1. Rog on “What’s Happening”
Perhaps TV’s first Black nerd, Rog started the whole skinny black kid with glasses, but unlike later nerds, his geekiness wasn’t seen as an obstacle to authentic blackness.
2. Dwayne Wayne on “A Different World”
We never thought about it, but Dwayne is the 90’s re-imagining of Rog, just at a Black school. What was great was that as Dwayne became the central character, the show didn’t try to make him less geeky, just more mature.
3. Carlton Banks in “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”
Carlton’s nerdiness was born of something a little less jovial than glasses and awkwardness. His love for Tom Jones music and Bruce Springsteen-style dancing underlined the idea that Black nerds weren’t sufficiently Black, a key theme throughout the series.
4. Steve Urkel on “Family Matters”
Urkel is the defining Black nerd of our time. A return to the skinny guy with glasses, Urkel was essentially Jerry Lewis’ Nutty Professor as a young, Black kid. An inventor and scientist, Urkel’s brain power was typically seen as a plus even if his social skills were a major negative.
5. Troy on “Community”
Though initially introduced as a jock, Troy quickly turned into one-half of the Troy-Abed geek twins who loved things like Dungeons & Dragons, Doctor Who and other sci-fi geek staples.
6. Sam Dresden on “You’re The Worst”
In a meta-take on Donald Glover’s Childish Gambino rap persona, Sam is a highly-educated, craft-enthusiast who plays super-thug as part of a rap collective. Deeply sensitive and insecure, Sam plays tough for record sales.
7. J from “Awkward Black Girl”
The web series innovated by putting a Black woman in the geek seat, something you STILL don’t see that often — that is until Issa Rae’s “Insecure” hits HBO later this year.