Changes of Time: The Stereotypical Images of Blacks on Television

Ever since television began in 1939, African Americans have been portrayed as
maids, servants or clowns. These negative perceptions started to appear in sitcoms
such as in Amos and Andy, who were the stereotypical backs who never took things
seriously. All those views changed during the 1970's when black sitcoms were
becoming more reality based. Although blacks have been, and often still, portrayed in a
negative way on TV, there has been some improvement of stereotypical images of

African Americans on television.

There were five stereotypical roles of blacks between 1940-1970; the Tom,

Coon, Mammie, Tragic Mulatto, and the Buck (Gray "Recognizing"). The tom was
always insulted, but kept the faith and remained generous and kind. The coon (most
used image) was always lazy, unreliable and constantly butchered his speech. The
mammie was more distinguished than the coon only because of her sex. She was
usually big and plump and full of heart. The tragic mulatto was fair-skinned, trying to
pass for white. Always well-liked and believed that their lives could have been better if
they were not biracial. The last stereotype was the buck. He was the big, oversexed
black man (Gray "Recognizing").

In the late 1960's, there were shows like I Spy and The Flip Wilson Show that
had blacks starring in it. After, starting in 1971, shows were popping everywhere with
black casts ("Changing Image" 76). Sanford and Son appeared on NBC in January 14,

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1972, to replace another show (Booth 26). The show took place in South Central

California, where Fred Sanford and his son Lamont lived and owned a junk yard. Fred
was satisfied with his little business . However, Lamont, wanted something bigger and
better. Fred would do anything to keep his son from abandon him and the business.

Every time Lamont threatened to leave, Fred would do his famous act and fake a heart
attack and start moaning to his late wife, I'm coming, Elizabeth, I'm coming. Lamont
never fooled by his father's scheme, but he did love him and, despite what he said
about his future, really wouldn't have leave him ("Network and Cable"). They were
rated the 6th most popular show during the 1971-72 season, and 10th during the

1976-77 season. The stereotype was still there, but realistic views were appearing on
the show of realistic lives of black men.

After Sanford and Son cam on air, others followed. Good Times appeared on

1974 (Ingram ?Good Times") Florida and James Evans were lower middle-class
blacks, with their three children in a high-rise ghetto on the south side of Chicago. J.J.,
an amateur painter, was the oldest, Thelma was a year younger than he, and Michael
was five years younger than she. James, who was always in and out of jobs, made
their lives difficult at times, but there was always plenty of love in the family. The
famous catch phrase from J.J ,Dy-No-Mite became very popular in the mid 1970s
(Ingram "Good Times"). During the first season, Good Times was the 17th most
popular show ("20 Most"). Many black families related to them. This was the first
black show that had controversial issues such as gun control, murder, and drug use
("Network and Cable"). These were topics previously unexplored on television. Good
times was one of the most original shows on television its time.

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The Jeffersons were seen often on All in the Family from 1972-1975. The

Jeffersons was an extremely popular TV show from the 70s and 80s. It was about a
black family making it to the top in New York City. George Jefferson, was a successful
dry-cleaner, with seven stores. He and his wife Louise, or "Weezy", started out with
nothing, living with George's mother. They moved to a house in Queens once George's
business hit big. As he became more successful, they moved, with their son Lionel, into
the famous dee-luxe apartment in the sky,. They decided they needed a maid, and
hired a black maid. Her wise-cracking humor made the show that much better. The
best friends of the Jeffersons were the Willises, an interracial couple ("Network and

Cable"). The Jeffersons had in its show what no other show had. Many other shows
had a few episodes with interracial relationships, yet, The Jeffersons had a interracial
couple as supporting actors on the show. There were funny episodes, light episodes,
and ones that almost made you cry. The Jeffersons wasn't just a comedy. It was a
show that taught America, and especially blacks, that if the tried, they could achieve
anything.