I am aware that Pleasantville 1998 showcases the golden age of American TV shows back in the 50s, and this question wouldn't have been asked if the movie didn't depict/hint/symbolized some sort of racism between the "grey" people and "colored" people. (what with the sign NO COLORED ALLOWED, and so on).

I know that casting African-Americans in Pleasantville would complicate the story because of the segregation between "grey/colored" people, and I can understand that if they were added, they would need to weave them into the story in a not-so-straight-manner.

But the question is: was it uncommon for TV shows of that era to cast actors that are African-Americans?

2 Answers 2


It was not uncommon, but typically blacks were shown as comic relief characters(sometimes stereotypes were also seen as comedy, such as "jive" talking"), and they were also shown as servants. They were portrayed as one dimensional characters and never played any main leads or roles. The same with native Americans or Asians. They are also always seen as happy or having a great time with white characters, which I think pleasantville is satirizing. While the tv shows didn't portray racist remarks, the show was clearly making fun of them making them only wacky comedy characters or servants, anything below the white character of the show. White washing during television at this time gave an unrealistic view to people as well, making it seem like whites dominated a world with no other ethnicities, and that other ethnicities are usually hard laborers, servants, or the "wacky" neighbor. The 60s and 70s started revolutionizing television once shows such as the Jefferson's were aired.

  • Yes, prior to the 60’s, Blacks were only given ancillary, side roles as stereotyped characters. It wasn’t until the 60’s that mainstream black actors like Sydney Poitier were invited to the table. In the 70’s, black actors were moving on up with tv sitcoms like the Jefferson. But, it took another 40 years until blacks finally got a piece of the pie as mainstream actors, directors, and producers.
    – Dean F.
    Jun 16, 2020 at 22:26

I know of one example of a US television series from the 1950s which had a mostly black regular and guest cast.

The Amos 'n Andy Show on CBS from 1951-53 was based on a radio show that ran from 1928 to 1960.

And I cant think of other examples of black regular or guest cast. Someone else will have to say how rare or common that was overall.

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