Kristin Beard
Com. 290


Dr. Rohler

The Jeffersons was, and is an extremely popular TV show from the 70’s and 80”s about a black family making to the top in New York City. (Jeffersons p.1) The show began its run in 1975, and lasted an amazing 10 years to 1985. (p.2) The Jeffersons is 24th highest rated show of all time. (p.2) The show was first introduced on the sitcom All in the Family then, in 1982, the producers decided to create the sitcom The Jeffersons. There were many memorable episodes. Such as the episode where George is mugged and stabbed and the one where Louise witnesses a murder on Halloween and is then cornered by the murder. (p.2) The Martin Luther King Assassination was also another unforgettable episode. (p.3)

George and his wife, Louise, lived in a middle class apartment in Queens. This sitcom, through comedy and some dramatic episodes, shows how an African American family makes it from nothing to the top. It also holds many memorable moment s that are relevant to the time of change for African Americans. George and Louise Jefferson started out with nothing, living with George’s mother. Louise was working as a maid, and George was working off and on, whenever he could. (Jeffersons p.1) After hearing about starting his own business they moved to the Queens with their son, Lionel. Soon after George became successful he was often called “the black Archie Bunker”. He started out with nothing, and moved to the top, being owner of the successful “Jefferson Cleaners”, with seven stores. (p.1) The best friends of the Jefferson’s were the Willies, an interracial couple from a downstairs apartment. They had a daughter, Jenny, who later married Lionel. The Jeffersons brought many funny episodes to the screen as well as light episodes, and ones that would almost make you cry. (p.1)

The Jeffersons first aired in 1975 during a time the world was going through desegregation. Although the “rule of desegregation” had been past, there was and still is a lot of unnecessary racism. “This show was one of the first shows to feature an interracial couple, the Jefferson’s best friends, Tom Willis being white and Helen Willis being black. (p.2) (In real life Helen, played by Roxie Kravitz, was really married to a white man.) George shows a little negativity when his son marries a mixed woman by making wise cracks about light skin people. This attitude brings more of a real life experience to the show by having conflict but unlike real life endings, with a peaceful conclusion. George shortly cut back on the white jokes after his granddaughter was born, Jessica. America will always remember the theme song of The Jefferson’s, “Movin’ On Up”. Some of the lines are “We’ve finally got a piece of the pie”, “Fish don’t fry in the kitchen”, “Took a whole lottta tryin’ just to get up that that hill”, and “As long as we live, It’s you and me baby”. (p.2) This song is also heard on Burger King commercials. I suggest that the producers of this show are trying to show “black middle-class visibility and achievement” through the characters, scripts, and song. (African-American Culture p.133).

In conclusion, one can say that The Jeffersons are an example of the “Black American Dream”. Being one of the first sitcoms to have an interracial couple they had very high ratings. I have always enjoyed this show because it shows how one can succeed if they try hard enough.Like most TV sitcoms, The Jeffersons always had a happy ending. Since, TV is Americas number one influence maybe it showed America the change of freedom for all is for the better. Herman Gray said it best. “One message of these representations of success and failure if that middle-class blacks succeed because they take advantage of available opportunities while poor blacks of our society fail because they do not.” The Jeffersons started out with nothing and moved to the top because they did take advantage of an opportunity that led them to be successful.



As Louise Jeffersons

Louse Jefferson and George have been married for thirty years. At first, Louise was not used to being “rich”, but soon she became kin to the idea. She often got George out of binds, and sometimes got into binds herself with her best friend, Helen Willis. After the show ended in 1985, Isabel Sanford did not star in any TV series, but has stared in several major movies.


As George Jefferson

George Jefferson was often called “the black Archie Bunker”. (p.2) He stared with nothing, and moved to the top, being owner of the successful “Jefferson Cleaners”. George often made fun of the maid, Florence. He was always getting himself into bizarre trouble. Towards the end of the show’s run, he and his best friend, Tom Willis, bought Charlie’s Bar, a place where each of them had shared moments. (p.2) Although, George did have a self-absorbed attitude, he sometimes showed his caring side. In 1986, Sherman began a new show called Amen. (p.3) He played Deacon Ernest Frye, “whose personality and antic were quite similar to George Jefferson’s (p.3).” Amen ended in 1991. Sherman has appeared on screen several other times over the past years.


As Florence Johnston, the Jefferson’s Maid

Florence was the Jefferson’s maid. George and Florence were always making sarcastic remarks to each other. Florence was usually making jokes about his height and baldhead, and George would fire back on her looks and cooking. (p.3) Even with all the “wise-cracks”, George cared enough about her to reveal that a trust fund was set up in her name. George and Florence loved Florence and never wanted her to worry about money again. (p.3) Marla joined the cast of 227 soon after The Jeffersons.


As Helen Willis 

Helen was Louise Jefferson’s best friend, and Tom Willis’s wife. The Willis’s lived downstairs from the Jefferson’s. Louise and Helen did volunteer work at the Help Center in their spare time, and went shopping the rest. (p.3) “Helen and Tom’s marriage broke the TV barrier in a completely new way- Helen was black and Tom was white (p.3). The Jeffersons was one of the first shows to have an interracial couple. (p.3) (Roxie was Lenny Kravitz’s mother, in real life.) Helen, who was white, married Sy Kravitz, who was white. Helen was in her 60’s when she past away to complications that were not released. (p.3)

Other cast members
Franklin Cover as Tom Willis

Paul Benedict as Harry Bentley

Berlinda Tolbert as Jenny Willis Jefferson

Mike Evans as Lionel Jefferson (until 1976)

Damon Evans as Lionel Jefferson (1976-79)

Zara Cully as Olivia Jefferson, George’s Mother

Jay Hammer as Alan Willis, Jenny’s Brother

Ned Wertimer as Ralph the Doorman

Danny Wells as Charlie the Bartender

Works Citied

Unknown. (1998).The Jeffersons. Available: http//

Hemphill, B. (1998). African-American Culture. New York: Longman.