There are African-Americans who project the hit TV show Amos n Andy in a negative light. I completely disagree with this projection. When I was a young child my family watched Amos n Andy every week. The reason my parents watched the show was that it had the only all-black cast on television at the time and because it was funny. My siblings and I watched it because we only had one television. Aside from being funny, it also provided young black minds with positive images and role models like no other TV show at the time. As a black child, the Amos n Andy show was the only TV show where I could see black lawyers, black doctors, black educators, black businessman, black judges, black homeowners, black politicians, black actors who were not working for some white person in a subservient role. Also, the portrayal of black police officers treated black people like they were innocent until proven guilty. I can only imagine the impact these images had on the minds of the black youth in the New York City projects since the only professionals we saw were white. All of the businesses around our projects were owned by white people as well. So were the bus drivers, subway conductors, and motormen and all of the police officers who were hired to “protect” our projects and according to Perry Mason all lawyers, district attorneys and judges were white. For us to see successful black men and women we had to go to Harlem. This is where Amos n Andy lived.
Except for Diahann Carroll’s award-winning show titled “Julia”, the African-American predecessors on TV in the mid-1960s were Bill Cosby on “I Spy,” beginning in 1965, and a year later, Greg Morris In “Mission: Impossible” and Nichelle Nichols on the original “Star Trek.” In all three shows the African-American characters filled fantasy roles, two spies and a space traveler, no more real than the transporters that delivered Capt. Kirk’s crew from the Enterprise to alien planets.
Ted Turner once considered showing reruns of Amos n Andy on his TBS television network. The powers that be in the NAACP became so outraged they threatened to call for a national boycott of the TBS station if it aired reruns of the Amos n Andy show. This action convinces me that the NAACP was out of touch with the real advancement of people of color. Not only did the Amos n Andy provide much-needed role models for black youth but it also paved the way for black actors to get roles that were no longer subservient to white man or woman.
The NAACP had no problem with shows starring actors like Stepin Fetchit, who angered Langston Hughes and many others for this portrayal of blacks as lazy, shiftless and no account Negroes.
The NAACP also didn’t have a problem with Manton Moreland’s portrayal of Birmingham in the Charlie Chan TV movies. In every Charlie Chan movie, his number one son and Birmingham were isolated in some pitch-black area and the only thing the audience could see was Birmingham’s eyes and teeth.
Nor did the NAACP have a problem with Edmund Anderson’s role of Rochester, on the Jack Benny show, as he ran behind Jack Benny constantly saying “yes boss yes boss”. Jack Benny even omitted Anderson’s name from the cast so the audience would not think of him as an actor.
When I hear black people and black organizations speak about the negative image Amos n Andy betrays of black people I wonder why white people don’t feel the same way about the Marx Brothers or Three Stooges. It appears to me, the NAACP didn’t have a problem with black actors portraying Uncle Tom like characteristics, but when it came to providing black youth with positive images and role models the organization became outraged.
When the Amos ’N’ Andy show was airing, it was essentially the only place on American television where you could see dignified, intelligent and educated black people. The show was canceled in 1953 after becoming one of the most protested shows on television.