Prime Time is My Time:

Spotlight on Hattie McDaniel

Four shows in,
    and not a colored face--
Not a black, or a Latina, an Asian or Indian--
So I turn to something more ethnic,
Something a little more like me
And it's funny
     that I can enjoy both,
But only the colorless gets the spotlight.
Then message boards condemn
     the all black cast
You want to cry foul
When the rest of the network is whiter than rice
And I miss the days of UPN...
Weird, as I think back:
My favorite TV shows are either white or black
Never both; so tell me:
Where does the post star
In post-racial America?

In 1925, Hattie McDaniel made history as the first black woman on the radio. In 1940, she continued to make history by becoming the first black to win an Oscar from her role as Mammy in Gone with the Wind [1]. After the death of Marlin Hurt in 1946, McDaniel took over the role of Beulah on Beulah, becoming the first black to be cast in a lead role for a television show [2]. Though McDaniel pioneered many firsts for black actors and actresses, many shows today are still either black shows, following in the vein of Amos 'n Andy (the first black sitcom) [3] or the black character (if any) is not a leading role. Sadly, many black sitcoms and black roles have come under fire for stereotypical behavior and their portrayal of the black community [5]. When Kerry Washington took the role of Olivia Pope in ABC's Scandal in 2012, she became the first black female lead on network television in 38 years [4] (Beulah also ran on ABC [2]). In 2013, NBC followed ABC's lead and cast Meagan Good as the lead in their new show Deception [6]. While some progress is better than no progress, America still has a ways to go in casting not only black actors/actresses in leading roles but minorities in general.


  1. "Hattie McDaniel". Biography; visited 2014
  2. "Beulah". Archive of American Television; visited 2014
  3. Edward. "The Tragedy of Famous Comedy Series". Ebony. October 1961
  4. Sarah Hughes. "American Television's Real Scandal". The Guardian. October 22, 2012
  5. * Jonathan P. Huggins. "Why Hollywood’s Portrayal of Black Women Is Problematic". The Root. November 24, 2016
  6. "IMDB: Deception". IMDB; visited 2014
*Original source (Miss Representin': the Historical Analysis of the Images of African-American Women in SitComs) has gone missing.


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