The 30 Most Influential Black TV Characters of All Time

Influential Black TV Characters

A science fiction icon. A bespectacled, suspender-wearing nerd. A reality-TV legend. A history-making addition to the Arrowverse.

For nearly as long as the medium has existed, television has introduced us to iconic Black characters that forever changed the pop culture game. In celebration of Black History Month, it feels only right to recognize how TV — and its viewers — have been profoundly impacted by the 30 fictional alter egos listed below (sorted alphabetically by show title).

Not every character in our celebration was the first to accomplish a particular milestone, though many of them did leave glass ceilings shattered and boundaries pushed. The Jeffersons‘ Helen Willis, for example, served as half of TV’s first interracial couple, while Scandal‘s Olivia Pope was the first Black female protagonist of a primetime network drama in nearly 40 years.

But even without a superlative next to their names, all 30 of these characters had a major influence, whether they paved the way for similar archetypes in future TV series, or made Black viewers feel seen and heard by their representation on screen.

Scroll through our list of these 30 distinguished characters below, from The Wire‘s Omar Little to Rugrats‘ Susie Carmichael, then drop a comment with the small-screen icons you’d like to honor.

TAGS: , , , ,