Black Television Actresses Who Had Our Hearts Before Olivia Pope

October 4, 2013  |  



From Black Voices 

To see someone on television that looks like you is a powerful feeling. It’s a feeling one can take for granted if their image is the one that dominates the screen. Those on the opposite end of the spectrum, however, who never see themselves on TV, glorify and revere in that feeling, and in the fleeting moments where it comes to life.

One of those moments for black women came last year with the debut of “Scandal,” starring Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope. Washington’s role marked the first time a black woman has starred in a network television show since Diahann Carroll debuted in “Julia” in 1968 and Teresa Graves starred in “Get Christy Love” in the early 70s.

“I’d never seen a woman like this on television before,” Washington explained in a recent interview with The New York Times. “And I wasn’t even thinking about race or the fact that I’d never seen an African-American woman as the lead of her own network show, but I knew that this smart, sophisticated, powerful and vulnerable woman was a tremendous opportunity.”

Since the success of “Scandal,” a few shows have emerged starring black women, including “Deception” (now canceled), which starred Meagan Good and “Being Mary Jane,” set to premiere on BET in January. And while “Being Mary Jane” isn’t running on a network like the aforementioned shows, it’s of note in the discussion on the evolution of black women on television, because it strays from the predictable roles black women have had to portray over the years.

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