The Most Radical Moments In Sesame Street History

Brooke Brown
December 2, 2019

For 50 years, Sesame Street has always been a show that uplifts Black children. 

In 1969, Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Chester Pierce joined Sesame Street creators as senior adviser - directing the show towards an inclusive message that grew to specialize in producing content for the explicit purpose of combatting racist stereotypical tropes television viewers had grown accustomed to. 

Thanks to Pierce’s expertise, set designers used a Harlem neighborhood (complete with stoops and sidewalks) as inspiration that uplifted the experiences of urban youth for the iconic 123 Sesame Street. 

In 1969, Iconic gospel singer Mahalia Jackson blessed viewers with her soulful sing-a-long version of the traditional gospel hymn “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands.”

In 1972, Nina Simone used the Sesame Street platform to boost the self-esteem of little Black children across America with her performance of “To Be Young, Gifted, And Black.”

In 1979, Sesame Street voice actor Matt Robinson brought the first Black muppet character “Roosevelt Franklin” and his myth-busting lessons about the continent of Africa to life. 

He introduced youngsters to a more informed and balanced worldview that combated the persistent, negative stereotype of jungle men like Tarzan.

In 2014, Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o celebrated the beauty of Black skin like hers alongside Elmo during her guest appearance hosting the word of the day segment. 

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