June 14, 1939: "The Ethel Waters Show", a variety show, premiered on NBC. On The Ethel Waters Show, Waters along with the African American actresses Fredi Washington and Georgette Harvey performed a dramatic sequence from her hit play Mamba's Daughters. Also appearing, in various skits, were actors Philip Loeb and Joey Faye.
Above is a rare interview with Waters from 1972.
Ethel Waters, Hattie McDaniel and Louise Beaver all played the lead character in "The Beulah Show", a comedy series that ran on CBS Radio from 1945 to 1954, and on ABC Television from 1950 to 1952.
September 17, 1968, Diahann Carroll debuted in "Julia" and became the first Black woman to star in a role other than a domestic servant.
February 8, 1974, "Good Times" premieres starring Esther Rolle as the Evans family matriarch. The show ran until August 1, 1979.
January 7, 1982, "Fame" debuted starring Debbie Allen as dance teacher, Lydia Grant. Allen was also the series principal choreographer. Based on the 1980 movie of the same name, Allen earned two Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe for her television role.
January 18, 1975, "The Jeffersons" a spin-off of "Maude" premiered starring Isabel Sanford as the family matriarch. The show ran for 11 seasons and is credited as the second longest sitcom with a predominately Black cast.
October 29, 1981, "Gimme A Break" debuted starring Nell Carter as Nell Harper is the no-nonsense housekeeper and surrogate mother for police chief Carl Kanisky's children: Samantha, Julie and Katie. The Kanisky daughters need all the help they can get after their mother dies - because Carl isn't exactly in touch with his feminine side.
September 20, 1984, "The Cosby Show" centers on the lives of the Huxtables: obstetrician Cliff and his lawyer wife Claire, their daughters Sondra, Denise, Vanessa and Rudy, and son Theo. Based on the standup comedy of Bill Cosby, the show focused on his observations of family life. Although based on comedy, the series also addresses some more serious topics, such as learning disabilities and teen pregnancy
September 24, 1987, "A Different World" premiered as a spin-off of "The Cosby Show". The series originally centered on Denise Huxtable (Lisa Bonet) and the life of students at Hillman College, a fictional historically black college in Virginia. After the first season Debbie Allen joined the series as a head writer, producer and director. The show addresses issues such as rape, HIV/AIDS, Apartheid in South Africa and racism.
September 22, 1989, "Family Matters" premiered as a spin-off of "Perfect Strangers" and focused on the Winslow family and their neighbor Steve Urkel.
July 3, 1950: "The Hazel Scott Show", a variety program, premiered on the now defunct DuMont Television Network. The show aired three nights a week during the summer of 1950 as Scott was the first black woman to host a network show.
September 14, 1987, "Frank's Place" a series based on a college professor who inherits his fathers restaurant in New Orleans. The show, similar to the popular sitcom "Cheers" only ran for one season.
Airing from April 15, 1990-May 19,1994, In Living Color, was a sketch comedy television series created and written by brothers Keenen and Damon Wayans. The ground-breaking comedy helped launched the careers of Kim Coles, Damon Wayans, Tommy Davidson.
Airing from September 10, 1990 to May 20, 1996 on NBC, the series starred Will Smith as a teenager from West Philadelphia who moves to Bel Air, California to live with his wealth aunt and uncle. The show featured numerous celebrities including Nia Long, Tyra Banks (America’s Next Top Model) and Jenifer Lewis (Black-ish).
Airing from August 27, 1992-May 1, 1997, Martin, was a situational comedy on the FOX network. Based in Detroit and centered around the main character, Martin (Martin Lawrence), his girlfriend Gina (Tisha Campbell) the show became a fan favorite.
Airing from September 22, 1992-August 30, 1997, Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper, starred fan favorites Nell Carter (Gimmie A Break), Dawnn Lewis (A Different World) and Raven-Symone (The Cosby Show) and introduced audiences to actress Holly Robinson. The show aired on the ABC network and became a staple in the famous TGIF line up.
Airing from August 22, 1993 to January 1, 1998 on the FOX network, Living Single is the first sitcom created by a black woman, Yvette Lee Bowser. The series focused on the lives of four black women (Queen Latifah, Erika Alexander, Kim Coles and Kim Fields)
Airing from April 1, 1994 to May 23, 1999 initially on ABC in the TGIF lineup, Sister, Sister, starred identical twins Tia and Tamera Mowry as two twins separated at birth and reunited as teenagers. The series moved to The WB network during its third season and also featured Jackee Harry (227) and Tim Reid (Frank’s Place).
Airing from September 8, 1994 to June 25, 1998, New York Undercover, was co-created by Dick Wolf (Law & Order)
Airing from January 23, 1996 to May 14, 2001 Moesha is situational comedy series that aired on the UPN network and starred R&B singer Brandy Norwood as Moesha Denise Mitchell, a high school student living with her family in LA. The series also featured actresses Countess Vaughn, Yvette Wilson, Shar Jackson and Sheryl Lee Ralph.
Premiering March 17, 1998 on NBC, the series was canceled after six episodes but later picked up by The WB Network. For Your Love was created by Yvette Lee Bowser and centered around three couples and their relationships. The show featured Holly Robinson Peete as the lead and ran until August 11, 2002.
Airing from August 30, 1999 to May 10, 2004, The Parkers, is a spin-off of UPN’s The Parkers and follows the mother-daughter duo of Nikki (Mo’Nique) and Kim Parker (Countess Vaughn) as they attend Santa Monica College together.