The Jeffersons was one of three programs of the period to feature African-Americans in leading roles–the first such programming since the cancellation of the infamous Amos ‘n’ Andy show in 1953. The Jeffersons was the first television program to feature an interracial married couple, and it offered an uncommon, albeit comic, portrayal of a successful African American family. Lastly, The Jeffersons is one of several programs of the period to rely heavily on confrontational humor. Along with All in the Family, and Sanford and Son, the show was also one of many to repopularize old-style ethnic humor.
Born Elinore Harris, Billie Holiday had a difficult teen and young adulthood period, which included working in brothels, both as a cleaning woman and a prostitute, and being raped. Through this difficulty, she dreamed of becoming a jazz singer. She got her initial singing break when she applied at a Harlem club that was looking for a dancer, but where she got hired as a singer. There, she met and fell in love with the suave Louis McKay. After this initial break, Billie wanted her singing career to move to the mainstream clubs in downtown Manhattan. She took a risk when she agreed to be the lead singer for the Reg Hanley Band, a primarily white group, who convinced her that she would have to make her mark in regional tours before her Manhattan dream could happen. As Billie tried to advance her career, pressures of life, including being a black woman, led to her not so secret substance abuse (especially of heroin), not so secret because of her increasingly erratic behavior, both on stage and off. As those around her, including Louis, worked to support Billie emotionally to get off drugs, Billie faced other issues, such as open narcotic use being a criminal offense, which in combination with the effects of the heroin use itself could be Billie’s downfall despite her singing talent.
One thing that I knew about Isabel Sanford: She is the the only Black woman to win the Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. (Which is a shame, hello Phylicia Rashad and Tichina Arnold)
One thing that I did not know about Isabel Sanford: She was 21 one years older than Sherman Hemsley, her George Jefferson. She was born in 1917, Hemsley was born in 1938.
ALSO, there is an age gap between George and Louise Jefferson’s counterparts, Florida and James Evans of Good Times, played by Esther Rolle and John Amos: Esther was 19 years older than John, who was just six years older than Jimmie Walker, who played oldest child J.J.
It was during his stage stint that he caught the eye of TV writer and producer Norman Lear, who reached out to Hemsley and asked him to star as George Jefferson in the sitcom “All in the Family.”
Hemsley was reluctant to quit the theater and held off on the role for two years before taking Lear up on the standing offer.
Although Jefferson was just a secondary character on the show, Hemsley’s comedic timing convinced Lear to develop a spin-off series titled “The Jeffersons” in 1975, allowing the actor to really shine on camera.
The program became one of Lear’s most successful projects and remains the longest-running sitcom with a predominantly black cast in U.S. TV history, airing from 1975 to 1985. […]
Viola Davis’s win is the first for an African-American actress in the drama category. In 1966, Bill Cosby was the first African-American actor to win an acting award in any category — an honor he won for three years in a row in the drama category for his role on “I Spy.” Isabel Sanford was the first African-American actress to win the Emmy for best actress in a comedy series, in 1981, for her role in “The Jeffersons.” And the first African-American actor to win best actor in a comedy series was Robert Guillaume in 1985, for his work on “Benson.” “The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity,” Viola Davis said. SOURCE: N.Y. Times