanthropy and politics
After their move to Hollywood, the Cosbys began having children. Camille Cosby did not particularly care for Hollywood and opted to be more private, having her children and being a wife and mother. During this time, Bill Cosby is accused of being a womanizer and frequenting the Playboy Mansion.
In 1971, the couple moved to Massachusetts where their home remains. Despite Bill Cosby’s affair with Shawn Berkes in the 70s, Camille has said that they began to realize what they really wanted at that point and what they wanted was to be together.
By the late 70s, Camille began looking for her own voice. In 1979 she spent time anonymously studying rural homes of African Americans in Mississippi as part of her studies but still kept a low profile through the mid-1980s.
She began delivering commencement speeches at Howard and Spelman universities. The Cosbys’ 1988 donation of $20 million to Spelman “was lauded as the largest ever made by African Americans to a historically Black college.”
During this time, her political focus began to become more and more apparent as she spoke out about government officials not doing enough and how white people in America were given free passes to do what they wished while Black Americans were forced to deal with racism and prejudices even within government systems.
When their son Ennis was tragically murdered in January 1997, Camille wrote in a USA Today column “America taught our son’s killer to hate African-Americans.” The column was not well received.
Camille Cosby’s denial of accusations toward Bill Cosby
Despite the numerous accusations of assault that Bill Cosby has faced, Camille Cosby maintains that her husband is innocent.
In a statement issued in 2014, Camille writes, “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, a generous man, a funny man, and a wonderful husband, father, and friend. He is the man you thought you knew.”
According to her statement, she claims “A different man has been portrayed in the media… It is the portrait of a man I do not know. It is also a portrait painted by organizations painted by individuals and organizations whom many in the media has given a pass. There appears to be no vetting of my husband’s accusers before stories are published or aired. An accusation is published, and immediately goes viral.”
She ended her statement with, “None of us will ever want to be in the position of attacking a victim. But the question should be asked — who is the victim?”
Last year, a legal technicality overturned his ruling and Cosby was released from prison.
He returned to his Pennsylvania home and reunited with Camille Cosby. There does not appear to be any cause to believe their relationship will end regardless of his legal case.
We Need To Talk About Cosby episode two will premiere Sunday, February 6 at 10 pm ET/PT on Showtime.