Skip to main content
Select Source:

Townsend, Robert 1957–

Robert Townsend 1957

Film director, writer, actor, producer

At a Glance

Honed Acting Skills

Film Parodied Hollywoods Black View

Difficulties Remain for Black Filmmakers

Sources

Filmmaker Robert Townsend knows fully the responsibility he has taken on in pursuing his chosen profession: I understand the effect films and movies leave on peoples lives, he explained to Allison Samuels in the Los Angeles Times. They affect the way we dress, comb our hair, even the way we decorate our living rooms. Thats powerful stuff, and you have to treat it accordingly. Whereas fellow filmmakers Spike Lee and John Singleton have used the medium to address social injustice and the pervasive anxiety felt by the black communityoften by depicting harsh and disturbing scenes of violence and racismTownsend has sought to rid blacks of a constraining slave mentality by exposing and exploding black stereotypes perpetuated by the white-dominated film industry.

In place of those cardboard images, Townsend provides his audience with characters who are neither black nor white, but individuals whose actions and aspirations are not necessarily determined by racial imperatives. He also seeks to offer his audience positive values, self-esteem, heroes, a mythologya chance to dream. People need inspiration, especially black people, he told Interviews Veronica Webb. If you go to the movies, you have nothing that validates that you are good, you are special, you are creative, you are talented, that you can do whatever you want to do. So Ive got to fight.

Townsend was not always a fighter, however. Born in 1957, he grew up on the west side of Chicago where, as he told Marilyn Marshall in Ebony, I ran from a lot of gangs. Safe inside his home, Townsend watched hours of television, his imagination stimulated by entertainers as varied as comedian Red Skelton and actor Sidney Poitier. His creative ability and sense of self-worth were also spurred by his divorced mother, who raised her four children to believe they could accomplish anything. Because of that, Townsend explained to Clifford Terry in the Chicago Tribune, I never believed in limitations.

Townsend dreamed of becoming a basketball player; but growing up in a neighborhood that produced NBA stars Isiah Thomas and Mark Aguirre, he fared only well enough to make the team and then sit the bench. To pass the time, he did impersonations, making his teammates laughmuch to the chagrin of his coaches. Heeding his fellow players observationTownsend, you cant playbut youre funnyas he recalled in an interview with Donna

At a Glance

Born February 6, 1957, in Chicago, IL; son of Robert and Shirley (a postal worker; maiden name, Jenkins) Townsend; married Cheri Jones, 1990. Education: Attended Illinois State University, William Patterson College, and Hunter College; studied acting with Stella Adler.

Worked with Experimental Black Actors Guild and Second City, Chicago, mid-1970s; worked with Negro Ensemble Company, acted in Off-Broadway productions, and performed at local comedy clubs, New York City, late 1970s-early 1980s; film appearances include Cooley High, American International, 1975; Streets of Fire, Universal, 1984; A Soldiers Story, Columbia, 1984; American Flyers, Warner Bros., 1985; Odd Jobs, 1985; Ratboy, Warner Bros., 1986; Hollywood Shuffle, Samuel Goldwyn Co., 1987; The Mighty Quinn, MGM/UA, 1989; Thats Adequate, South Gate Entertainment, 1990; and The Five Heartbeats, Twentieth Century Fox, 1991; participated in comedic features Its Not Easy Bein Me, 1987, and Uptown Comedy Express, 1989. Co-wrote, directed, and produced Hollywood Shuffle and The Five Heartbeats ; directed Raw, Paramount, 1987, and Partners in Crime, HBO, 1987-88.

Addresses: Agent Leading Artists, Inc., 445 North Bedford, Beverly Hills, CA 90110.

Brit for the Washington Post, Townsend decided to sharpen his comedic skills and pursue acting instead of athletics.

Honed Acting Skills

At the age of 16 he joined Chicagos Experimental Black Actors Guild, becoming its youngest member. Through this group Townsend learned the skills of acting and directing and gained his first screen role, a small part in the 1975 production Cooley High. My most memorable line was Somebody should kick his ass, he told the Chicago Tribunes Terry. What a way to come onto the silver screen! I remember my mother going to the movie, saying, Hes up there cursin. During this period Townsend also studied improvisation with the renowned comedy troupe Second City, but after graduating from high school he deferred to his mothers wishes and attended college at Illinois State University, where he studied radio-TV communications. He subsequently transferred to William Patterson College in New Jersey, commuting to New York City to work with the Negro Ensemble Company and study acting with famed dramatic coach Stella Adler. Townsend finally ended his academic career at Hunter College in New York, dividing his time between studying, acting in Off-Broadway productions, and performing stand-up routines in comedy clubs.

In 1982 Townsend headed west to California with his friend Keenen Ivory Wayans, who later went on to create Fox-TVs hit comedy series In Living Color. For the first time in his life, Townsend was confronted with limitations. Although after a few years he was able to secure small roles in mainstream productions such as Streets of Fire, A Soldiers Story, and American Flyers, for the most part Townsend was offered the typical fare available to aspiring black actors: pimps, slaves, and servants. I remember the first time I was offered a part, he related to Terry, I was happy and called my mother. Mom, Im playing a pimp. I get to beat this prostitute up. She said, Oh, thats a good part, as long as youre working. But by the time I auditioned for pimp No. 32, I realized I was an actor and should be able to play as many roles as possible.

What Townsend had discovered was the separate and unequal sphere into which blacks were shunted in Hollywood; they were never just actors and directors who made films for audiences, but black actors and black directors who made black films for black audiences. Townsend wanted to change this perception, as he explained in Dollars & Sense: Whites sit down after dinner and say, Hey honey, lets go see a black film tonight. The problem is that the films made by black filmmakers cross the spectrum, just like all other films do. We need to be looked at in that way. Until then, the money will be spread thin to the various films. We will all lose. This sense of loss can be appreciated, Townsend and others believe, if the film industry and audiences perceived a film like The Godfather strictly as an Italian-American film, or Dances with Wolves as primarily a Native American film. The relevance of these films clearly extends beyond their social milieu; to pigeonhole them according to a specific culture would be to obscure their universal themes and access.

Film Parodied Hollywoods Black View

There aint nothin to it but to do it, a character says in Townsends first film, 1987s Hollywood Shuffle, which he co-wrote with Wayans. That line perhaps became a mantra for the filmmaker during his discouraging apprenticeship in Hollywood. A satirical and pointed look at Hollywoods treatment and view of blacks, Hollywood Shuffle, which was filmed intermittently over two and a half years, cost $100,000 to makepaltry by Hollywood standards. The initial $60,000 came from money Townsend had saved from acting jobs; the remaining $40,000 he charged on every MasterCard and Visa he could obtain. He paid his actors minimum film wages; when he couldnt pay them, he filled their cars with gas on his charge accounts. He finished the film during a whirlwind 14-day span, shooting scenes in one take, then moving on to avoid being caught without location permits. When the film was completed, he booked a screening roomon creditinvited every film distribution company in Hollywood, and then signed a deal with Goldwyn studios, which promptly paid off his debts and his actors remaining wages. Townsends gamble paid off big time: in the first month after its release, Hollywood Shuffle grossed $850,000. It eventually earned more than $10 million.

The protagonist of the film is Bobby Taylor, played by Townsend. Bobby, kind and respectful, lives at home in Los Angeles with his grandmother, mother, and younger brother and works at a hot dog standWinky Dinky Dogthe manager of which dreams of Bobby taking over the business. But Bobby has a different idea; to the exasperation of his fellow workers and his manager, he continuously misses work to attend film auditions in hopes of becoming an actor. But Bobby lands only one rolea jive-talking pimp in a blaxploitation picture, a genre made popular in the 1970s in which blacks are roundly stereotyped. Mirroring Townsends own experiences, Bobby is frustrated by the disparity between his acting abilities and his acting opportunities.

Interspersed throughout the narrative are comical vignettes, reveries or nightmares that Bobby experiences as he seeks his dream; he imagines himself starring as a hero in films like Rambro: First Young Blood, King Lear, and The Death of a Breakdancer, a black-and-white film in which he plays a private detective named Sam Ace. But Bobby is also frightened when he imagines being a graduate of the Black Actors School, where white instructorsthrough courses such as Jive Talk and Shufflingteach classically trained black actors how to play pimps and hustlers. In perhaps the funniest vignette, Sneakin in the Movies, Bobby imagines that he and a friend are Speed and Tyrone, two streetwise young film critics who slip into movie theaters to view films and then determine whether one should pay to see them. Both gave thumbs down to movies such as Dirty Larry and Amadeus and Salieri but heartily endorsed Attack of the Street Pimps, praising it with typical critical discourse: The director captured the essence of street life in a whore-type situation.... It was live.

With Hollywood Shuffle, Townsend parodied the white Hollywood establishment that makes black actors perform black according to a white vision. The moviess comic range derives from the strength of such bitternessTownsends disbelief over the grotesque choices open to black actors, David Denby observed in New York. Michael Konik, writing in Reason, believed the film, in its parody and spoof, was an evolutionary step in the black film genre, elevating blacks from supporting players, stereotypical caricatures, and fast-talking liars to people, people who are interesting and challenging enough to earn [the] attention, sympathy, and enthusiasm of all viewers, regardless of color. Echoing the acclaim of many reviewers of the film, Times Richard Corliss praised Townsends human insight: [He] knows Bobby fully lives where we all live, in dreams of glory, agony, loveof lifes infinite possibilities. In real life, most of those dreams are dashed or deferred. So who wouldnt be pleased enough to pay the price of a movie ticket to see Townsends come true?

The success of Hollywood Shuffle thrust Townsend into the limelight. When I walk down the street, he told a reporter from Ebony after the films release, people holler at me, Hollywood Shuffle. Robert Townsend. Hoe cakes. Do the nasty! I dont have a bodyguard, but I might have to get one. Comedian and film star Eddie Murphy asked Townsend to direct his 1987 concert film, Raw. The filmmaker also directed the HBO comedy special Partners in Crime, which showcased new comedic talent from around the country. After Shuffle Townsend was also featured in the 1989 mystery film The Mighty Quinn, playing a free-spirited Caribbean hustler who is a suspect in a murder investigation led by his friend, the local police chief, portrayed by actor Denzel Washington.

Difficulties Remain for Black Filmmakers

Despite the success of his first film, his growing stature in Hollywood, and the emergence of strong films by other black writers and directors, Townsend had difficulty receiving financial backing for his second feature, The Five Heartbeats. It took four years to make the film; The Five Heartbeats made the rounds of the studios, including Warner Bros., with which Townsend had signed a deal after the success of Hollywood Shuffle. Finally, Twentieth Century Fox agreed to back the film, releasing it in 1991.

The Five Heartbeats is about a fictitious legendary R&B male singing group. The film begins by flashing back to 1965 and then moves forward, following the group through the 1980s. The themes explored as the group and its individual members are depicted include racism, exploitation, drug abuse, and the testing of friendship by the pressures of success. Townsend wanted to make a film that was pure comedy, but it took another shape, he told the Los Angeles Times Samuels. I traveled on the road for a few months with an actual group from the 60s, the Dells, and heard their stories of being ripped off and taken advantage of by people in the business. After spending time with that group I felt sad. I kept telling myself, it isnt about jokes, Robert, it isnt about jokes.

What the film is primarily about, according to Townsend, is friendship. The story is a positive look at five young black men with an attempt to break away from any of the negative stereotypes that are tagged to us through the media, he explained to Samuels. Each character is totally different from the other. One might be what most people expect from the black male, while the others take you in completely different directions. I want to show people something they havent seen before.

Few critics felt Townsend completely accomplished this ideal, but most found his attempt noteworthy. Its characterizations are often sketchy, its story awkwardly paced, and its dialogue much too familiar, Janet Maslin wrote in the New York Times. Even the musical sequences, the very source of the Heartbeats appeal, are not entirely convincing. But The Five Heartbeats also conveys an obvious love of its material and a fundamental sweetness and sincerity. Dave Kehr, reviewing the film for the Chicago Tribune, concurred: None of the characters is far from cliche, but Townsends affectionate direction somehow makes their familiarity seem a warming virtue.

Townsends continued desire to provide audiences, especially black audiences, with positive universal values and role models is evident in his next production, The Meteor Man, scheduled for release in 1993. The film, in which Townsend plays an inner-city high school teacher who is actually an alien with superhuman powers, would be a Hollywood first: no black has ever before played a comicbook-type superhero. Townsend thinks the time is overdue. We havent seen even one movie where the hero is black and hes talking to everybody, he pointed out to Interviews Webb. I just want one to cheer for. Like I cheer for Terminator, I cheer for Rambo, I cheer for James Bond. I just want one.... He doesnt have to be super, just a hero.

Sources

American Film, December 1987.

Chicago Tribune, March 10, 1991; March 29, 1991; March 31, 1991.

Dollars & Sense, January 1992.

Ebony, July 1987; September 1987.

Interview, February 1991.

Los Angeles Times, September 9, 1990.

New Statesman, April 8, 1988.

Newsweek, April 6, 1987; July 13, 1992.

New York, April 6, 1987.

New York Times, March 4, 1990; March 29, 1991; October 18, 1992.

Reason, November 1987.

Time, April 27, 1987.

Washington Post, March 31, 1991.

Rob Nagel

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Townsend, Robert 1957–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Townsend, Robert 1957–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/townsend-robert-1957

"Townsend, Robert 1957–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved October 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/townsend-robert-1957

Townsend, Robert 1957–

Robert Townsend 1957

Film director, writer, actor, producer

Turned to Comedy

Hurdles Remained for African American Filmmakers

Sources

Filmmaker Robert Townsend knows fully the responsibility he has taken on in pursuing his chosen profession: I understand the effect films and movies leave on peoples lives, he explained to Allison Samuels in the Los Angeles Times. They affect the way we dress, comb our hair, even the way we decorate our living rooms. Thats powerful stuff, and you have to treat it accordingly. Whereas fellow filmmakers Spike Lee and John Singleton have used the medium to address social injustice and the pervasive anxiety felt by the African American communityoften by depicting harsh and disturbing scenes of violence and racismTownsend has sought to rid African Americans of a constraining slave mentality by exposing and exploding African American stereotypes perpetuated by the white-dominated film industry.

In place of those cardboard images, Townsend provides his audience with characters who are neither black nor white, but individuals whose actions and aspirations are not necessarily determined by racial imperatives. He also seeks to offer his audience positive values, self-esteem, heroes, a mythologya chance to dream. People need inspiration, especially black people, he told Interviews Veronica Webb. If you go to the movies, you have nothing that validates that you are good, you are special, you are creative, you are talented, that you can do whatever you want to do. So Ive got to fight.

Townsend was not always a fighter, however. Born in 1957, he grew up on the west side of Chicago where, as he told Marilyn Marshall in Ebony, I ran from a lot of gangs. Safe inside his home, Townsend watched hours of television, his imagination stimulated by entertainers as varied as comedian Red Skelton and actor Sidney Poitier. His creative ability and sense of self-worth were also spurred by his divorced mother, who raised her four children to believe they could accomplish anything. Because of that, Townsend explained to Clifford Terry in the Chicago Tribune, I never believed in limitations.

Turned to Comedy

Townsend dreamed of becoming a basketball player; but growing up in a neighborhood that produced NBA stars Isiah Thomas and Mark Aguirre, he fared only well

At a Glance

Born February 6, 1957, in Chicago, IL; son of Robert and Shirley (a postal worker; maiden name, Jenkins) Townsend; married Cheri Jones, 1990. children: Sierra, Skylar. Education: Attended Illinois State University, William Patterson College, and Hunter College; studied acting with Stella Adler.

Career; Worked with Experimental Black Actors Guild and Second City, Chicago, mid-1970s; worked with Negro Ensemble Company, acted in Off-Broadway productions, and performed at local comedy clubs, New York City, late 1970s-early 1980s; film appearances include Cooley High, 1975; Streets of Fire, 1984; A Soldiers Story, 1984; American Flyers, 1985; Odd Jobs, 1985; Ratboy, 1986 Hollywood Shuffle, 1987; The Mighty Quinn, 1989; Thats Adequate, 1990; The Five Heartbeats, 1991; The Meteor Man, 1993; B.A.P.S., 1997; The Tax Man, 1998; television appearances include The Parent Hood, 1995-; Mercenary II: Thick & Thin, 1997; Jackies Back!, 1999. Co-wrote, directed, and produced Hollywood Shuffle, 1987 and The Five Heartbeats, 1991; directed Raw, 1987, The Meteor Man, 1993, and B.A. P.S., 1997.

Addresses: Office Tinsel Townsend, 8033 W. Sunset Blvd. Ste. 890, Los Angeles, CA 90046-2427.

enough to make the team and then sit the bench. To pass the time, he did impersonations, making his team-mates laughmuch to the chagrin of his coaches. Heeding his fellow players observationTownsend, you cant play-but youre funnyas he recalled in an interview with Donna Brit for the Washington Post, Townsend decided to sharpen his comedic skills and pursue acting instead of athletics.

At the age of 16 he joined Chicagos Experimental Black Actors Guild, becoming its youngest member. Through this group Townsend learned the skills of acting and directing and gained his first screen role, a small part in the 1975 production Cooley High. My most memorable line was Somebody should kick his ass, he told the Chicago Tribunes Terry. What a way to come onto the silver screen! I remember my mother going to the movie, saying, Hes up there cursin. During this period Townsend also studied improvisation with the renowned comedy troupe Second City, but after graduating from high school he deferred to his mothers wishes and attended college at Illinois State University, where he studied radio-TV communications. He subsequently transferred to William Patterson College in New Jersey, commuting to New York City to work with the Negro Ensemble Company and study acting with famed dramatic coach Stella Adler. Townsend finally ended his academic career at Hunter College in New York, dividing his time between studying, acting in Off-Broadway productions, and performing stand-up routines in comedy clubs.

In 1982 Townsend headed west to California with his friend Keenen Ivory Wayans, who later went on to create Fox-TVs hit comedy series In Living Color. For the first time in his life, Townsend was confronted with limitations. Although after a few years he was able to secure small roles in mainstream productions such as Streets of Fire, A Soldiers Story, and American Flyers, for the most part Townsend was offered the typical fare available to aspiring African American actors: pimps, slaves, and servants. I remember the first time I was offered a part, he related to Terry, I was happy and called my mother. Mom, Im playing a pimp. I get to beat this prostitute up. She said, Oh, thats a good part, as long as youre working. But by the time I auditioned for pimp No. 32, I realized I was an actor and should be able to play as many roles as possible.

What Townsend had discovered was the separate and unequal sphere into which African Americans were shunted in Hollywood; they were never just actors and directors who made films for audiences, but African American actors and directors who made films for African American audiences. Townsend wanted to change this perception, as he explained in Dollars & Sense: Whites sit down after dinner and say, Hey honey, lets go see a black film tonight. The problem is that the films made by black filmmakers cross the spectrum, just like all other films do. We need to be looked at in that way. Until then, the money will be spread thin to the various films. We will all lose. This sense of loss can be appreciated, Townsend and others believe, if the film industry and audiences perceived a film like The God-father strictly as an Italian-American film, or Dances with Wolves as primarily a Native American film. The relevance of these films clearly extends beyond their social milieu; to pigeonhole them according to a specific culture would be to obscure their universal themes and access.

There aint nothin to it but to do it, a character says in Townsends first film, 1987s Hollywood Shuffle, which he co-wrote with Wayans. That line perhaps became a mantra for the filmmaker during his discouraging apprenticeship in Hollywood. A satirical and pointed look at Hollywoods treatment and view of African Americans, Hollywood Shuffle, which was filmed intermittently over two and a half years, cost $ 100,000 to makepaltry by Hollywood standards. The initial $60,000 came from money Townsend had saved from acting jobs; the remaining $40,000 he charged on every MasterCard and Visa he could obtain. He paid his actors minimum film wages; when he couldnt pay them, he filled their cars with gas on his charge accounts. He finished the film during a whirlwind 14-day span, shooting scenes in one take, then moving on to avoid being caught without location permits. When the film was completed, he booked a screening roomon creditinvited every film distribution company in Hollywood, and then signed a deal with Goldwyn studios, which promptly paid off his debts and his actors remaining wages. Townsends gamble paid off big time: in the first month after its release, Hollywood Shuffle grossed $850,000. It eventually earned more than $10 million.

The success of Hollywood Shuffle thrust Townsend into the limelight. Comedian and film star Eddie Murphy asked Townsend to direct his 1987 concert film, Raw. The filmmaker also directed the HBO comedy special Partners in Crime, which showcased new comedic talent from around the country. Following Hollywood Shuffle, Townsend was also featured in the 1989 mystery film The Mighty Quinn, playing a free-spirited Caribbean hustler who is a suspect in a murder investigation led by his friend, the local police chief, portrayed by actor Denzel Washington.

Hurdles Remained for African American Filmmakers

Despite the success of his first film, his growing stature in Hollywood, and the emergence of strong films by other African American writers and directors, Townsend had difficulty receiving financial backing for his second feature, The Five Heartbeats. It took four years to make the film; The Five Heartbeats made the rounds of the studios, including Warner Bros., with which Townsend had signed a deal after the success of Hollywood Shuffle. Finally, Twentieth Century Fox agreed to back the film, releasing it in 1991.

The Five Heartbeats is about a fictitious legendary R&B male singing group. The film begins by flashing back to 1965 and then moves forward, following the group through the 1980s. The themes explored as the group and its individual members are depicted include racism, exploitation, drug abuse, and the testing of friendship by the pressures of success. The story is a positive look at five young black men with an attempt to break away from any of the negative stereotypes that are tagged to us through the media, Townsend explained to Samuels in the Los Angeles Times, Each character is totally different from the other. One might be what most people expect from the black male, while the others take you in completely different directions. I want to show people something they havent seen before.

Townsends continued desire to provide audiences, especially African American audiences, with positive universal values and role models was evident in his 1993 film The Meteor Man. The film, in which Townsend played an inner-city high school teacher who is actually an alien with superhuman powers, marked the first time that an African American played a comic-book-type superhero. We havent seen even one movie where the hero is black and hes talking to everybody, he pointed out to Interviews Webb. I just want one to cheer for. Like I cheer for Terminator, I cheer for Rambo, I cheer for James Bond. I just want one. He doesnt have to be super, just a hero.

Following the release of Meteor Man, Townsend produced an hour-long comedy variety series for the Fox network entitled Townsend Television. The show, which debuted in 1993, received many unfavorable reviews from critics. Tom Shales of the Washington Post wrote that Its as a director that Townsend comes up shortest; his timing seems off so that the commercial parodies and movie spoofs tend to creak and wobble. The show floundered in the ratings, and was cancelled before the end of the 1993-1994 season.

Undaunted by the failure of Townsend Television, Townsend debuted a new television series entitled The Parent Hood for the WB network in 1995. Starring as a communications professor with a law-student wife and four children, Townsend also co-created and co-produced the show. The Parent Hood was a sitcom that focused on the triumphs and challenges faced by an average, middle-class African American family. Critical response to The Parent Hood was lukewarm. Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly called the show super dull, while People reviewer David Hiltbrand found the structure, the timing and the humor all strictly standard. Despite these criticisms, The Parent Hood attracted a loyal audience and entered its fifth season in 1999.

In 1997, Townsend directed and starred in the film B.A.P.S. The film told the story of two black American princesses who leave their native Decatur, Georgia, to audition for a rap video in Los Angeles. They are spotted as easy marks by a con man and soon find themselves unknowingly aiding him in a scheme to cheat his elderly uncle of his millions. However, the girls and the senior citizens become great friends. In 1998, Townsend starred as Peyton Cody in the film The Tax Man. The following year, he appeared as himself in the USA network TV movie Jackies Back !

Sources

Periodicals

Chicago Tribune, March 10, 1991; March 29, 1991; March 31, 1991.

Dollars & Sense, January 1992.

Ebony, July 1987; September 1987.

Entertainment Weekly, February 3, 1995.

Interview, February 1991.

Los Angeles Times, September 9, 1990.

People, January 30, 1995.

Washington Post, March 31, 1991, September 11, 1993.

Rob Nagel and David G. Oblender

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Townsend, Robert 1957–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Townsend, Robert 1957–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/townsend-robert-1957-0

"Townsend, Robert 1957–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved October 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/townsend-robert-1957-0