The series also came under criticism from African American viewers for its depiction of a fatherless Black family. Excluding a Black male lead, it was argued, “rendered the series safer” and “less likely to grapple with issues that might upset White viewers.”
Nevertheless, “Julia” will always be the first show to highlight the trials and triumphs of single-motherhood.
2. Florida Evans (Good Times, 1970s)
As a stay-at-home mother, Florida (Esther Rolle) was the super-glue that kept the Evans family together. As a young adult she met her childhood sweetheart and the love of her life, James Evans, and eventually married him. They began their marriage living in the Southside of Chicago in a cold water flat where she gave birth to their two oldest children James Evans Jr. “JJ” and Thelma Evans. When Florida was pregnant with their third child Michael Evans, they moved to the Northside of Chicago in the housing projects.
With a stern but loving disposition, Florida did her best to emotionally support her often out-of-work husband and be a good parent and role model for their three children. Between the cooking, the cleaning, and the disciplining, Florida often squeezed in a part-time job to help stretch the family dollar. But family and financial challenges aside, Florida was the quintessential hostess and possessor of a generous spirit. She was known to throw a good party and didn’t hesitate to offer whatever she had to those in need. Not only was Florida the superwoman of the Evans household, she was equally generous and loyal to her friends and neighbors, including her wacky partner in crime, Willona.
3. Clarrissa Olivia “Clair” Huxtable, ESQ (The Cosby Show, 1980s)
Clair (Phylicia Rashad) was the very eloquent, elegant wife of Dr. Cliff Huxtable. She’s playful, silly, yet very assertive. Her character was originally supposed to be a housewife, but when the show finally aired, she became a lawyer. During the series, she becomes a partner in her law firm, and she successfully represents her daughter, Sondra, in a case over dishonest car repairs. When it came to the Huxtable household, she was in charge, even though she let Cliff think he was in charge (although Cliff was known to lay down the law when he had to). Clair was the chief disciplinarian of the children, as shown in an episode where Vanessa and her friends snuck off to Baltimore to see a rock concert and Clair delivers a memorable and scathing diatribe to her. Clair is also something of a disciplinarian to Cliff, particularly in matters of Cliff sticking to a healthful diet and rationing his junk food intake. Clair Huxtable was voted as television’s “Favorite TV Mom” in a poll conducted by the Opinion Research Company in 2006. The character is loosely based upon Cosby’s wife, Camille Olivia Hanks-Cosby.
4. Vivian Banks (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, 1980s-1990s)
Vivian’s personality and role in the show changes over the run of the series. During the Janet Hubert-Whitten years, she is a no-nonsense, vocally talented, forthright, and career-minded woman who plays a part in the show equal to her husband Philip. It is revealed in the season one episode “Love at First Fight,” that Vivian dropped out of high school as a teenager and worked menial jobs, before attending night school in order to get her high school diploma and enter college to work toward her doctorate.