A history of african american roles in television

Middle Passage Before the Atlantic slave trade there were already people of African descent in America. A few countries in Africa would buy, sell, and trade other enslaved Africans, who were often prisoners of war, with the Europeans.

A history of african american roles in television

The Mary Tyler Moore Show The Silent Force Now, in the second half of the s, there were more than two dozen programs featuring black actors as leading characters, or in prominent, regular supporting roles.

As in most of commercial TV, many of the series achieved limited success and were quickly canceled. Several programs, however, were ratings favorites and lasted for years. It is important, too, that relative to their counterparts in earlier decades, the shows in this period were practically free of racial stereotyping.

The above list indicates the scope of network programming featuring African-American stars in this Golden Age. As it affected the history of blacks in American television, the most crucial series in the latter half of the s was I Spy.


The program premiered in and co-starred Bill Cosby and Robert Culp. It was clearly intended to capitalize on the popular interest in espionage dramas created by Sean Connery's success in several James Bond feature films, and by The Man from U.

I Spy related the exploits of two secret agents operating around the world to protect U. This was because of the presence of Bill Cosby. I Spy was the first network dramatic series to star a minority actor.

Not since the demise of Harlem Detective in had television attempted to feature a black detective hero. It was seen, however, on other stations covering 96 percent of the country. The casting of Bill Cosby was a bold decision by producer Sheldon Leonard.

While Culp came to the series as a veteran television actor who had starred in a Western program of moderate success, Trackdown, Cosby was a story-telling comedian whose greatest exposure on TV had been on Johnny Carson's Tonight program.

Cosby was not only an unknown dramatic quantity, his role could have been played by a white man. Casting Cosby as Alexander Scott, the tennis trainer and traveling companion of Culp's character, fellow agent Kelly Robinson, broke the color line as had no series in TV history.

A history of african american roles in television

Cosby proved uniquely qualified for the part. His talent for subtle comedy was matched by a dramatic skill which allowed him to range with apparent ease between emotions of patriotism and self-doubt, romance and intrigue. Cosby was successful in the series. During the three seasons I Spy was on the air, he won three Emmy awards as the most outstanding actor in a continuing dramatic role.

And he was popular with audiences. According to a TVQ performer-study by the Home Testing Institute inCosby was one of the most popular stars in video—ranking first with children twelve to seventeen years of age, third with those eighteen to thirty-four years of age, and tying for eighth with the total audience.

Ironically, the program's ratings did not match Cosby's triumphs. Credit must go to NBC for maintaining the series for three years when its highest seasonal rating was twenty-ninth place, a position attained in its second year. During the other two seasons, it failed to finish among the top thirty-five.

As well as being the first network drama with an African-American star, I Spy was a landmark program for blacks in other respects. Alexander Scott was placed solidly beyond the borders of the United States, swept up in the dynamics of world affairs.

Breaking Barriers | Programs | Pioneers of Television | PBS

Often filmed in foreign locations, the weekly drama unfolded in places like Hong Kong, Kyoto, and Mexico City—and in countries like Morocco, Greece, and Italy. In one program shot in Greece, the picture of Bill Cosby walking amid the ruins of the Parthenon, symbol of the Western democracy first nurtured in ancient Athens, was a powerful testimony to the nature of the entire series.

For black and white viewers, it was an educational experience to see an African-American hero operating constructively abroad in the service of the United States. Cosby's character was always equal to his encounters with foreign agents, heads of state, beautiful women, and would-be-murderers.

Alexander Scott was a real, mature human character—able to feel and express emotions historically forbidden to black characters in mainstream entertainment media. In an early episode, Cosby actually kissed a Japanese woman, a revolutionary act that was well beyond the historic perimeters established for blacks in television.The representation of African Americans in media – speech, () found that African American television portrayals typically depicted the following stereotypic personality characteristics: inferior, stupid, comical, immoral, and dishonest"(pp).

The roles of African Americans in media has evolved over time. Feb 01,  · African Americans in Television is a three-part documentary that aired on TV Land in February for Black History Month.

Each part focuses on black talent's role in the development of one of three genres: variety, drama and comedy series/10(58).

Inside TV Land: African Americans in Television (TV Movie ) - IMDb

“Julia” starred African-American actress and singer Diahann Carroll in the title role, making waves as one of the first television shows to resist placing African-American characters in.

From stereotypical roles as maids and cooks to Academy Award-winning performances in blockbuster movies, African Americans have come . The Golden Age Of Blacks In Television: The Late s "Golden Age" is a term to label that period in the history of a nation, movement, artistic medium or the like during which its greatest achievements were realized.

African-American history is the part of American history that looks at the African-Americans or Black Americans in the United States. Although previously marginalized, African-American history has gained ground in school and university curricula and gained wider scholarly attention since the late 20th century.

The Golden Age Of Blacks In Television: The Late s