Yesterday, we lost a great entertainer: Sherman Hemsley. Although he went on to play other successful TV roles, his most famous and beloved is that of George Jefferson of the hit sitcom, “The Jeffersons,” alongside the late great TV veteran, Isabel Sanford.
It’s not such a big deal now to turn on the TV and see a black man portrayed as a wealthy businessman, but back in the ‘70s, a character like George Jefferson was an anomaly.
With “The Jeffersons,” a spin-off of “All in the Family,” where George and Louise Jefferson were the working-class neighbors of the bigoted Archie Bunker, producer Norman Lear churned yet another hit out of his sit-com factory.The opposite of “Good Times,” “The Jeffersons” told the rarely-relayed story of a black family business that afforded its owners the chance to move out of the old neighborhood, not just to a nice home in the suburbs, but to a DE-luxe apartment in the sky!
It’s funny; I was just having a conversation with a co-worker after the show yesterday about what I didn’t like about the message today’s rappers send to young people when they brag about owning private jets, Lamborghinis and yachts. I’m all for working hard and being on the come-up (You know that), but I’d like to see these paid hip-hop stars brag more about things that are more attainable for the average kid with a dream.
“The Jeffersons,” along with being hilarious, gave poor and middle-class African-Americans a chance to see Black people living a lifestyle that most had never witnessed unless they were employed in the service industry. For some, it was the first time they could see themselves not as maids or as doormen, but as actual occupants of a big-city high rise. The best part of all, George Jefferson wasn’t embarrassed of his wealth and success; he earned it and owned it. His proud strut is an indelible memory in the minds of anyone who ever tuned in, along with his trademark George-isms, like “Honnnnky,” “zebra couples” and his personal nickname for his TV wife, Weezie.
When I give the charge at HBCU commencement ceremonies, I often urge students to upgrade their current environments, even if it means moving out of the ‘hood. I think it’s okay to physically leave a situation but still value it, support it and love it. If your barber, your beautician, your favorite restaurant and only dry cleaner you trust is in the community where you grew up, there’s nothing wrong with driving across town to handle your business. That’s sort of the lesson George Jefferson taught a lot of folks. George never forgot where he came from and never was ashamed of letting others know either.
Some of the critics thought he was too over-the-top, too cartoonish, even “coonish.” I never let other people tell me what I should or shouldn’t be offended by. “The Jeffersons” was a comedy and a fictionalized look at a black family — we get that. But I can’t help but think there are a lot of successful black people out there who were made to believe they could work hard, work together as a family and have a better life because of George and Weezie.
If you’re one of them, I’d like to hear from you.
Also On Black America Web:
This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (11/26-12/2)
30 photos Launch gallery
1. Little Legend and Puddy 😍😍😍😍
1 of 30
2. "You on point Phife?" "all the time,Tip". 💥 #bannedfromnormal
2 of 30
3. Vegan! The Impossible burger at Crossroads
3 of 30
4. Lawrence #BeforeandAfterEpisodes 1-4: 184lbs 13% body fatEpisode 8: 196lbs 8% body fat S/O @coachdaveboxing with the works outs and @kildareriordan with the nutrition
4 of 30
5. Jus haaaanngin out
5 of 30
6. Meanwhile back at home in Atlanta GA someone mad they not on the 🛳. 😳
6 of 30
7. No limits... Photo cred: Chris Bridges @ludacris
7 of 30
8. new new
8 of 30
9. Apparently my 260lbs is too much for the actual vines in the Hawaiian jungles to hold me without breaking and me falling hundreds of feet. So for safety purposes, I'm forced to swing thru #Jumanjj on wires strong enough to hold 12 adult buffaloes and 1 adult Rock. #OnSet #Jumanji #IronicallyIEatBuffaloDailyForLunch #MoreManThanNatureKnowsWhatToDoWith
9 of 30
10. hey ma! 🎎#wcw 💙
10 of 30
11. Surprise visit to our factories!!! #GoodAmerican #USA
11 of 30
12 of 30
13. Peachy Keen 🔥✨⚡️
13 of 30
14. If this don't look thankful I don't know what does. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. #UltraBlessed #24kMagic #SweetPotatoFly
14 of 30
15. Late nights @nbcmarlon with the writers... we in here!!!
15 of 30
16. There goes my baaaaaaaaabbbbyyyyy #QueenKingMagic!!! We're up to something! Ira BIG!!! Stay out our buisness -
16 of 30
17. You want to win every game you play but when you come home to these faces... who cares. #ILoveYouGirls best part of my day, everyday!
17 of 30
18. Steady,steady..... full size jenga.. "I got this one "???? Or do I ?
18 of 30
19. Cornrows kind of day 😉@dontaysavoy2 you convinced me and I love. ❤️️
19 of 30
20. #BrotherlyLove #tbt
20 of 30
21 of 30
22. #basel #TeamLOVE @kingcombs
22 of 30
23. Just introduced a special screening of @directher 's groundbreaking (must see) documentary @13thfilm with my brother @themichaelealy | @unitedblackout #blackoutblackfriday
23 of 30
24. Me & Vanessa Williams giving #DuckLips #Pose on the set of #DaytimeDivas @vh1 - Coming Soon to a tv near you. Lol. - My make up done by @makeupsurgeon
24 of 30
25. This picture just makes me wanna praise the Lord, you hear me!!!!!! Yes Lord brotha #TEDDYCAMPBELL What a #man !!! You are everything right on this picture husband ......... #gorgeous #stylish #classy #strong #masculine #king #sexy #debonair #gentlemenstyle And that #bible in your hand just seals the deal for me (probably cause i know that, that is what helped you become just as amazing as you look😘). While my heart and mind experiences the goodness of God at #church on Sundays, my eyes experiences the goodness of Teddy😍. Amen somebody🙌🏽. "Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name" #myman #myhusband #goodman #blackman #dapperman #godlyman #goodfather #mybestfriend
25 of 30
26. Yesterday was my mama's 53rd birthday!!!!! Got to celebrate with her all day. If this is what I have to look forward to I can't wait. Looking like a soft bucket a cocoa butter. Yaaaaaaaaaas! 😍😍😍 love you mommy!
26 of 30
27. "Shout out to @PureAtlanta for getting the family right"....I'm loving this jogger. 😍😍
27 of 30
28. This pic warms my heart ❤️ #myLogiebeans and aunt aunt umba @itowandabraxton 😘
28 of 30
29. You will always be my baby😜. #HappyBirthdayReginae #mybaby18
29 of 30
30. GC "Gods Child" Red on Red SweatSuit available now at www.MonicaApparel.com ... Take Your Crown wherever you go!! I'm pictured in a Medium... Go to the site now for other options ... cc: @trukernell
30 of 30