Black sitcoms have existed on television for decades now—The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air turns 30 in 2020!—, 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 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.
Television and movies with Black casts have only recently been embraced and given the opportunity to prove that they deserve a place in accessible media, but they’re already dominating pop culture. In the past couple of years, we’ve had black-ish, Moonlight, Get Out, and Black Panther, all of which have treated the Black community as an integral part of the world rather than an unfamiliar group to water down for white America’s consumption.
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. That being said, let’s take a look at what we consider to be the 30 best Black sitcoms of all time.