On November 10, 1969, Sesame Street made its broadcast debut, and since then, the show has become a pioneer in children’s television. From catchy alphabet songs to important lessons about friendship, the show used iconic characters like Big Bird, Elmo and the Cookie Monster to get its message across in a meaningful way. Now, almost 50 years later, folks are celebrating the show’s impact with #Sesame50.
One of the show’s biggest achievements that might not get as much attention is its commitment to diversity.
To put it frankly, the show was very Black from the time it premiered in 1969 to its current episodes.
One of the show’s original human stars was Matt Robinson who played Gordon Robinson on the show. His daughter, Holly Robinson Peete, took to Twitter to celebrate her dad’s accomplishments with the show:
“My dad Matt Robinson — a black man from Philly being the main star and a producer in 1969 was no small thing,” she wrote. “I miss him.”
Robinson even voiced a muppet on the show named Roosevelt Franklin, and with his kinky hair and soulful songs about counting, Black audiences knew Franklin was speaking to them.
“Roosevelt Franklin was a Muppet in the very early years of
@sesamestreet, and he was clearly Black. Not just voiced by @hollyrpeete’s dad Matt, but meant to represent Black kids,” wrote April Reign, activist and founder of #OscarsSoWhite.
Representing for Black women was Loretta Long who voiced various characters and played Susan Robinson in the show.
Over the years, things got even Blacker with some major celebrity guests in music, activism and entertainment appearing on the show.
Michelle Obama also reflected on the show and how it’s been a landmark in her life and her children’s life. On Instagram, she showed her appreciation for the show after being honored at Sesame Workshop’s 50th Anniversary Gala. “I could not be more honored to help celebrate 50 years of @SesameStreet tonight,” she wrote. “It’s a program that’s been a part of my life as a child, as a mother, as First Lady—and thankfully, still today.”
“I’ll never forget the first time my daughters came to Sesame Street with me back in 2010. As Malia, Sasha, and I walked onto that street with the brownstone, the grocery store, and the famous trash can, we were totally overwhelmed, in awe, our faces filled with wonder, and our spirits soaring. But it wasn’t just us—my staff was mesmerized. Even the Secret Service agents had big goofy grins on. There is something unexplainable that happens there, some unique alchemy that bubbles up that you just can’t find anywhere else. There’s nothing in the world that so beautifully marries boundless aspiration with simple goodness, nothing that strips away the daily madness and distraction, nothing that is so pure and hopeful—and absolutely essential to our future.”
Clearly, the children’s show was full of Black excellence.
Hit the flip for some more memorable Black moments that prove the show was for the kids and for the culture.