Ethel Waters. Juano Hernandez. Frank Silvera. Eddie (“Rochester”) Anderson. James Edwards. Lillian Randolph. James McEachin. Madge Sinclair.
These are just some of the names that populate Donald Bogle's masterful chronicle of the five decades of African-Americans on the small screen. The book covers the humble beginnings (Ethel Waters in an experimental 1939 broadcast and the controversial “Amos and Andy” from the early 50's) to the current fare of the late 90's and the present. Stars like Bill Cosby, Flip Wilson, and Redd Foxx are shown as trendsetters that lay the groundwork for many of the successes of Blacks on the tube in later years. The turbulent barriers that many African-American artists had to overcome in order to just be seen are vividly documented in this remarkable volume.
Bogle offers eloquent commentary on the times as they determined changes in the television industry and how networks were influenced by those times.
Award-winning productions like “Roots” and “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” are thoroughly covered by the author; he also cites African-Americans that have had successes behind the camera, as well.
There are few books on television history as entertaining and insightful as this one.
This report prepared by Reginald D. Garrard