This TV Pioneer Was Determined To Be Heard

Black television film actor
Leslie Taylor-Grover
August 13, 2020

P. Jay Sidney had just made history as the first Black television actor, and already he was dissatisfied. He was paid well and working steadily, so what was his problem?

He was tired of playing offensive roles that cast Black people as natural servants or childlike imbeciles! But there was something else, too.

Sidney wanted to see other Black faces on television. With entertainment and media overrun with racism and white-controlled entities, he wanted more diversity. But what could he do about it?

He could fight! He tirelessly wrote letters pushing for Black viewers to demand better representation. He testified in front of the House of Representatives, demanding an end to widespread discrimination

He advocated for other Black actors to get TV work, and confronted liberal TV hosts who talked about equality but who only hired white staff. Did his work pay off?

While the TV industry remained unchanged for far too long, he WAS able to bring attention to the media’s role in hurting our people with biased casting and skewed news coverage. We’re still fighting his fight today.

Above all, his struggle taught us that we must always use our power and position to advocate for our community – even if change is slow.

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