Sasha Torres examines the complex relations between the television industry and the civil rights movement as a knot of overlapping interests. She argues that television coverage of the civil rights movement during 1955-1965 encouraged viewers to identify with black protestors and against white police, including such infamous villains as Birmingham's Bull Connor and Selma's Jim Clark. Torres then argues that television of the 1990s encouraged viewers to identify with police against putatively criminal blacks, even in its dramatizations of police brutality.
Torres's pioneering analysis makes distinctive contributions to its fields. It challenges television scholars to consider the historical centrality of race to the constitution of the medium's genres, visual conventions, and industrial structures. And it displaces the analytical focus on stereotypes that has hamstrung assessments of television's depiction of African Americans, concentrating instead on the ways in which African Americans and their political collectives have actively shaped that depiction to advance civil rights causes. This book also challenges African American studies to pay closer and better attention to television's ongoing role in the organization and disorganization of U.S. racial politics.
Primetime Blues is the first comprehensive history of African Americans on network television. Donald Bogle examines the stereotypes, which too often continue to march across the screen today, but also shows the ways in which television has been invigorated by extraordinary black performers, whose presence on the screen has been of great significance to the African American community.
Bogle's exhaustive study moves from the postwar era of Beulah and Amos 'n' Andy to the politically restless sixties reflected in I Spy and an edgy, ultra-hip program like Mod Squad. He examines the television of the seventies, when a nation still caught up in Vietnam and Watergate retreated into the ethnic humor of Sanford and Son and Good Times and the poltically conservative eighties marked by the unexpected success of The Cosby Show and the emergence of deracialized characters on such dramatic series as L.A. Law. Finally, he turns a critical eye to the television landscape of the nineties, with shows such as The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, I'll Fly Away, ER, and The Steve Harvey Show.
Note: The ebook edition does not include photos.
During the 1990s, Classen conducted extensive interviews with more than two dozen African Americans living in Jackson, several of whom, decades earlier, had fought to integrate television programming. He draws on these interviews not only to illuminate their perceptions—of the civil rights movement, what they accomplished, and the present as compared with the past—but also to reveal the inadequate representation of their viewpoints in the legal proceedings surrounding wlbt’s licensing. The story told in Watching Jim Crow has significant implications today, not least because the Telecommunications Act of 1996 effectively undid many of the hard-won reforms achieved by activists—including those whose stories Classen relates here.