‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Has Only 1 Black Speaking Character in All 248 Episodes

A popular show from the ’60s is The Andy Griffith Show. The show contains plenty of comedic actors, some of which were pranksters. Living in a small town, many of the characters were happy overall on the show. 

When looking back on the series, fans may notice certain aspects they had not before. Some have pointed out that there was not a lot of married folks. Others mentioned a lack of diversity in the cast. There was only one Black character with a speaking role. 

What is ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ about?

Don Knotts and Andy Griffith
Don Knotts and Andy Griffith | CBS Photo Archive/Archive Photos/Getty Images

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The Andy Griffith Show is an American sitcom that first aired in 1960. It ran for eight seasons and ended in 1968.

Most of the episodes were in black and white, but some were in color. The show starred Andy Griffith, Ron Howard, and Don Knotts. 

The series takes place in a fictional town called Mayberry, which is in North Carolina. Sheriff Andy Taylor, the main character, tries to ward off criminals with a level-headed approach. There are community problems that he solves with common sense advice. 

Andy is popular among the town’s citizens and often socializes in the barbershop. The show depicts his personal life as well as his professional one. At some point, a schoolteacher arrives and becomes Andy’s main love interest. 

For many fans, the town of Mayberry holds a lot of character and nostalgia. The setting reflects small-town life in the South. While the naivete gets exaggerated, the show does display the genuine concern that people have for each other in North Carolina. 

There is a lack of diversity in the show

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One of the most popular shows to come out of the 1960s is The Andy Griffith Show. Products made during a period often reflect the society of the time. The same goes for this popular TV show. 

Looking back at the show, viewers may notice that there are hardly any characters that are Black. The Andy Griffith Show began before the civil rights movement had sparked. As a result, the fictional town mirrored that, in a sense.

Oprah Winfrey talked about how she was disappointed that she did not see any Black residents. “It feels like such a family values show,” she told George Lindsey, who portrayed Goober on the show. “Every time I watch it, it reminds me of a time — even though there’s not one Black person ever been to Mayberry. Not a Black person in 12 years came through Mayberry, that I saw.”

The show tended to shy away from major real-world events, which reflected people’s desire to escape them. So, race did not get brought up at all. Hollywood still struggles with diversity and inclusivity, so that is also a glaring issue that existed back then as well.

The only Black character with a speaking part on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’

While there was a handful of Black background characters on the show, there was only one Black character with a speaking part. Flip Conroy appeared in an episode during the seventh season. In “Opie’s Piano Lesson,” Flip was Opie’s football coach. That was the only time viewers ever saw a Black actor who had lines in the show. 

Winfrey once invited the actor, Rockne Tarkington, of the Black character who appeared in an episode. Tarkington explained there were hardly any Black speaking roles at the time, especially during the early ’60s. 

The Root reports that some in the Black community did not see it as a concern back then. Former Detroit Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley mentioned that she and her family watched the show to see their way of life on screen. She did not think about the number of Black characters. 

Griffith once said that he regretted that Black people got excluded from the cast. He mentioned that many Black did not want to act in servant roles. Yet, it would have been unlikely to write in a Black teacher. “There is no way in some small town in the South that white people were going to flock to a Black doctor or lawyer,” the actor explains.