Television shows starring black women have been few and far between on the Big 3 television networks, but that changed after the success of ABCs Scandal, which paved the way for a number of black women to appear on television. Learn which shows starring black predated Scandal and about the programs that followed. Seven such television shows make this list, spanning in time from 1950 to the present.
ABC sitcom “Beulah,” which started as a CBS Radio show, has the distinction of being the first network show to star a black actress. “Beulah” is about a maid who has a knack for fixing her employers’ problems. The legendary singer and Broadway star Ethel Waters was the first actress to play the lead role.
She left in 1951, and Oscar winner Hattie McDaniel and “Imitation of Life” star Louise Beavers filled in as “Beulah” until the television show’s cancellation in 1952. The show has faced wide criticism for perpetuating racial stereotypes about blacks, notably that black women are mammies who enjoy caretaking and nurturing whites.
NBC sitcom “Julia” broke ground in 1968 for being the first network show to feature a black actress in a non-stereotypical. In the comedy, Diahann Carroll plays a widowed nurse raising her young son. It marked one of the rare times the viewing public had the opportunity to see a black woman play a working professional rather than a domestic.
Still, “Julia” had detractors for ignoring the social realities blacks found themselves in during the turbulent 1960s. During this time racial turmoil and civil unrest engulfed countless black communities, not to mention economic and educational barriers. “Julia” ran until 1971. More »
ABC’s “Get Christie Love!” got its start after a television miniseries of the same name became a hit after airing in January 1974. Starring Teresa Graves as Christie Love, the show was about a female police detective who goes undercover to try to thwart a drug ring.
ABC’s “Scandal” debuted to much fanfare