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Blacks On Television: Amos & Andy

2300 words - 9 pages

Portrayal of African Americans on television is frequently a controversial topic. Throughout its rather brief history, television, in its programming, has skewed predominantly white, (Pringozy, 2007). This was clearer in the 1950s and early 1960s, and it even remained true throughout the 1970s, when television shows with mainly all African American casts became hits, (Strausbaugh, 2006). The success of The Cosby Show in the 1980s helped to improve race relations somewhat, or at least on television, (McNeil, 1996). Still, controversy continued, and still does to this day, as to which shows present negative stereotypes of African Americans and which ones do not, (Strausbaugh, 2006). Therefore, when talking about the history of African Americans on television, it is best to begin with the show that is widely considered to be the epitome of negative stereotypes of African Americans on television: The Amos and Andy Show, (McNeil, 1996). This paper will examine the portrayal of African Americans through two shows from two generations and the impacts both shows had on Black America; The Amos and Andy Show (1928) and The Cosby Show (1984).
The Amos and Andy Show began life as a radio show in 1928, (Rice, 2009). Two white dialecticians, Freeman Grosden and Charles Correll created the show, (Rice, 2009). Set in Harlem, The Amos and Andy Show was the story of Amos Jones (voiced by Gosden) and Andrew H. Brown (voiced by Correll), (Rice, 2009). The Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) reportedly paid Gosden and Correll one million dollars each in exchange for the rights to the show (Rice, 2009), and they planned to make it into a television show. However, Gosden and Correll were both white, and the cast of the television show had to be African American, (Rice, 2009). Therefore, a national search was conducted over the span of four years, (Rice, 2009). The show finally debuted on June 28, 1951, (Rice, 2009). The television version, likewise to the radio version, proved to be a big success, and in fact rated 13th in the A.C. Neilson television ratings for the 1951-1952-television season, (Rice, 2009). However, as soon as the show debuted, it began drawing criticism from various organizations for its allegedly negative portrayal of American Americans, (Rice, 2009). An example of this criticism came from a bulletin issued by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) on August 15, 1951, entitled “Why The Amos and Andy Show Should be Taken Off the Air”, (Rice, 2009). Some of the accusations included “Every character in this one and only TV show with an all Negro cast is either a clown or a crook” (Rice, 2009), “Negro doctors are shown as quacks and thieves” (Rice, 2009), and “It tends to strengthen the conclusion among uniformed and prejudiced people that Negros are inferior, lazy, dumb, and dishonest” (Rice, 2009). Despite protests such as these, The Amos and Andy Show remained a hit until it ceased production in...

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