Over the past two years, we have witnessed history in television. This has been the most diverse time period in the history of the small screen. The amount of diverse content available to audiences has drastically increased, and people of color currently headline numerous shows on every major network and digital platform. We have made great strides considering the fact that when ‘Scandal’ premiered in 2012, it was the first network drama with a black woman as it’s lead in almost four decades. Many attribute the shift of developing more diverse characters to the “Shonda Effect,” a term inspired by Shonda Rhimes who has continuously hired people of color in lead roles on all of her shows. She simply creates television shows that mirror the reality of the world that we live in.
“I’m normalizing TV. I am making TV look like the world looks. Women, people of color, LGBTQ people equal way more than 50 percent of the population. Which means it ain’t out of the ordinary.” – Shonda Rhimes
In addition to Shonda Rhimes, there have been a number of successful African American women who have written and created shows for television. These women have paved the way for a new generation of writers, and have also contributed to increasing diverse content on the small screen. It is important that we illuminate the contributions of these amazing women as they have created and written many of our favorite shows.
Sara Finney Johnson
Sara Finney Johnson began her television-writing career on sitcoms such as ‘Family Matters’ and ‘Married With Children.’ In 1998, she co-created and executive produced the hit series ‘The Parkers’ and co-created ‘Moesha’ in 2001. Her writing credits extend all the way from ‘The Jefferson’s’ to BET’s hit series, ‘The Game.’
Yvette Lee Bowser
Yvette Lee Bowser has created and sold over twenty five pilots for television in the past fifteen years, and became the first African American woman to develop her own prime-time series in 1992 with the hit classic ‘Living Single.’ She is also known for writing and producing ‘Half & Half,’ ‘Hanging with Mr. Cooper,’ ‘Lipstick Jungle,’ ‘For Your Love,’ and ‘A Different World.’ Bowser created her own company, Sister Lee Productions, and is currently a consulting producer on ABC’s hit series ‘Black-ish.’
Felicia D. Henderson
Felicia D. Henderson started her career as a writer on classics such as ‘Family Matters’ and ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,’ and went on to write and produce ‘Moesha,’ and ‘Sister, Sister.’ In 2000, she created the award-winning hit ‘Soul Food: The Series’ for Showtime. In addition to the countless television shows that Henderson has written, she is also responsible for establishing scholarship programs at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television: The Felicia D. Henderson Screenwriting Scholarship and the Four Sisters Scholarship which help educate young filmmakers. Henderson is currently working on a television movie for BET titled ‘The Yard.’
Jacque Edmonds Cofer
Jacque Edmonds Cofer started her writing career on ‘Martin.’ After ‘Martin,’ she went on to become the co-executive producer of ‘Living Single,’ and then served as the executive producer of ‘Moesha.’ Most recently, she created BET’s ‘Let’s Stay Together,’ which became the network’s first original scripted comedy.
As an alumna of Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Calhoun is the powerhouse co-executive producer/writer for Fox’s megahit ‘Empire.’ She has also written for shows such as ‘Nashville,’ ‘Justified,’ and ‘Revenge.’