Where are the African Americans in TV's historical dramas?

By Ricky Riley,

After watching Mad Men and thinking about the premiere of Copper, I realized that these dramas are about race relations but we, the viewer, only see the perspective of one race all the time. I am an African American male who likes television and movies (on occasion). In my spare time, I watch TV and movies can be expensive on a college student’s budget. I enjoy a wide array of shows; most of the shows are cop dramas such as Luther and Sherlock or mysteries.

Historical dramas tend to be tricky. They are from the point of view of the majority not the minorities that are suffering and experiencing the most from the events. I will talk a little about Mad Men and Copper in that regard.

Mad Men

I have been watching this show from the third season onward. It is a slow grind of a show with various degrees of complex characters. On occasion, historical events are mixed into the show’s narrative on such as the assassination of MLK on this week’s episode. For one hour we, the viewer, saw how the main characters were affected by this but not one African American character. The reason for this is that there is only one African American character and she is not on the show often. The problem I have with this show is that there is not an African American perspective; even though the show takes place in 1960s, a racial climax in our history.


This show is a fantastic drama. It might be one of the best historical dramas on TV right now. After watching the first season, I anticipate a lot of great things from its second. Even though the show takes place in the 1860s, there is an African American perspective that is present throughout the entire series. Doctor Matthew Freeman and his family are feature a lot. He constantly is involved with the plot and development of major events of the story. We see that racial tensions of Five Points affect his wife and his profession.

I can complain a lot about TV, but I do enjoy both of these shows. I feel if you have a show about race tensions in America, you should probably have characters of that race in the show on a frequent basis. What do you think?

image: Tumblr



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