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Negroes Appearing More on Television

Nov. 10, 1963 - The vigorous campaign to put more Negroes in front of television cameras has produced impressive results in recent months. Negroes have been appearing in star roles, featured roles, walk-ons, commercials, and in newscasting chores. “East Side-West Side” presented an episode in which all but two of the cast were Negroes. The Dick Van Dyke show used Negroes in a dignified comedy vein far from the condescending tradition. On “Perry Mason,” a Negro had a small but crucial role as the hero’s best friend. In short, television has made “visible but not measurable progress,” in the words of George Fowler, chairman of the New York State Commission of Human Rights. “I wish I could say the battle is one-quarter or one-half won, but I can’t say that,” Mr. Fowler commented, referring to the lack of statistics on Negro employment in broadcasting. “I can only say that the American people are losing consciousness of color and religious difference to the extent that television and advertisers allow minorities opportunities to perform.” There are some other instances of what viewers have been seeing or will see soon on shows. Here are some:

— Cicely Tyson (pictured) as a social worker in “East Side-West Side,” the only show that has a Negro as a featured performer
— Ossie Davis as a prosecutor in “The Defenders”

— A Negro bailiff in an installment of “Ben Casey”

— Negroes as doctors and nurses in all of television’s medical shows

— Mercedes Ellington, granddaughter of Duke Ellington, signed as one of the previously all-white June Taylor Dancers on the Jackie Gleason show

— Negroes as students and teachers on “Mr. Novak”


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