February is a month of celebration in the pop culture community — between the Grammy and the Academy Awards, the best in the music and cinema fields will be recognized in the next month. However, between the awards buzz for those two big nights, we want to make sure not to overshadow February’s significance: Black History Month. So to follow the month’s trend of celebration, we plan to spend all of February going through the most important African-American pop culture personalities of the last 29 years. We continue today with 1980.
More than 20 years after it went off the air, The Jeffersons remains the longest-running African American sitcom in history. It was also the first.
The series began its decade-long run in January of 1975, when it first aired as a spin-off of All in the Family. In 1981, Isabel Sanford received an Emmy for her portrayal Louise “Weezie” Jefferson during the show’s seventh season, which debuted in 1980. It was the only Emmy win for “The Jeffersons” — once the fourth highest-rated program on television.
In her acceptance speech for Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, Sanford started with two resonant words: “At last.” She was the first black woman to win in that category and remains the only black winner to this day. But her performance on The Jeffersons helped morph the traditional image of a sitcom — a look at the lives of middle-aged white men — into an acting forum for any race, gender and age.
Sanford died in 2004 at the age of 86.