Black Power TV

Oct 3, 2013

When you turn on your television set today, you're bombarded with all kinds of shows - sitcoms, reality shows, news, sports, and political debates. And, you’ll probably see a lot of different kinds of people. Today, television is culturally diverse, but it wasn't always so. African Americans didn't really have a strong television presence until- well, what's the first black TV show you remember?

What made shows like The Jeffersons, The Cosby Show, Good Times and Sanford & Son possible was a movement that started in the late 1960s. After the assassination of Martin Luther King, black people wanted a voice, and were producing shows on public television to express their political views and concerns of the time.

A new book, Black Power TV, by Devorah Heitner chronicles the birth of these programs, what they were meant to do, and what they turned out to be.  Heitner is author of Black Power TV, and Jewelle Gomez is a San Francisco based author and former producer for Say Brother.

They spoke to KALW’s Hana Baba.

Jewelle Gomez remembers her first day on the set of Say Brother, “When I arrived for the first day of work and the director was black, the producer was black, other staff members were all African American, I realized it was something revolutionary happening because you never saw black people on television unless they were doing reruns of Amos ‘n Andy.”

To hear more, listen to the full interview.