With iconic imagery and engrossing text, Black TV is the first book of its kind to celebrate the groundbreaking, influential, and often under-appreciated shows centered on Black people and their experiences from the last fifty years.
Over the past decade, television has seen an explosion of acclaimed and influential debut storytellers including Issa Rae (Insecure
), Donald Glover (Atlanta
), and Michaela Coel (I May Destroy You
). This golden age of Black television would not be possible without the actors, showrunners, and writers that worked for decades to give voice to the Black experience in America.
Written by veteran TV reporter Bethonie Butler, Black TV tells the stories behind the pioneering series that led to this moment, celebrating the laughs, the drama, and the performances we've loved over the last fifty years. Beginning with Julia
, the groundbreaking sitcom that made Diahann Carroll the first Black woman to lead a prime-time network series as something other than a servant, she explores the 1960s and 1970s as an era of unprecedented representation, with shows like Soul Train
, and The Jeffersons
. She unpacks the increasingly nuanced comedies of the 1980s from 227
to A Different World
, and how they paved the way for the '90s Black-sitcom boom that gave us The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
and Living Single
. Butler also looks at the visionary comedians--from Flip Wilson to the Wayans siblings to Dave Chappelle--and connects all these achievements to the latest breakthroughs in television with showrunners like Shonda Rhimes, Ava DuVernay, and Quinta Brunson leading the charge.
With dozens of photographs reminding readers of memorable moments and scenes, Butler revisits breakout performances and important guest appearances, delivering some overdue accolades along the way. So, put on your Hillman sweatshirt, make some popcorn, and get ready for a dyn-o-mite retrospective of the most groundbreaking and entertaining shows in television history.
"Washington Post pop culture writer Bethonie Butler is less interested in narrating how Black TV changed America (which it did) than in telling stories that 'center Black people and their experiences, without tethering those experiences to the white people in their midst.'"--Mark Anthony Neal, The Washington Post
"Butler looks back on television shows hosted by or starring Black entertainers in this amply detailed book...readers who fondly remember watching programs such as In Living Color and Everybody Hates Chris will especially enjoy this."--Anjelica Rufus-Barnes, Library Journal
"An intelligent, valuable resource...thoughtful book looks at how Black people have been portrayed on the small screen and how those depictions have both changed with and influenced the times."--Chris Rutledge, The Washington Independent Review of Books