Black history is not limited to the what we learned in school classrooms. Although Langston Hughes, Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, and Rosa Parks play vital roles in shaping Black history, there are many other things that have largely impacted Black culture. For your entertainment, and education, we put together the below list of television shows — in no particular order — that celebrate Black culture, Black love, and shed light on the deep history of racism.
Everybody Hates Chris (Streaming on Peacock)
The brilliant comedy, follows around young Chris Rock’s childhood in the iconic Brooklyn Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. We watch as Rock tries to gain respect at school and at home. His parents are tough on him, and as the eldest child, it seems like he is always trying to get the attention and praise of his little brother Drew, onto him. The show does a very good job displaying race and class in America.
The Proud Family (Streaming on Disney+)
Disney’s first animated series about a young Black girl, named Penny Proud, was a cartoon with vocals by Solange and Destiny’s Child. We see Penny interact with her close-knit family, and friends. Similar to 14-year-old girls today, she often gives into peer pressure and has ups and downs with her close friends.
The Bernie Mac Show (Streaming on Hulu)
The confessional commentary from the late (and great) Bernie Mac talking to “America” in The Bernie Mac Show is brilliant. In the show, Mac takes his sister’s kids after she has just gone to rehab. The show then follows Mac and his wife Wanda adjusting to parenthood.
Comedian and actor Martin Lawrence, played a radio personality in Detroit in Martin. We get to see Martin and Gina Waters (Tisha Campbell) relationship grow from arguments and jealousy to love.
Living Single (Streaming on Hulu)
A love letter to Black female friendships, Living Single was the original Friends. It was centered around four friends living in Brooklyn dealing with careers, relationships and inner struggles. Queen Latifah is a magazine editor-in-chief, who lives with her cousin Synclaire (Kim Coles) and friend Regine (Kin Fields). Maxine (Erika Alexander) is a bougie lawyer that lives close by but is never at her own home. The show does a great job at showing the highs and lows of living in New York.
Written by Ava DuVernay, Queen Sugar is set in Louisiana. The drama follows along Bordelon siblings: Nova, a journalist and activist; Charley, a business women; and Ralph Angel, an formerly incarcerated young father. The series discusses culture, gender, racial profiling, drug abuse, and the criminal justice system.
A Different World (Streaming on Amazon Prime)
The 1990s NBC sitcom is one of the best series anyone could watch to learn about Historical Black Colleges and Universities and the racism in America. A spin-off of The Cosby Show, A Different World portrays Hillman College, an HBCU filled with Denise Huxtable (Lisa Bonet), Whitley (Jasmine Guy), Lena (Jada Pinkett Smith), Dwayne (Kadeem Hardison) and Freddie (Cree Summer). Episodes touch on colorism, domestic violence, AIDS, relationships (both friendships and romantic) and biases. The show showed Black fraternities and sororities on a college campus, and students paying their way for their education, making it appear attainable for any minority.
The Fresh Price of Bel-Air (Streaming on HBO Max)
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air introduced Black royalty to American television. Viewers got to see how a wealthy Black family lives while still being in touch of what it means to be Black in America.
Insecure (Streaming on HBO Max/Hulu)
In the five years Insecure has been on, Issa Rae has shown fans what it looks like to be unapologetically Black while also touching on the gravity of mental health issues in the Black community, family relations, and friendship breakups.
Dear White People (Streaming on Netflix)
Based on Justin Simien’s 2014 movie, this Netflix series takes viewers around a predominately white university where there are a group of Black students. Samantha White, one of the students, has a podcast on the show that calls out microagressions and racist tactics of fellow white classmates. It is an entertaining series that also shows that getting a seat at the table doesn’t equate to fair treatment or belongingness.
Photo via Warner Bros.