African-American Television Writers: Breaking Barriers & Creating History

June 17, 2011  |  

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.


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  • REspect

    My admiration for Mrs. Rhimes quickly turned to jealousy and I'm not afraid to admit it! She MUST be doing something right! She has my dream career and was clearly focused enough to make it where she is. She will forever motivate me to keep moving in that direction until I get there.

    Black women need to stop shaking the booty in videos and start using the brain. We need more Shonda's!

  • Dave

    How about a show with an equal number of whites and blacks and focus on interaction of the two.

    • hezekiah

      What are you talking about you d*mn "uncle tom" are you even black, why should black people always have to be subservant to whites, when have they ever given a d*mn about negroes in the first place, loving some one that doesnt love you is expensive and it will leave you morally bankrupt.

  • As an aspiring screenwriter I find this feature to be so encouraging and educational. I had no idea there were this many AAs in television. Thank you so much, Mr.Gittens, for putting this together. Exceptional.

  • Raymond

    Since you are so successful in the television industry, why don't you put more than one or two black people in one program ? It seems to me that someone with your clout could get more black actors on the programs. It's just gets tiring to see television programs that are 90 percent white, all of the time. It's time for a change in that area. You can help, do your thing. Have a blessed day.

    • I agree 100%. It's why I never was interested in Grey's Anatomy. A black woman runs the show and yet the black characters are relegated to second class. McDreamy, McSteamy, Izzy and that Meredith. Rhimes uses color-blind casting to facilitate diversity, but that's like playing the lottery. You don't know who you'll get. Casting needs to be intentional. They need to specify "I want this character AA, Asian, Latino, etc.