From Publishers Weekly
The late 1960s and early '70s were a time of "hyperblackness" for American television, as networks began airing programs starring African-American actors and addressing, with varying degrees of frankness, the hot-button issues associated with the Civil Rights movement and the rise of Black Power. Acham, a UC-Davis black studies professor, looks at some of the period's programming to examine how the white-run networks tried to define contemporary black life and, more importantly, how black actors and writers sought to use television to communicate their own concerns. Her interest lies with more combative artists like Esther Rolle and Redd Foxx, who, she argues, presented accurate portrayals of the African-American experience. Richard Pryor is the most significant of her heroes, earning a lengthy chapter. The highly politicized nature of Acham's analysis leads to negative assessments of other performers as "token blacks" or perpetuators of "coon images," though she attempts to blunt these criticisms by highlighting subtexts in some shows intended primarily for black audiences. Chapters cover sitcoms, variety shows and news documentaries, then inexplicably skip over two decades to address Chris Rock. The material also suffers from a plodding, overintellectualized tone, which may prevent Acham's take on a significant subject from finding a wider audience. 23 halftone illus.
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