When Bill Cosby hit the television scene in about 1965, in the thriller, "I Spy", he was an instant star, and when he later created the Huxtables, he was a super star. His role as Dr. Huxtable married to a Black female lawyer, quietly influenced thousands of Black youth with the realization that they could be anything they wanted to be.
"Other than the Roots
No marches, no demonstrations, no riots, just a great weekly demonstration of life in an American family that happened to be Black and successful. Then came Oprah whose talk show was probably not supposed to last but became the number one talk show in the land. She out shone television show host, Phil Donahue, and her ratings soared. She's had the good business sense to purchase her shows to start her own Oprah Winfrey Network.
By adding shows such as Iyanla Vanzant ("Iyanla Fix My Life"), and Tyler Perry ("The Haves and Have Nots", "Love Thy Neighbor", "If Loving You Is Wrong"), and guests like Bill Cosby, Steve Harvey and TD Jakes, she proved, once again, to the world that we (Black folks) can succeed in this venue. A few years ago, I heard an Asian woman on a television show answer the question of who would be the greatest Civil Rights leader of the 21st Century. Her answer was Oprah Winfrey. I first thought, she's just being cute. Now I get it!
As a note: Robert Johnson created BET before OWN was thought possible. Johnson can be credited with fast–tracking the careers of stars like Steve Harvey and Cedric the Entertainer. But he also highlighted the Rap movement and the often degradation of Black America.
Shonda Rhimes is the latest Black star-maker of television. As Executive Producer of three Thursday night television shows, Scandal, starring Kerry Washington, Greys' Anatomy, with Dr. Miranda Bailey, and the latest, "How to Get Away with Murder", starring Viola Davis from "The Help" fame.
Other than the Roots series, no other Black writer or producer has created shows that have had such an impact on America as these three television figures. Together, they changed the world and how the world saw Black people.
It's true that we also saw the Hip Hop and Rap industry try to replace Rhythm, Blues Rock and Roll, and other Black music. That didn't happen. What did happen was there became two worlds, as it comes to defining Black music. There is Gladys Knight, Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers, and the whole Motown phenomena. Then there's Jay Z and Snoop Dogg who will never have the lifetime broad appeal of the giants of the sixties, like Etta James, James Brown and Whitney Houston, to name a few.
We are waiting and watching to see who the next Black television icon will be. I am sure that it will be another life changing period in the life and times of America's relationship with Black America.