c.2023, Running Press
$35.00 264 pages
Black TV: Five Decades of Groundbreaking Television from Soul Train to Black-ish and Beyond by Bethonie Butler
c.2023, Black Dog & Levanthal
$35.00 287 pages
By Terri Schlichenmeyer
The Truth Contributor
The person on the screen looks just like you.
And that’s important. Once was a time when you rarely saw a Black face in entertainment unless you were specifically looking for one – which is why these great books on Black entertainers are so essential to read…
First of all, elegance almost oozes from Lena Horne: Goddess Reclaimed by Donald Bogle, a gorgeous book presented by TMC.
Bogle begins his narrative in the spring of 1993, when “a radiant Lena Horne entered the famous MGM recording soundstage for the first time in nearly forty years.” She was there to shoot footage for a compilation movie on entertainment and, says Bogle, it was “a bittersweet experience.”
From there, he takes readers through the briefest of childhood biographies before getting to the good stuff: Horne’s career that began in Harlem. It was the Depression, and competition for the best positions at the Cotton Club was fierce; despite that the Club had other beautiful women onstage, it was Horne who “caught the eye of just about everyone who saw her.”
Filled with everything you want to know about Lena Horne, her life, loves, and many of her contemporaries, Lena Horne: Goddess Reclaimed is comprehensive and wide. It’s one of those books you’ll want to keep on your coffee table, to browse and show off. Bonus: carefully chosen photos enhance what you’ll read.
If the small screen is more your thing and you want to remember how far television’s come over the decades, then you’ll want Black TV by Bethonie Butler.
Ask any TV viewer about their favorite show or series and if it’s got a full cast of Black actors, you’ll probably find it in this heavy volume. Comedies, dramas, even variety series have their own chapters; Flip Wilson, Redd Foxx, Arsenio Hall, Diahann Carroll, they’re all in here.
With this book on your lap, you’ll take a trip to the Soul Train studio, and visit the Huxtable living room. Remember how In Living Color skewered almost everything? Remember the night James Evans died? Which Sister, Sister twin was your favorite? Is the new version of The Wonder Years realistic enough for Black audiences?
This book is absolutely packed with insider information, memories, stars, guest stars, and lots of pictures to nudge your nostalgia and send you looking for something to binge-watch on repeat or to catch new. It’s a great book to share with generations who missed seeing these shows live. Or just sit and read Black TV and let that be tonight’s entertainment.
If these books on Black entertainment aren’t enough for you, then be sure to look around for more. Author Bogle has several other biographical volumes on the shelves. You’ll find books about and by Black stars, books about specific movies and TV shows, retrospectives that will take you way back, and more behind-the-scenes peeks of your favorite series. Your bookseller or librarian will be able to put these books in your hand because they’re good like that.
And so are these books.