Black sitcoms have existed on television for decades now—The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is over 30!—and while they aren’t as universally appreciated as sitcoms with less diverse casts, they offer an in-depth presentation of what it’s like existing as a Black person in a world that doesn’t cater to us.
Casting aside traditional Black roles like service workers, maids, and other harmful caricatures, the Black sitcom has evolved into a relatable representation that wasn’t previously depicted. Recently, newer shows have cropped up and shone an even brighter light on the Black community—The Chi, Atlanta, and Insecure, to name a few—and allowed us to show the rest of America what Black culture and life is really like.
If we learned anything from HBO Max’s Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reunion special, it’s just as important to have a great crew in the writer’s room and working on these sitcoms as it is to have a dynamic cast. Series like What’s Happening!!, Roc, and 227 succeeded in capturing the real Black voice. Other series, like The Wayans Bros. and Martin were series where you just waited for someone like Pops to make you pee yourself laughing. Rest in peace, John Witherspoon.
There is a rich history of representation that has gotten us to where we are today. There are many shows, ranging from the ‘70s through the early 2000s, that have allowed us to achieve this level of representation, by capturing Black people in various lights and occupations. These shows have struck down the notion that their existence isn’t necessary and have finally begun to fill a huge void in entertainment—but that process is just getting started.
Though we still have a long way to go when it comes to an even playing field for both the payment and treatment of Black creatives in Hollywood, it’s undeniable that the surge in recent years can be attributed to these sitcoms. They provided the groundwork and paved the way for the newer generations to create shows and sitcoms that reflect who Black people are in this day and age. With that being said, let’s take a look at the 30 best Black sitcoms of all time.