Little Known Black History Fact: ‘The Jeffersons’


The Jeffersons made its television debut on Jan. 18, 1975 on the CBS network, featuring Isabel Sanford and Sherman Hemsley as George and Louise “Weezy” Jefferson. The show became the second longest-running sitcom featuring a largely Black cast, and was the first to depict an interracial couple.

The Jeffersons was the second spin-off series from creator Norman Lear from the popular All In The Family sitcom. The show’s premise was that the couple moved from their Queens neighborhood to a luxury Manhattan apartment on the back of George’s successful dry-cleaning business. A loving, if often-feuding, couple, Mr. and Mrs. Jefferson were something of a precursor for The Cosby Show and many others like it featuring middle-class Black families.

The Jeffersons also featured Marla Gibbs in the role of wise-cracking housekeeper, Florence Johnston. Roxie Roker, who played Helen Willis whose interracial marriage was one of the first on TV. Roker, the mother of musician Lenny Kravitz, was married to white man in real life – Lenny’s father, TV producer Sy Kravitz.

The series aired from 1975 to 1985, tackling topics such as alcoholism, racism, and other social ills. A running joke on the series was George slamming the door in the face of his well-meaning, but overbearing British neighbor, Harry Bentley, played by Paul Benedict.

CBS abruptly ended the show without a series finale, which stunned the cast. Hensley found out about the show’s end in a newspaper, and Sanford called the cancellation disrespectful. Still, the actors went on to other guest-starring roles over the years, even reprising their characters in a stage play and making an appearance on the series finale of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air in 1996.

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