LESSONS IN BLACK HISTORY – The Blackstones

The Blackstones—Today, instead of looking at something historical that happened, we look at what didn’t happen—the integration of cartoons. During the late 1960s and up to 1970, there was a noticeable push to desegregate the world of entertainment by including token black characters in movies and on television. The one notable exception was the world of cartoons, which remained shockingly segregated for many years. Look closely at popular shows like The Flinstones and the The Jetsons, and you will be hard-pressed to find black characters even in the background. Apparently, Hanna-Barbera—one of the leading producers of cartoons—had planned on making a spin-off of The Flinstones with a cast of black characters. Joe Barbera mentioned this in his book, My Life in ‘Toons, while discussing shows that never made it into production. “One of my favorite denizens of the graveyard is a show called The Blackstones which was created about 1966 or 1967 and featured a black Stone Age family who move nextdoor to Fred Flintstone with results so interesting and provocative that no network or syndicator would touch it.” (NOTE: I’ve never read the book.). With all the popular shows Hanna-Barbera had during the 1960s and 70s, they had almost no black characters at all. The notable exception is of course Valerie from Josie and the Pussycats—the first black female character to appear as a major cast member of a cartoon (and possibly the first major black character, period). Interestingly, Hanna-Barbera didn’t want the character to be black, leading to a showdown between the animation company and Danny Janssen, the music producer who put together the recordings used for the show. Janssen insisted that Valerie remain black, and Hanna-Barbera eventually gave in to his demands. Despite appearances by the Harlem Globetrotters on Scooby-Doo, the world of cartoons remained heavily segregated until the 1971 debut of the Jackson 5 cartoon, followed by the debut of Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids the following year. But even those shows existed in a largely segregated world. When you look at shows that featured human characters—shows like The Funky Phantom, Clue Club and Wacky Races—almost none of them ever featured black characters.

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One Response to “LESSONS IN BLACK HISTORY – The Blackstones”

  1. Grandpa Bunche Says:

    And while it wasn’t from Hanna-Barbera, let us not forget RICKETY ROCKET (which I still cannot believe actually aired). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0WCR7BVx7k

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