It’s a commonly held belief that Bill Cosby, as the creator of The Cosby Show, single-handedly and permanently changed white America’s perception of the African American family experience. The show was no doubt influential–but like all cultural influences its impact is difficult to measure. One barometer people have pointed to is the rise–or perceived rise–of black Americans in public life since Cosby‘s run. The show is often credited as an enabler of this rise–both for its role in altering the lens through which blacks were viewed by whites, and by expanding the dreams and possibilities for young minorities who were seeing a successful black professional family on network television for the first time.
Oprah Winfrey is among those who credit the trailblazing Cosby Show with opening the doors for Barack Obama’s success. “We probably wouldn’t have the president in the office that we have right now had there not been the Bill Cosby show,” Winfrey said on her program last year. “Because The Cosby Show introduced America to a way of seeing black people and black culture, that they had not seen before.”