This is a list of some of the shows that make up the history of African American television. Here is where some shows rank as long running shows.
Shows that last for one season will not be added for there are too many to list. Although there will be some noteworthy exceptions.
Long Running Shows in African American History
Soul Train (1971-current) (Dance Show)
Soul Train has primarily featured performances by R&B, soul, and hip hop artists, although jazz musicians and gospel singers have also appeared. The program was created by Don Cornelius, who also served as its first host and continues to serve as its executive producer.
Oprah (Talk Show) (1986-2011)
The Jefffersons (1975-1986) (Comedy) (14 Emmy Nominations & 2 wins)
(1 spinoff-Checking In-1981)
The most successful spinoff of All in the Family. It featured George Jefferson living in a high rise apartment complex after he made it big with his dry cleaning business. Among his neighbors was the interracial couple, Tom and Helen Willis and Mr. Bentley. The series spawned one spinoff of the maid Florence and aired 200 episodes making it one of the few comedies to reach that milestone (and the first African American comedy to do so.)
Family Matters (1989-1998) (last comedy of the 80s to end)
(1 Emmy Nomination)
A spinoff of Perfect Strangers, this series feature Harriet Winslow and her family consisting of husband Carl, son-Eddie, Daughters Laura & Judy, sister-Rachel, Rachel’s son Richie and Mother Winslow. Eventually the Winslows would be terrorized by their neighbor-Steve Urkel, who was forever in love with Laura. The series was a staple of ABC’s TGIF for 8 of its 9 years. The series reached the milestone of 200 episodes in its final season on CBS, making it the second African American comedy to do so.
The Cosby Show (1984-92)
(1 Spinoff A Different World)
The longest running African American comedy not to start off as a spinoff. It is also one of two African American comedies to spawn a long running African American spinoff in A Different World. The show focused on the Huxtable family, an upper-middle class African-American family living in a brownstone in Brooklyn Heights, New York, at 10 Stigwood Avenue. The patriarch was the very playful, humorous, and fun-loving Heathcliff "Cliff" Huxtable, an obstetrician. The matriarch was his very eloquent, elegant, and assertive wife, attorney Clair (Hanks) Huxtable.
Different Strokes (1978-1986)
(3 Spinoffs- 1 unsold pilot Hello Larry & The Facts of Life)
This sitcom starred Gary Coleman as Arnold Jackson and Todd Bridges as his older brother, Willis. They played two African-American children from a poor Harlem neighborhood whose deceased mother previously worked for a rich white widower, Philip Drummond (Conrad Bain), who eventually adopted them. They lived in a penthouse with Mr. Drummond, Mr. Drummond's daughter Kimberly (Dana Plato), and their maid..
(1 spinoff The Game)
Became the first African American comedy in 10 year to be renewed for a 7th season. The series was UPN’s highest rated comedy following the end of The Parkers, It has been compared to HBO’s Sex in the City. This series followed the lives of four African American women in Los Angeles.
Sister, Sister (1992-99) (Comedy)
Real life twins-Tia & Tamara Mowery star in this series about sister separated at birth and reunited at a chance meeting. After a 2 year run on ABC, the series moved to the WB and was the only WB comedy to get a two year renewal for its rating success.
A Different World (1987-93)
The series started off a showcase for Lisa Bonet as her character Denise went to Hillman University (Which was really Spelman College) in Atlanta, Georgia. When Lisa Bonet left the series, it became a showcase for the remaining cast members and was a companion to it’s parent show-The Cosby Show. While it was a spin-off from the Cosby Show, A Different World typically addressed issues that were avoided by the Cosby Show writers (race and class relations, the Equal Rights Amendment. One episode that aired in 1990 was one of the first American network television episodes to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990-96) (Comedy)
Living Single (1992-98) (Comedy)
This series was originally called My Girls and that is why the cast is performing the song at the end of the pilot.
The Steve Harvey Show (1996-2001) (Comedy)
Moesha (1996-2001) (Comedy)
(1 Spinoff-The Parkers) (Developed for CBS, but aired on UPN)
It starred R&B singer Brandy Norwood as Moesha Mitchell, a high school student living with her family in Los Angeles. The show focused on the life of an upper middle class, African-American family through the eyes of a typical girl. Her father Frank, a widower and a Saturn car salesman, has married Dee, the vice-principal at Moesha's school, much to Moesha's dismay.
Sanford & Son (1972-1979)
(3 Spinoffs-Grady (pilot only), Sanford & Sanford Arms)
Good Times (1974-79)
227 (1985-90) (2 Emmy Nominations-1 win)
The series was adapted from a play written by Christine Houston about the lives of women in a predominantly black apartment building in 1950s Chicago. The setting of the series, however, was changed to present-day Washington, D.C.. The show was created as a starring vehicle for Marla Gibbs, who had become famous as the sassy maid, Florence Johnston, on The Jeffersons and had starred in Houston's play in Los Angeles.
Generations (1989-1991) (Longest Running Soap Opera)
This show was groundbreaking in that it was the first soap opera to have an African-American family on the show from its inception. The link between the Marshall and the Whitmore families extends back three generations to when Vivian Potter (Lynn Hamilton) and her young daughter Ruth (Joan Pringle) lived in the Whitmore mansion. Vivian worked as housekeeper and nanny for Rebecca Whitmore (Patricia Crowley, Dorothy Lyman) and her daughter, Laura (Gail Ramsey).
Committed to rising above her humble beginnings, Ruth grows into a savvy and enterprising woman. Her strength and determination to improve her position in life is fueled by her husband Henry Marshall (Taurean Blacque, James Reynolds). With the help of their longtime friend, Rebecca Whitmore, an attorney, Henry was able to finance his own business, Marshall's Ice Cream. With five stores, he now provides a prosperous life for his family and Vivian, who lives with them. Their three children are Chantal (Sharon Brown, Debbi Morgan), a lawyer; Jacquelyn Marshall Rhymes, a homemaker and mother; and Adam Marshall (Kristoff St. John), a college student.
Martin (1992-97) (Comedy)
(1 unsold pilot featuring Tichina Arnold)
The show revolves around a young disc jockey named Martin Payne (played by Martin Lawrence), who works for the fictional radio station WZUP, and his level-headed girlfriend Gina Waters (Tisha Campbell). A common theme of the series is Martin's derisive and brash nature; episodes are often centered on Martin's inconsideration towards his friends and neighbors
Hangin With Mr. Cooper (1992-97) (Comedy)
In the first season, the characters were Mark Cooper, Vanessa Russell, and Robin Dumars. They all lived as roommates in a house that was owned by Mark (Vanessa and Robin were the tenants). In the pilot episode, Mark got a job as a substitute teacher for a high school science class (though later in the first season, he got a job teaching physical education, which is what he wanted to teach). Mark was also a basketball coach for the school's teams. Robin was a music teacher at the same high school at which Mark taught. In the middle of the first season, the original landlord died, and the house was purchased by the parents of Tyler Foster, who were Mark's neighbors. After purchasing the house, Tyler's father told Mark, Vanessa, and Robin that they were allowed to stay in the house for 1 month. However, after Tyler told his parents that he liked Mark, Vanessa, and Robin, they decided to let them stay permanently.
In The House (1995-1999) (Comedy)
Marion Hill (LL Cool J) is a former professional football player with the Los Angeles Raiders. Because of his financial predicament, Marion is forced to rent out most rooms in his house to single mother Jackie Warren (Debbie Allen) and her two children, Tiffany Warren (Maia Campbell) and Austin Warren (Jeffery Wood). In subsequent seasons, Debbie Allen and Jeffery Wood exited the show and the series was restructured with Marion becoming the legal guardian for Tiffany because Jackie and Austin moved east.
Jamie Foxx (1996-2001)
Oscar Winner Jamie Foxx starred this series about him living in Los Angeles with his aunt and uncle at their hotel.
The Parkers (1999-2004)
It featured the outrageous mother-daughter team of Nikki (Mo'Nique Imes) and Kim Parker (Countess Vaughn). Nikki Parker was forced to drop out of high school to take care of her infant daughter. When Kim reaches adulthood, Nikki finally decides to go back to school. Spunky Kim Parker was initially mortified with this decision, because she had been accepted into Santa Monica College, the same junior college her larger-than-life mother will attend.
Soul Food (2000-2004-aired as 5 seasons) (Longest running Drama) (Based on the film of the same name)
Soul Food follows the triumphs, struggles, and rivalries of a tight-knit African-American family living in Chicago. The series picks up 5 months after the events in the film, as the family tried to hold together after the death of the Joseph sisters' mother Josephine (Irma P. Hall, reprising her role in flashback sequences), usually referred to as Mama, Mother Joe, or Big Mama.
My Wife & Kids (2000-2005)
The Proud Family (2000-2005)
Bernie Mac (2001-2006)
One on One (2001-2006)
(1 Spinoff Cutz)
Wild N Out (2003-current) (Sketch Comedy)
(1 spinoff Nick Cannon Presents: Short Circuitz)
Nick Cannon produced sketch comedy for MTV
The Parent Hood (1995-99)
The Wayan Brothers (1995-99)
In The House (1995-1999)
Half & Half (2002-2006)
Everybody Hates Chris (2005-2009) (Comedy)
The show revolves around the everyday life of Chris, a 15 year-old ninth grader. Chris is just an average boy (and one of the few 'normal' characters on the show), surrounded by a collection of crazy characters that act as if they "hate" him. Chris attends an all-Caucasian school with not only students who pick on him, but teachers as well, and lives in a dangerous neighborhood.. Like that of Wile E. Coyote--if things are going Chris' way throughout an episode as favorably as could be, they'll find a way to backfire on him during the episode (often by the end). If things aren't going Chris' way, things always manage to get worse for him, whether or not he tries to change the course of events.
The Hughleys (1996-2002)
Another ABC castoff that landed on UPN. It was ABC’s highest rated new series in it’s first year, however it was the last renewed that same season. The series moved to UPN after its second season.
Keenan & Kel (1996-2000) (Teen)
The show was set in Chicago and centred around the antics of two fun loving and mischievous teenagers, Kenan Rockmore and Kel Kimble. Kenan is a high school student with a job at a local grocery store, while Kel is his orange soda loving best friend. Kenan believes he can get anything he wants as long as he has two things: his friend Kel and his own home-made plan. Unfortunately, that lethal combination usually spells trouble for them both.
Malcolm and Eddie (1996-2000)
(1 unsold pilot-Daddio starring Coolio)
The Famous Jett Jackson (1998-2001) (Teen)
Static Shock (1999-2004) (Animated)
That's So Raven (2003-2006) (Teen) (Longest running Teen show starring an African American in the lead role)
(1 spinoff-Cory in the House)
All of Us (2003-2007)
The series, which was loosely based on creator and executive producers Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith's own blended family, revolved around Robert James (Duane Martin) a divorced TV entertainment reporter with a young son, Bobby (Khamani Griffin), and his fiancée, Tia Jewel (Elise Neal), a kindergarten teacher who helped him through the breakup of his first marriage. Robert shares custody of his son with his ex-wife Neesee (LisaRaye McCoy), with whom he shares a tenuously friendly relationship for the sake of their son. Robert also finds himself in a difficult situation, attempting to maintain the peace, however uneasy, between his ex-wife and his fiancée.
Julia (1968-1971) (Comedy)
Julia was a 1960s television series, best remembered as being one of the first weekly series to depict an African American woman in a non-stereotypical role. Previous television series featured African American lead characters, but the characters were usually servants. The show starred actress and singer Diahann Carroll. Carroll played widowed single mother Julia Baker (her fighter pilot husband had been shot down in Vietnam) who was a nurse in a doctor's office.
What's Happening (1976-1979) (Comedy) (Inspired by the movie Cooley High)
(1 spinoff What’s Happening Now)
What's Happening!! follows the lives of three working-class African-American teens living in the Watts area of Los Angeles. The show stars Ernest Thomas as Roger "Raj" Thomas, Haywood Nelson as Dwayne Nelson, and Fred Berry as Freddy "Rerun" Stubbs. Co-starring are Danielle Spencer as Roger's little sister, Dee; Mabel King as Roger and Dee's mother, Mabel; and Shirley Hemphill as Shirley Wilson, a waitress at "Rob's Place", the boys' favorite restaurant. Recurring characters include Diane Harris (Debbi Morgan), an attractive girl; Rob (Earl Billings), owner of Rob's Place; and Miss Collins (Fritzi Burr), a sarcastic history teacher and the sponsor of the school newspaper.
Fat Albert & The Cosby Kids (1972-1974-new episodes made only) (broadcast run on CBS 1972-1985) (Cartoon)
What's Happening Now (1985-1988) (Comedy)
In the series, Roger "Raj" Thomas (played by Ernest Thomas) had become a fledgling writer. He had bought half of the restaurant Rob's Diner (renamed Rob's) and he was running the business with Shirley (Shirley Hemphill), making money for himself and his new wife Nadine (Anne-Marie Johnson), who was a social worker. Dwayne (Haywood Nelson) had become a computer programmer, and Rerun (Fred Berry) had become a used-car salesman. Raj lived in the same house he grew up in, while Dwayne and Rerun shared an apartment. The antics and sarcastic one-liners were reminiscent of the first series. Raj's little sister Dee (Danielle Spencer) showed up on a sporadic basis in guest spots, with the explanation that she had gone away to college.
Jesse Jackson Show (1990-1993) (Talk Show)
Cosby (1996-2000) (Comedy)
Smart Guy (1996-99) (Comedy)
The Journey of Allen Strange (Teen) (African American in the title role only) (1997-2000) (7 Novels)
A young Xelan alien is trapped on earth, and changes his name to Allen Strange after meeting up with a young girl and her family. This family eventually adopts him. Allen has extraordinary powers, including the ability to turn into his alien form, which allows him to hover. He uses his abilities to bring a mannequin in a sporting goods store to life; this "animated mannequin" serves as Allen's Earth father, Manfred. He also possesses extremely high intelligence and can read incredibly fast by simply placing his hand on the cover of a book. Allen has an affinity for canned cheese, and lives in the family's attic in a strange alien cocoon.
Allen states he has "chosen" to be African-American when confronted with the task of blending in with society. His naivety on the subject (bringing in plain black poster boards for his Black History Month presentation) sparked a Black History Month episode, featuring Allen learning information about slavery and The Civil Rights Movement.
Cousin Skeeter (1998-2001) (Teen)
It starred Robert Ri'chard as Bobby, a young boy, whose life is flipped turned upside down when his strange cousin Skeeter comes to live with his family. With Skeeter's help, Bobby learns life lessons and tackles the general ups and downs of growing up. The show also included Meagan Good as Bobby's "girlfriend" Nina, Rondell Sheridan as Bobby's father Andre, and Angela Means as Bobby's mother Vanessa. Skeeter is portrayed by a puppet with Bill Bellamy providing his voice. Within the show, Skeeter is treated like a regular human and no mention of him being a puppet is made.
Romeo! (2003-2006) (Teen) (1 Novel)
When you've got a rapping, record producing dad, two brothers and a sister to deal with, life can be pretty crazy. Aspiring rapper and middle school b-ball star Romeo Miller never loses his cool. Well, almost never. Music holds the Miller family together, and no matter how much they argue or get on each other's nerves, they always end up in harmony. Well, almost always...
The Game (2006-2009)
Tyler Perry's House of Payne (2006-current)
Cedric The Entertainer Presents (2002-03) (Sketch Comedy)
Between Brothers (1997-99)
The Jackson 5 (1971-1973) (Animated)
The Jackson 5 lend their voices to this animated series of their fictional adventures.
The Bill Cosby Show (1969-1971)
Getting By (1993-94) (Comedy)
Sparks (1996-98) (Comedy)
Sparks is a comedy-sitcom that aired on UPN from August 26, 1996 to March 2, 1998. It was created by comedian Bob Moloney and Bruce Johnson, and was directed by Stan Daniels. This series starred actors James Avery, Robin Givens, Terrence Howard, and Miguel A. Núñez Jr.. The sitcom is set in Compton, California, and is about the every day lives of an African-American family of lawyers running a family owned law practice.
Getting Personal (1996-98)
City of Angels (1999-2001)
The Nick Cannon Show (2002-2003) (Teen)
Steve Harvey's Big Time (2003-2005)
One Season Wonders
Barefoot in the Park (1970-1971)
Baby I'm Back (1978)
One in a Million (1979)
Charlie and Company (1985-86)
Sugar & Spice (1987)
Jackee takes her Sandra Clark character form 227 for this short lived spinoff series. She is now the manager of a health club.
Royal Family (1990-91)
The Royal Family was about Atlanta mailman Alfonso "Al" Royal (Redd Foxx) and wife Victoria (Della Reese), who were anticipating peaceful retirement years, until marital problems brought an extended visit from their daughter (Mariann Aalda) and her three children (Larenz Tate, Sylver Gregory, and Naya Rivera).
New Attitude (1990)
Here and Now (1993-94)
Rhythm and Blues (1993-94)
Brandy's first show and had the ratings for a second season, but was canceled in favor of a low rated white show.
Me and The Boys (1993-94)
Steve Harvey's show that finished 21st in the ratings. It was also the last series done by Marge Sinclair (Roots).
Minor Adjustments (1996-1997)
Goode News (1996-97)
Gregory Hines Show (1997-98)
All About the Anderson (2003)
Second Time Around (2004-2005)
Nick Cannon Presents: Short Circuitz (2007) (Sketch Comedy)
A Little bit Strange (1989)
The Boys (1991)
The Last Days of Ernest (1993)
Kid and Play detective show (1994)
Deon Richmond show (1994)
Keepin It Real (1997)
Da Brat tv show (1998)
Daddio (1999) (aired as an episode of Malcolm & Eddie)
Saving Jason with Bow Wow (2003)