Hand color tinted photos of Billie Thomas, “Buckwheat”, The Little Rascals Our Gang
Allen Clayton Hoskins (August 9, 1920 – July 26, 1980) was an American child actor, most famous for portraying the character of Farina in the Our Gang short films from 1922 to 1931.
Born in Boston, Hoskins was just one year old when his tenure with Our Gang began. His character stayed in the series through the silent years and the transition to talking pictures, and left the series in 1931 at the age of eleven. With his pigtailed hair and patchy outfits, Farina resembled a pickaninny in the tradition of the character Topsy from Uncle Tom’s Cabin, but as the character became more popular, and as Allen Hoskins got older, Farina developed his own personality separate from that of Topsy. The name “Farina”, derived from a type of cereal, was chosen because its gender was ambiguous: as a toddler, Farina was portrayed as both a boy and a girl (sometimes both genders in the same film), much to the puzzlement of movie audiences.
During his time in the gang, Farina became both the series’ anchor and its most popular character. While he was not the first black child actor (or even the first black Our Gang kid), Farina became arguably the first black child star. Allen Hoskins’ last contract with the Hal Roach Studio called for $250 a week, more than any other kid (even Jackie Cooper) was earning at that time. His replacement was Matthew Beard.
Later years and death
After leaving the gang, Hoskins got some small roles in feature films, and had a vaudeville act with his sister Janie Hoskins, who was also a member of the gang. After serving in World War II, Hoskins started to drift away from performing and retired his stage name. In a 1950s televised reunion of the Our Gang cast, Hoskins explained why he abandoned acting: “I preferred a job that allowed me to eat regular.” He eventually had a successful career helping disabled young people with drug problems and mental illnesses at Los Angeles area medical centers.
Allen Hoskins died of cancer on July 26, 1980, several days shy of his 60th birthday.