BY Stephen Nartey, 4:30pm December 16, 2022,

Why the once most loved American sitcom Amos ‘n’ Andy failed after featuring Black actors

Amos n Andy show/ Photo credit: Wiki

The Amos ‘n’ Andy show was one of the magazine programs that attracted huge listenership in the mid-1900s on NBC radio. It initially aired in the night but as its following grew, the producers made it a weekly comedy show until 1955.

According to Britannica, the Amos n Andy show was an adaptation of a 1926 radio program called Sam n Henry. The show fed in on the racial stereotypes during the 1900s, with its main characters being two white entertainers from the late 1920s to 1951.

The two white entertainers, Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, created and wrote the script for the first ten years of the show. It was first aired in 1928 on the Chicago radio station, WMAQ. Gosden was cast as Amos, who portrayed himself as a diligent and deep young Black man, while the role of Andy was played by Correll, who was framed as a lazy and carefree African American. During this period, white actors performing in blackface was a tradition in American theater.

The main characters of the show dwelled on everyday language that stereotyped Black folks and framed their character traits in line with long-held racial views about people of African descent in the 1800s. In 1951, Amos ‘n’ Andy came to television. The practice of blackface had declined so African-American characters replaced the white actors. Alvin Childress and Spencer Williams, Jr. played the role of Amos and Andy. It became the first TV series to feature an all-Black cast.

However, the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) criticized the show over the deliberate promotion and entrenchment of derogatory stereotypes about African Americans. This compelled CBS to take the show off its screens in 1953 because many of the sponsors have withdrawn their support due to bad publicity.

Author Melvin Patrick Ely, who wrote on the sitcom’s history in the context of the American phenomenon, said that the show highlighted very sensitive themes that many Black people didn’t find comfortable. He said it was one of the reasons the show collapsed despite its huge following in the 1900s, according to the New York Times.

He said what producers, Gosden and Correll, did was amplify sentiments white communities have held about African Americans being perceived as ignorant. This may have driven the NAACP to be vociferous in their condemnation of the stereotypes being propagated by Black actors.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: December 16, 2022


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