Before his shameful fall from grace, Bill Cosby redefined the role of Black fathers on television.
Cosby's portrayal of Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable on The Cosby Show was groundbreaking. Cliff's occupation as a doctor was a refreshing departure from blue-collared blowhards like Fred Sanford and entrepreneurs with a Napoleon complex like George Jefferson.
Today, the role of the Black dad on a sitcom is essential to its success. Not only do they have to provide for their on-screen families, but they all do so in their unique way while helping to counteract the negative stereotype of real-life Black fathers.
Let's dive into a list of our favorite Black dads from TV.
Steve Urkel and Carl Winslow
When he wasn't having a near-death experience courtesy of his nerdy neighbor, Carl was a devoted husband and a protective parent. He was an exemplary cop, and his protection and guidance also extended to Steve despite destroying Steve's tendency to destroy the Winslow house and injure Carl.
James Evans Sr.
James and Florida Evans
Norman Lear's sitcom, Good Times, follows a poor Black family living in Chicago during the '70s. James Evans Sr. (John Amos) and his wife Florida did the best they could with what they had to raise their three children.
As the patriarch of the Evans family, James did whatever was necessary to provide for his kids. He worked every available job no matter how low paying or temporary it was. Independent of being a provider, James believed his children were capable of great things and supported each of their endeavors.
Unfortunately, John Amos' real-life firing from the show saw his character killed off in a car crash at the beginning of Good Times fourth season.
Tia and Tamera and Ray Campbell
Ray Campbell (Tim Reid) doesn't get the respect he deserves as a TV dad. He owned a successful limousine business and let the mother (Jackee Harry) and the sister of his adoptive daughter (Tia & Tamera Mowry) move in with him after discovering each other at a mall.
Unlike most fathers, Ray didn't possess the overbearing dad gene. He reacted as any father would confront the challenges of parenting teenage girls. Whenever the twins landed in hot water, he was always there to pull them out.
Janet Kyle, Michael Kyle Jr., and Michael Kyle Sr.
Damon Wayans knows a few things about family dynamics. He is from one of the largest and most famous families in entertainment. His wealth of knowledge came in handy playing Michael Kyle on the ABC series, My Wife and Kids.
Instead of using the direct approach disciplining his kids, Michael and his wife Jay used elaborate pranks to teach their children a lesson. The cliche stern parental lectures were reinforcements to his unorthodox style of parenting.
T.J and Floyd Henderson
Floyd Henderson (John Marshall Jones) is the dark horse of this list. Smart Guy might not be as celebrated as other Black sitcoms, but Floyd's efforts raising a child prodigy (Tahj Mowry) warrants some credit.
Outside of raising three children as a single father, Floyd owned a roofing business and took a vested interest in his genius son adapting to life as a 10-year-old high schooler. And as far as TV dad lectures go, he's a top contender.
John "Pops" Williams
Pops, Marlon, and Shawn Williams
John Witherspoon's passing was a devastating loss to Black Hollywood. His understated comedic genius and trademark "Bang! Bang! Bang!" catchphrase helped to endear him to his fans and colleagues.
As Pops Williams on The Wayans Bros., Witherspoon's colorful personality and wardrobe delighted audiences on primetime in the '90s. His chemistry with his on-screen sons, Shawn and Marlon Wayans, was so natural that the idea of him being their biological father didn't feel farfetched.
Philip Banks and his newphew Will
When he wasn't the subject of his nephew's fat jokes, Philip kept his money-hungry children out of his wallet and his troublesome nephew out of trouble. Will's rambunctious behavior may have aggravated his uncle, but it never stopped Philip from being the father-figure he desperately needed.
Not only did The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air make Will Smith a bonafide superstar, it gave us arguably the most popular Black TV dad of all time.
Did we leave out your favorite funny father?
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