Claire Huxtable – Portrayed by Phylicia Rashad
Claire Huxtable is the intelligent, eloquent, and beautiful wife of Cliff Huxtable (Bill Cosby) on the long-running NBC television series, “The Cosby Show,” (1984-1992). As the queen of the Huxtable household, Claire manages to balance motherhood with a successful career as a lawyer. Claire’s positive character is attributed to her unique ability to do it all; she orchestrates a busy home with all of the Huxtable kids, while not missing a beat in her professional career. As an attorney and a devoted mother, Claire’s character exemplifies the versatility of the Black female, and proves that being a loving mother and having a successful career isn’t mutually exclusive.
Dr. Miranda Bailey – Portrayed by Chandra Wilson
Dr. Miranda Bailey is the tough but loving physician at Seattle Grace Hospital on the ABC television series “Grey’s Anatomy,” which debuted in 2005. While her personality may be blunt, Miranda’s success as a doctor is shown through her support for her staff, and her affection for her patients. Today, more than ever, the African-American female is regarded as independent and professional. Juggling motherhood, a failing relationship and a busy career as a surgeon, Dr. Bailey personifies traits of today’s women, embodying positive attributes that are both relative and inspirational.
Storm is a leader of the X-Men in the original comic books by Marvel Comics. Storm expresses her powers with her unique ability to alter the weather. Storm’s significance is historic; she debuted in 1975 as the first Black female comic book character for either Marvel Comics or DC Comics. Storm’s strength and leadership are positive traits that many women can relate to. Though her powers may be supernatural, Storm still serves as a source of motivation. She is symbolic of the transitioning role of the Black female, and represents the countless women holding powerful positions worldwide.
Florida Evans – Portrayed by Esther Rolle
Florida Evans is the good-hearted and hard-working mother of the Evans family on the CBS television series “Good Times” (1974-1979). As the mother of three, she was able to provide for her family despite the array of challenging circumstances they faced. Plagued by racial prejudices, financial struggles, and even the loss of loved ones, Florida’s positivity and strength were her assets. Her strong will and ability to smile through adversity, makes her a role model and proves that life obstacles don’t have to dictate one’s happiness.
Monica Wright – Portrayed by Sanaa Lathan
Monica Wright is a determined athlete who pursues a professional basketball career, as well as love off the court in the 2000 romantic movie drama, Love and Basketball. Monica is a stand-out basketball player not just devoted to the sport, but totally invested in her life-long love, Quincy McCall (Omar Epps). With Black women breaking barriers across all platforms of society, such as politics, business and especially sports, Monica’s drive illustrates the full capabilities of the African-American female. Her “stubborn” personality demonstrates that belief in yourself is enough to make even your wildest dreams come true.
Vivian Banks – Portrayed by Janet Hubert-Whitten and Daphne Maxwell Reid
Vivian Banks is the no-nonsense, matriarchal figure of the Banks residence on the NBC sitcom, “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” (1990-1996). The role was split between two actresses over the show’s six seasons, but Vivian maintained a career-minded, serious but entertaining demeanor, which sets the tone for a successful family. Though the character is not explored in depth and her personality slightly alters with the change in actresses, Vivian’s rags to riches story (from dropout to doctor) makes her a positive inspiration to all. As a retired doctor from humble beginnings, Vivian’s accomplishments encourages women to reach their full potential despite early hardships
Jessica Pearson – Portrayed by Gina Torres
Jessica Pearson is the commanding, elegant, and well-dressed managing partner at the law firm Pearson Hardman on the USA Network series, “Suits,” which premiered in 2011. Pearson appears to be cold-hearted in her pursuit of power, as she does whatever is necessary to maintain success. Pearson’s professionalism and overall business approach epitomizes the expansive role of women in the workforce. Many Black women today are decision makers and leaders of successful companies, and Pearson is indicative of that. Her work ethic is to be admired, working tirelessly to move up the ladder, from lawyer to partner of the firm – and whatever other goals she sets her mind to.
Akeelah Anderson – Portrayed by Keke Palmer
Akeelah Anderson is a bright 11-year-old girl from the inner-city, who competes in the “Scripps National Spelling Bee” in the 2006 film, “Akeelah and the Bee.” Akeelah seems to be an outcast until she realizes she is a gifted speller. With hard work and focus, Akeelah ignores stereotypes to overcome her fears and personal circumstances, eventually competing and winning both local and national spelling contests. Akeelah serves as motivation for the many inner-city children, especially girls, who feel out of place and inadequate and harbor notions of inequality. She is a positive influence, reinforcing the importance of education and self-confidence.
Michonne – Portrayed by Danai Gurira
Michonne is a mysterious, fearless survivor in the AMC cable television series, “The Walking Dead,” first aired in 2010. She arms herself with a katana, a Japanese sword, which she uses mercilessly to defend herself. While not much is made about her past, she is believed to have been a lawyer before the outbreak. With her closest loved ones dead, her courage and survival skills embody her bold character. Michonne’s appearance alone reflects a sense of self-worth and understanding to fans of this character. Her dreadlocks and dark complexion, which at times are irrationally associated with negative traits and false stereotypes, give viewers an alternative view of our culture. Dreads and all, Michonne’s look doesn’t define who she is, but rather, eliminates preconceived notions. She is a positive character to us all, demonstrating immense bravery in the show and providing new images of Black female beauty and power.
Queenie – Portrayed by Gabourey Sidibe
Queenie is a smart, tough and prideful witch in season 4 of the FX cable television 2011 series, ”American Horror Story.” While she is often an outcast, ridiculed for her weight, she remains proud, carrying herself with confidence. As a human voodoo doll, Queenie has the ability to transfer self-inflicted pain to anyone she chooses. Despite her feelings of not fitting in and not receiving the respect she deserves, Queenie remains admirable and she maintains her self-assurance. While many people cope with issues of inequality and a lack of self-confidence, Queenie’s positivity speaks directly to those personal doubts. Her impact is important, supporting those with wavering confidence while pushing the belief that we all deserve to be comfortable in our own skin.
Julia Baker – Portrayed Diahann Carroll
Julia Baker is the widowed, single mother who works as a nurse on the television show, “Julia.” Aired on NBC from 1968 to 1971, “Julia,” was one of the first television series to depict an African-American female in a non-traditional, non-stereotypical role. As a nurse, Julia had a successful job and lived in a suburban setting, far different from the servant roles or ghetto living conditions that viewers were used to seeing African-Americans cast in at the time. As a single mother raising a young child, Julia was undoubtedly a positive interpretation of Blackness and femininity. Without Julia, many of the characters we are privileged to see today would not exist. Her role shaped the future of television and changed the perception of the Black female forever.