Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Communication Studies

First Committee Member

Richard Jensen

Number of Pages



This thesis involves a historical and critical examination of the utilization and development of African Americans in television sitcoms. By reexamining the initial research by Riggs (1991) and extending it, I will introduce a new stage focusing on contemporary sitcoms; According to Riggs' (1991), study on the utilization and development of African Americans in television can be divided into four stages that represent various periods in television history. Each stage is indicated by the transition in role, increase or decline in visibility, and the changes in their image or portrayal on television. By furthering Riggs study by examining contemporary sitcoms using both a historical and critical approach I will propose a fifth stage of development in African American portrayal in television sitcoms; To ascertain a understanding of the subject matter a historical approach to the research is applied. The historical approach will provide an overview of each stage before introducing the fifth stage. This fifth stage is illustrated with the application of the same question posed by Riggs in the initial study; The study provides numerous opportunities for future research into the utilization and development of African American portrayal. Future research will enhance the study and perhaps increase overall comprehension.


Africa; Americans; Comedy; Development; Portrayal; Stages; Television

Controlled Subject

Mass media; Blacks; History

File Format


File Size

2580.48 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




If you are the rightful copyright holder of this dissertation or thesis and wish to have the full text removed from Digital Scholarship@UNLV, please submit a request to and include clear identification of the work, preferably with URL.


IN COPYRIGHT. For more information about this rights statement, please visit