African-American Television Writers: Breaking Barriers & Creating History
By Olufunmilayo Gittens
As African-Americans, we watch more hours of television per week than any other group. But have you ever wondered who the black folks are that script the shows we love? Despite the less than stellar representation of blacks at pitch tables and in writers rooms, there are a number of important African-American TV writers and writer-producers who are making huge moves. Many were inspired by those who came before them, who are also worth remembering as we illuminate the history of blacks writing for TV. These hidden blacks writers are behind the many shows you make time to watch, and have penned some of your favorite hits of the past.
The Grande Dame: Shonda Rhimes
Being the black writer-creator-executive producer of two wildly successful predominately white shows on prime time TV and earning gobs of money for her network aren’t the only things that make Shonda Rhimes known and respected among her peers: it’s also her voice and her integrity. When Rhimes’ breakout hit “Grey’s Anatomy” came on the scene with its handsome doctors, first person narration, quotable dialogue and color blind casting, the show stood out as a winner. Grey’s Anatomy won the adoration of millions of fans worldwide and, now in its seventh season, spun off “Private Practice,” a successful series four seasons running. Rhimes is also executive producing “Scandal,” a dramatic series starring Kerry Washington as a public relations crisis solver.