February 8, 2023
Photo by: Bettmann/ Contributor
It’s vital to understand the past in order to make strides in the future!
As Black History Month continues, here’s another look at the evolution of Black sitcoms.
After the groundbreaking sitcom Julia ended, there was a lack of dialogue on racial issues and the lives of most Black Americans were not accurately portrayed on television.
This allowed sitcoms years later to explore heavier and more important social issues, such as racial differences, racism, and an accurate portrayal of the Black experience.
Throughout the 70s, we saw Norman Lear create smash hit shows such as Good Times, where the Black community was able to see themselves in the Evans family.
But with viewers being able to watch the Evans family pull their way through everyday struggles, discuss racial issues, financial struggles, and everyday life in the Chicago projects, Lear also faced heavy criticism. The pushback came as many people, including iconic actor John Amos, who played James Evans Sr., felt the program showcased stereotypical tropes.
After meeting with the Black Panthers Party and being inspired through a much-needed conversation, Lear created the show we all love to this day, The Jeffersons!
In 1975, we began to see a different portrayal of a Black family – one of wealth and status!
Fans fell in love with The Jeffersons for many reasons. Whether it’s because they loved the George Jefferson’s (Sherman Hemsley) bold personality, the banter between him and Florence (Marla Gibbs), or the Civil Rights movement’s impact on each of the characters, the show will always have a special place in our hearts.
The Jeffersons lasted for 11 seasons, making it the longest-running sitcom to feature a predominately African-American cast where we saw interracial couples. The show often offered viewers a new perspective on how topics of race were discussed unapologetically.
Let’s take a look at a pivotal moment that perfectly showcased how The Jeffersons tackled racism and racial issues!
In the episode “Sorry, Wrong Meeting” Tom decides to call a meeting of the tenants and invites George to attend after a spree of crime sweeps over Manhattan.
They are both unprepared for what they will see at the gathering – a Klu Klux Klan rally.
The KKK leader has a heart attack as he exchanged insults with George. George can revive him thanks to his training in CPR.
The man’s impressionable son chooses to reconsider his principles and his attitude toward Black people, but no one is ready for his father’s “display” of appreciation when he finds out that George saved his life.
Tell us your favorite moments from The Jeffersons? Be sure to share with us in the comments below!
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