While there’s a myriad of classic Black TV shows, one of my favorites is “My Wife and Kids” — an American sitcom that premiered in 2001 and follows the life of an upper middle-class Black family in Stamford, Connecticut. From witty banter to comedic relief and relatable topics, Damon Wayans arguably co-created one of the best shows in Black culture.
Before Hulu began streaming the series, I desperately searched high and low for a free link to watch it. With no luck, I was stuck with memories of late-night viewings and uncontrollable laughter. Now that it’s available, I’m reliving my childhood but also re-watching the series with a more mature lens. Aside from realizing Damon Wayans and Tisha Campbell are the perfect pair, one new aspect that I appreciate is the show’s depiction of a small Black-owned business. And not just any Black-owned business, but a successful one.
As a continuation of #NationalBlackBusinessMonth, we wanted to highlight our favorite TV shows that not only make us laugh, but inspire us too.
“The Jeffersons,” 1975-1985
You’ve heard the intro song a thousand times. You’ve seen George Jefferson’s famous wrist-cocked walk even more — if not on your own time, then certainly on your grandparents’. With a total of 11 seasons, “The Jeffersons” exemplifies where hard work gets us — in a deluxe apartment in the sky. As the wealthy owner of a dry-cleaning franchise in New York City, George Jefferson becomes successful enough to move himself and wife Louise Jefferson, from a modest neighborhood in Queens to a posh apartment in East Manhattan. They even hire a Black maid named Florence Henderson, who’s best known for her humorous comebacks. In-between rounds of laughter, “The Jeffersons” ultimately portrays a Black family who fruitfully upgrades and bears the benefits of their labor.
“The Jamie Foxx Show,” 1996-2001
Not only does this show feature Jamie Foxx — one of the most skilled and, in my opinion, underrated talents in entertainment — it shows a different take on entrepreneurship. It’s not often that we see Black-owned hospitality services, but we get to see it while watching this series. After fleeing Texas, Jamie stays at his uncle’s Los Angeles-based hotel, with aspirations of becoming a musician in Hollywood. Over the years, his Uncle Junior hosts numerous guests and events, all while building his family’s fortune and being an inspiration to others.
“Sister, Sister,” 1994-1999
Our favorite twins, Tia and Tamara Mowry, always serve beauty and brains on the hit show “Sister, Sister.” Centered around two long-lost adopted twins who accidentally unite in a mall, this show features not one, but two successful Black businesses. Ray Campbell is the owner of an upscale limousine service while Lisa Landry heads her own clothing boutique. While these companies differ in style and service, the adopted parents built a life of their own and are the bridge to many opportunities for their children — a goal most parents and parents-to-be aspire to achieve.
“Living Single,” 1993-1998
A personal favorite of mine, “Living Single” journeys through a group of five friends trying to find their way in the Big Apple. While every character holds a special place in my heart, Khadijah James gets the win from me — most likely because as a former magazine concentration major, I once had dreams of being the Black Carrie Bradshaw — or should I say, Khadijah James. As the owner, editor and publisher of Flavor Magazine, Khadijah highlights Black art, culture and talent and controls the narrative of her community. While she is never deemed wealthy, Khadijah embodies what it’s like to work with passion, purpose and drive and most importantly, for ourselves.
Other honorable mentions include “Smart Guy,” “Moesha,” “The Wayans Bros.,” “That’s So Raven,” “Martin” and one of our favored animated series, “The Proud Family.” They all model Black business success in different ways, with “Smart Guy” following an owner of a roofing company; “Moesha” showing a Black-owned café; “The Wayans Bros.” highlighting a Black-owned diner and newspaper stand; “That’s So Raven” showcasing a Black-owned restaurant; “Martin” depicting a Black-owned radio station; and “The Proud Family” portraying a father who keeps hope alive despite his continuous snack-based business rejections.
Why is showing Black success in the media important? Because it’s a form of positive representation. As a powerful form of communication, media introduces new ideas, is oftentimes a source of inspiration and influences how we see ourselves. And although these TV shows are just hints of reality in fictitious plots, they can be the catalyst to real-life entrepreneurship. Most importantly, they can be the activator to feeling worthy and capable of achieving success on our own terms.
Sierra Allen is an Atlanta-based writer who considers herself a creative by nature and storyteller at heart. As a Black culture enthusiast, she writes with purpose and passion while highlighting local and national community-centered topics.