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Op-Ed: 'Cosby Show' Redefined The Black Family

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Op-Ed: 'Cosby Show' Redefined The Black Family

Television

Op-Ed: 'Cosby Show' Redefined The Black Family

Op-Ed: 'Cosby Show' Redefined The Black Family

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/113032673/113032666" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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The Huxtables: (clockwise from left) (clockwise from top left) Tempestt Bledsoe as Vanessa, Malcolm-Jamal Warner as Theo, Lisa Bonet as Denise, Phylicia Rashad as Clair, Keshia Knight Pulliam as Rudy, and (center) Bill Cosby as Dr. Heathcliff 'Cliff' Huxtable. Frank Carroll/NBCU Photo Bank via AP Images hide caption

toggle caption Frank Carroll/NBCU Photo Bank via AP Images

The Huxtables: (clockwise from left) (clockwise from top left) Tempestt Bledsoe as Vanessa, Malcolm-Jamal Warner as Theo, Lisa Bonet as Denise, Phylicia Rashad as Clair, Keshia Knight Pulliam as Rudy, and (center) Bill Cosby as Dr. Heathcliff 'Cliff' Huxtable.

Frank Carroll/NBCU Photo Bank via AP Images

The Cosby Show celebrated 25 years since its debut on Sunday. In her article for The Root, senior culture writer Teresa Wiltz writes that even though the Huxtables were far from the first black family on screen, they normalized "black excellence and black achievement" for American TV viewers.

When it came to illustrating the world of a happy, well-established, black family Bill Cosby showed — he didn't tell, Wiltz says. But along with folksy humor and colorful sweaters, the show was a platform for Cosby's particular brand of activism.

"Beneath the laughs and good times of The Cosby Show beat the heart of a propagandist," Wiltz writes. "This was the world according to Bill Cosby, where there was no room for slacking, Ebonics, baby mamas or anything else. This was activist television, agitprop theater disguised as sitcom."

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