With quality television content such as Insecure, Atlanta, Black-ish, Scandal and more, it appears that we’re reliving the Black television renaissance that we experienced in the 1990’s. 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. Rhimes simply creates television shows that mirror the reality of the world that we live in.
In order to truly celebrate where we are in terms of the increased inclusive representation of our stories on the small screen, we must recognize the women who have paved the way for moments like this. In the ‘90s, Black women were filling writing rooms, pushing boundaries, breaking barriers, and fighting to have our stories told. It is important that we illuminate the contributions of these brilliant pioneers as they have created and written many of our favorite shows.
Below we have highlighted the women who have not only told our stories on screen, but have also paved the way for all of us. In no particular order, the following list includes African-American women who wrote for television in the 90’s.
Yvette Lee Bowser
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, Hangin’ 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’ and an Executive Producer on the upcoming Netflix series Dear White People scheduled to air mid-April.
Prior to writing/directing her hit breakout feature, Love & Basketball, Prince-Bythewood accumulated five years of TV writing experience on shows such as A Different World and South Central. She is now the co-creator of Fox’s Shots Fired alongside her husband Reggie Rock Bythewood.
Mara Brock Akil
TV juggernaut and powerhouse, Brock Akil began her writing career on Fox’s critically acclaimed series South Central. She later moved on to writing for the UPN series Moesha, where she earned her Producer title after four seasons. She was the Executive Producer of Girlfriends, and served as a Consulting Producer for ABC’s Cougartown. Brock Akil is behind popular series such as The Game and Being Mary Jane, and is currently the co-creator of the upcoming DC comics TV movie, Black Lightning, with another tv pilot, Documenting Love, currently in development at ABC.
Hervey is a producer and writer, known for The Golden Girls, The Cosby Show, The Steve Harvey Show, In the House, and Half & Half. She also served as a Producer on The Steve Harvey Show, In the House, and The Fresh Prince Bel-Air.
Felicia D. Henderson
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 now the Executive Producer of BET’s The Quad, and is the Co-Executive Producer for upcoming Netflix series The Punisher.
Janine Sherman Barrois
Barrois began her television career working as a writer on The Jamie Foxx Show. She went on to become a co-producer of The PJs and then was hired as an executive story editor for Third Watch and Producer of ER. She served as Executive Producer on Criminal Minds and is the Executive Producer on TNT’s Claws.
Middleton is a writer and producer, known for her work on Saturday Night Live, Sister, Sister, Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper, and Cosby. Her writing credits also include Girlfriends and Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns.
Williams has a wide range of TV writing credits such as Rugrats, Roc, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and The Wayans Bros. She also served as Producer for Roc, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The Wayans Bros., MADtv, and The Haunted Hathaways, and is currently a writer on
Jacque Edmonds Cofer
Edmonds Cofer first network television-writing job was on Martin. Within two years, she had risen to supervising producer. After she served as co-executive producer of Living Single. She then joined UPN as the executive producer of Moesha and the co-executive producer of Abby as well as the co-executive producer of the WB’s All about the Andersons. She was also the executive producer of Let’s Stay Together and Reed Between the Lines.
Fales-Hills began her writing career as an apprentice on the Cosby Show. After two years on staff, she was transferred to the show’s spin-off, A Different World. Three years later, in 1990, she became Co-Executive Producer/Head Writer of the series. Fales-Hills went on to Executive Produce the CBS sitcom, Can’t Hurry Love, Executive Producer of the family-oriented situation comedy, Kirk, then went on to serve as Consulting Producer on the television series Suddenly Susan. In 1998 Susan co-created with Tim Reid the Showtime original series Linc’s as its Executive Producer/Head Writer for two years.
Sara V. Finney
Finney has a range of writing credits including The Jeffersons, 227, The Facts of Life, and What’s Happening Now! and Married With Children. She was the co-creator and executive produced the hit series The Parkers and also co-created Moesha. Her writing credits extend all the way from The Jefferson’s’ to BET’s hit series, The Game. Finney is currently a Consulting Producer on BET’s hit new series The Quad starring Anika Noni Rose.
McGhee-Anderson’s career in film and television spans over two decades. She is one of the first Black women to work in a television writing room. She has written for countless shows, including Little House on the Prairie, The Cosby Show, Touched by an Angel, and most recently served as an Executive Producer for the Freeform series Lincoln Heights, and also served as a Consulting Producer on The Fosters. McGhee-Anderson is currently the Executive Producer of OWN’s hit series Greenleaf.
Michele Val Jean
A soap opera writing legend, Val Jean’s credits include Santa Barbara, General Hospital and The Bold and the Beautiful. She has written over 400 episodes for these soap opera tv shows, of which are heavily ingrained in pop culture forever.
Regina Y. Hicks
Hicks was a writer on Sister, Sister, The Game, and Camp Rock. She also was on the writing staff of Girlfriends, Are We There Yet?, and Reed Between the Lines. She is currently a Supervising Producer on HBO’s Insecure.