‘Mad Men’s’ First Black Character Finally Gets a Storyline

By Jamilah King Apr 21, 2014

Warning: Spoiler alert.

It only took a couple seasons, but "Mad Men" is finally rolling out a storyline for its first significant black character. From NPR:

Sunday night, however, both Dawn and Shirley — a recently added black secretary who, unlike Dawn, rocks very short dresses and natural hair — got their very own conversation, just the two of them, that subtly realigned the show’s consideration of race from one that was primarily about the experiences of white people to one that was at least curious about, if not yet diving deeply into, the experiences of black people, and specifically black women.

While the show has been the target of criticism over the years for its lack of black characters (see: The Root’s Mad Men black-people counter), others, like author Tanner Colby, have argued that the show has actually done a decent job of handling race in the era of 1960’s social upheavel. As Colby wrote at Slate back in 2012:

Mad Men isn’t cowardly for avoiding race. Quite the opposite. It’s brave for being honest about Madison Avenue’s cowardice. While Don Draper and Sterling Cooper may seem woefully behind the times, that just means Matthew Wiener is right on schedule, historically speaking. And if Mad Men‘s schedule stays on the course it’s been following, it’s a safe bet that the season now beginning will finally bring us to the point when black consumers stand up and refuse to sit at the back of the advertising bus.

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