Health + Wellness

Father Figures: The 10 Best Black TV Dads

For many of us, the dads on some of our favorite shows also served as great father figures. In honor of Father’s Day, we’re sharing our favorite TV Dads. Check out our top 10 best Black TV Dads.

10. Carl Winslow – Reginald VelJohnson on ‘Family Matters’


Carl had to be one of the most patient people ever, on TV or otherwise. Not only would the neighbor kid go up to his house anytime he pleased, but Steve Urkel was responsible for an increase of many hundred thousand dollars in their home renovation bill. Eddie matured from a kook to a college student and responsible adult, and Laura became a beautiful person, but Carl was always there for them when they needed him. There was more than one incident when Carl came close to death, but Urkel always managed to rescue him since, in his words, Carl was “the greatest person I knew.” That statement came from Urkel’s own father. But what really distinguished Carl was his unflappability when one of his own children disappeared without a trace. The best ones always keep things moving.

Best Quote: “When you make a mistake, you fess up to it. Trying to cover it up would only make it worse.”

9. Andre “Dre” Johnson – Anthony Anderson on ‘Black-ish’


Dre is such a likable protagonist because his existence represents the American Dream for so many. He lived in a posh area, could afford whatever pair of shoes he wanted, and was blessed with bright, compassionate kids. Even at his worst, his decision-making was always based on ensuring that his family looked good as a unit. This is ironic given that his paranoia stems from his own success, a concept Kenya Barris continues to explore. When Dre wears his Gucci clothes, he considers the message he could be sending to the neighborhood he comes from. He then goes out and buys more to dull the ache. 

Best Quote: “What if he never goes back, Bow? I don’t know where I would have been without college. When I was a kid walking through my neighborhood, the only jobs I thought you could have were a postman, a barber, or a bus driver. All of them are good, but college taught me the world was bigger than my block.”

8. Phillip Banks – James Avery on ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’


Regarding television dads of African descent, no one can compare to Uncle Phil (or Daddy, as his kids called him). The moniker “teddy bear” was coined for Philip. Despite appearances, these folks are kind and generous. He loved and supplied for his family, even if they often got on his nerves. Philip and his family took in Will, his wife’s brash nephew from Philadelphia, not because Will had nowhere else to go, but because he and his family, especially his father, were just what Will needed to adjust to adulthood. Will understood that his Uncle Phil loved him and treated him like a son, even though he and Phil had a history of disagreements. Will’s deadbeat dad’s frequent appearances and disappearances, with Uncle Phil there to take the anger and then the tears, is one of the most striking images of black fatherhood in television history.

Best Quote: “I’m your father. It is my job to protect you. It’s a job I refuse to quit and at which I can’t afford to fail.”

7. Bernie Mac – Bernie Mac on ‘The Bernie Mac Show’


Bernie Mac represented the many African-American uncles who have stepped in to raise their young nephews and nieces. Bernie and Wanda adopt two children after Bernie’s sister becomes too addicted to drugs to care for them. Bernie is a perfect example of the stereotype of the strict but humorous TV dad. He demonstrated unapologetically that a parent could love their child deeply while also believing in the efficacy of the old-fashioned butt-whooping threat as a form of discipline, a nuance I’m sure many Black parents found refreshing. It would be remiss of me not to include the work done to inform white people about the cultural meaning of the word “baby girl” in many Black homes.

Best Quote: “When it comes to raising children, I believe in give and take. I give the orders, and they take ’em.”

6. Frank Mitchell – William Allen Young on ‘Moesha’


Frank Mitchell of ‘Moesha’ is often overlooked while discussing the top Black father figures on television. Scene after scene, the character and actor’s efforts on the UPN sitcom starring Brandy held its own while being underappreciated. He was a strict parent, but reality TV shifted the focus to the extremes, leading networks to believe viewers want more drama. So, they hired Ray J at Brandy’s urging and made him into Frank’s offspring. Despite the new perspective it has given him, Frank was just a regular dad trying to get through his kids’ awkward teenage years.

Best Quote: “You have to create your own world and future now because your parents can’t help you anymore.”

5. Flex Washington

One on One S1E1 Part 1 - When Flex Got Breanna (Pilot)

Played by Flex Alexander on ‘One on One’

‘One on One’ was the first show of its kind, following a Black father as he raised his daughter on his own. Flex’s daughter Breanna (Kyla Pratt) moves home with him when her mother accepts a job offer in another country. Flex’s transformation from a slacker single dad who spent two weeks a year with his kid to a devoted, full-time earner and father was encouraging. It has never been attempted on television before, although many men in this country have faced the peril of making that journey. In addition, Flex and Breanna demonstrated how a child may learn to trust and respect a parent who isn’t always around by modeling these behaviors themselves.

Best Quote: “My daughter, she’s got boobs. It’s so tough watching your baby grow; it really, really is. I was there when she stepped into womanhood and had her first period; her mother wasn’t. I didn’t know what to do. I was running around the house trying to find wet naps.”

4. Julius Rock


Played by Terry Crews on ‘Everybody Hates Chris’

Julius is one of the funniest and most realistic Black dads on television and is based on Chris Rock’s father. Since Julius toiled away at various occupations to provide for his family, he wasn’t about to let them waste away ANY of THEIR hard-earned cash. To put it another way, he was cheap. The analogy to urging one’s family to stop using different household devices to save electricity expenses was both hilariously appropriate and horribly cheap. The only time he ever carelessly spent money was on lottery tickets. The show’s flashback format highlighted the paradigm of the typical Black father from the 1980s, which I like despite Julius’s predilection for frugality going too far at times. When it came to his boys, he was stern, but when it came to his daughter, he was adoring. He delegated most of the punishment to his wife, but he ensured his children knew he always had a belt ready. He may not have been the most nurturing dad, but his dedication paid off for his kids.

Best Quote: “No is negotiable. I can actually change where I go and how I get there. I can actually make my way over to the other side. It’s up to me.”

3. Ray Campbell


Played by Tim Reid on ‘Sister Sister’

There was no better dad than Ray Campbell. He raised Tamera (Tamera Mowry) after losing his wife, raised her alone for a while, and then brought in Tamera’s twin sister and adoptive mother. He was able to take care of Tia (Tia Mowry) and Lisa (Jackée Harry) because of his successful limo company, and he started to think of them as family. In addition, he represented a more conventional Black father than we had previously seen; he was upstanding and savvy, and he would have had Tamera in Jack and Jill if she hadn’t been so resistant to him. He loved his daughter deeply despite his bafflement.

Best Quote: “The name of the game is efficiency; we have to play that game with our toys and our brains.”

2. Michael Kyle Sr.


Played by Damon Wayans on ‘My Wife and Kids’

Michael Kyle was unrivaled as the best TV dad in the early 2000s. He represented the modern Black American patriarch. Instead of just slapping them with the belt, he used a combination of psychological and physical manipulation to instill a sense of responsibility in them. In addition to Michael and Jane’s (Tisha Campbell-Martin) teen pregnancy, Michael’s choice to turn his blue-collar career into a thriving company was another example of how the show questioned expectations and pushed limits. The fact that Michael had a vasectomy was a major story factor. Some African fathers of the time may have learned from his ability to blend new techniques with more time-honored ones.

Best Quote: “My father was the guy on the block who said hi to everyone.”

1. Calvin Butler


Played by Cedric The Entertainer on “The Neighborhood’

Calvin’s character in ‘The Neighborhood’ changes drastically from his judgmental beginnings. Calvin is shown to be a kind father who has attended every single one of his children’s significant life events. He is understanding when they make mistakes and encouraging when they discover their passion. Calvin adopts a neighbor’s child and becomes a father figure to a troubled girl who works in his auto repair business. Despite his fury and harsh tongue, Calvin is a kind parent who supports his kids’ choices even when he disagrees with them.

Best Quote: “It is a big world that we live in, and people have a choice to love who they love.”

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