NAACP Bulletin

The Amos ‘n’ Andy Show blipped onto television screens in July, 1951. And that same week, The NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) published, in its Bulletin, the following bill of charges against the program:
  1. It tends to strengthen the conclusion among uninformed and prejudiced people that Negroes are inferior, lazy, dumb and dishonest.
  2. Every character in this one and only TV show with an all Negro cast is either a clown or a crook.
  3. Negro doctors are shown as quacks and thieves.
  4. Negro lawyers are shown as slippery cowards, ignorant of their profession and without ethics. 
  5. Negro Women are shown as cackling, screaming shrews, in big mouthed close-ups, using street slang, just short of vulgarity.
  6. All Negroes are shown as dodging work of any kind.
  7. Millions of white Americans see this Amos 'n' Andy picture of Negroes and think the entire race is the same.
The organization made a formal denunciation of the show at its July 1951 convention and filed a suit against CBS, attempting to get an injunction to stop the show from airing. The case was well-publicized nationally, with questions of portrayals of Blacks and appropriate and desirable roles for Black actors bandied about throughout the year.

Amos ‘n’ Andy did well in the ratings in ‘51, but began to slide in ‘52. Its chief sponsor, Blatz Beer, was wilting under the pressure of the protests. In 1953, Blatz withdrew its sponsorship, and as a result, CBS cancelled the show.

TV Guide, on Apr. 17, ‘53, trumpeted, “no replacement set by CBS for ‘Amos ‘n’ Andy,’ which vacates the network in June.”

The cast members of Amos ‘n’ Andy consistently defended the show. In some cases, they went so far as to say that they didn’t feel the characterizations were offensive, but in most cases their arguments were that the show was comedy, not to be taken too seriously. If the characters were buffoonish or slow, they weren’t unlike White characters on other shows in that respect--those depictions supplied the humor that audiences wanted. They also argued that the show was a Godsend in provided much-needed work for Black actors, and that other shows were shying away from using Black talent for fear of being targeted by the NAACP. This is another manifestation of the “is a dubious depiction better than no depiction at all” debate, in which a lack of acknowledgment of a race is seen as the ultimate insult, which creates the corollary that any depiction is seen as progress. It is easy to anticipate the reply that this is a two-wrongs-make-a-right argument, and that negative stereotypes can do far more damage than the absence of portrayals.

One thing we know for sure is that the NAACP was as tireless in pursuing Amos ‘n’ Andy as it was in decrying it immediately upon its television debut. While it was taken out of production in ‘53, the program remained on air in syndication until ‘66, with the NAACP protesting the whole time.

In 1961, the NAACP launched a major protest, not against AnA per se, but against the television and film industries’ discriminatory hiring practices. This prompted a Congressional investigation. In June of ‘63, the group’s national labor secretary Herbert Hill delivered an ultimatum to Hollywood, threatening to attempt to decertify Hollywood’s unions with the National Labor Relations Board. One of the main goals of this particular measure was to clean up portrayals of Blacks on TV and film, supplying them with roles outside of those as servants, maids, and slaves. In this milieu, the roles on Amos ‘n’ Andy continued to look worse. In 1966, CBS removed Amos ‘n’ Andy from domestic and overseas sales. It denied that it had done so due to pressures, its legal department answering inquiries with a “no comment.”

Andrews, Bart and Ahrgus Juilliard. Holy Mackerel. New York: Dutton. 1986.


  1. They were paid actors in a comedy situation. No different than any other comedy, whether the actors were white, black, middle eastern, etc. I have to say, the comedy and the punchlines were brilliant! This show, in my opinion, has to be the funniest ever! I never, but never, saw a particular race as being "dumb" just because that's what script in a tv show depicted them as. PERIOD

    1. How you feel about the merit of Amos and Andy, Mr. Unknown, because you don’t chose to associate your name with your opinion, Is not central to the NAACP’s argument. YOU might be capable of differentiating a script from supposed reality, but others are certainly influenced by what they see and hear on TV, and bring those attitudes out in their conduct toward others.

  2. It was comedy, and the first Black sitcom. If "Sanford and Son" or "Good Times" had appeared during that time, what would have been the opinions of the NAACP of those shows? The "Honey Mooners" were the same brand of comedy. Royalties for the A&A cast members stopped, but I feel that at some point the show should have picked up in syndication because cancellation was wrong.

  3. The NAACP did more harm than good in their approach to AMOS N ANDY on television. Their sightings of the characters was not entirely accurate nor honest. ALL were not clowns, lazy, dumb, or dishonest. Amos, the Cab Driver was a straight character. His role in "The Christmas Show," and his explanation of The Lord's Prayer was a moment in television history that needs to be remembered. There were other straight Black characters on the show as it required in roles such as business owners attorneys, and neighbors. Andy was a low keyed character as well. The only real issue was that the writing was in the hands of White Writers, and their concept of Black characters used a lot of bad grammar for the main characters. Perhaps the NAACP was in a state of denial in the fact that the reason why these characters were created is because there are people like this in reality. It is just that framing them within a comedy created some discomfort in this reminder. In their concerns, the NAACP took themselves too seriously, and their attack on AMOS N' ANDY on television did more harm than good.

    First, the show originated on radio with the lead characters played by White actors doing "Negro Dialect." The writing and acting was so good that few had any issues with who was playing the characters. When the show went to television, a positive forward step was taken by creating a show with an all Black cast to give it authenticity. The one area that the NAACP failed to focus on was the involvement of Black talent in the production of the program. At the time, there were few Black film technicians and Writers. The NAACP should have taken a more diplomatic action to influence in this area, perhaps offering to consult with the Producers to address some of the issues of concern. Instead, in their extreme action, they got the show off the air and put Black actors out of work. This was the one show that displayed a Black community, and Black people living as Americans in roles other than the stereotypical roles of maids, porters, janitors, and chauffeurs. So because of the pressure, parts for Black actors with any depth beyond the stereotype disappeared, leaving the few servant roles on shows like "The Jack Benny Show' with Rochester, and "The Danny Thomas Show," with the maid, Louise. The networks and advertisers did not want to deal with the controversy and headaches associated with efforts to show Black people as part of the American scene as a result. It was not until 1962 that television started featuring Black actors as extras in scenes as an effort to integrate television. But these were not major roles. Black performers were seen as Guest Stars on various show to do this same thing. But there were no recurring or starring roles for Black actors for several years. "I Spy" helped pave the way with Bill Cosby as a Co-Star on an action adventure show.

    Everyone who sees the "Amos N' Andy" television show sees it for what is was, comedy. What the NAACP failure to see was that there were moral outcomes to the crooked deals that The Kingfish tried to pull, and there were always humorous results. The audience was intelligent enough to understand and appreciate what they were seeing was not a documentary about Black life in America. If it had been, no one would have watched. It is unfortunate that the leaders within the NAACP who spearheaded this did not have this same level of realization, foresight, or dare I say, intelligence to realize the repercussions of their objections and the ultimate results of their actions.


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