Skip To Content

    A Definitive Ranking Of Black TV Dads

    From Randall on This Is Us to James Evans Sr. from Good Times, we've got the good, the corny, and the trifling. Let's fight about it.

    20. James St. Patrick, aka Ghost, played by Omari Hardwick

    Starz

    Show: Power

    On air: 2014–present

    James is at the bottom of this list for more than a few reasons. Let's start with the fact that he's a murderer and drug dealer whose antics put his children at risk every day. Let's add the fact that said antics and the enemies that come from his line of work actually did result in the death of one of his children while simultaneously scarring another for life. His only son, Tariq (Michael Rainey Jr.), is also a murderer and continues to undermine his parents on a regular basis because they're too busy trying to cover up all of James' mess to parent properly. Oh, and please do not forget the time James decided to have an affair with a detective, which, along with his other shenanigans, landed him in jail and away from his family. I'm sure James loves his kids and all that, but he does an absolutely terrible job of taking care of them. Money isn't everything, and the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

    19. Eli "Rowan" Pope played by Joe Morton

    ABC

    Show: Scandal

    On air: 2012–2018

    You're damn right I'm ranking Papa Pope above Ghost! He may also be a murderer, but unlike Ghost, he was doing it to protect the nation and managed to keep his daughter alive while doing so. He even saved everyone's ass from prison in the finale by taking credit for B613. Sure, he kept Olivia's (Kerry Washington's) mother locked in a cell for decades and told Liv she was dead, buuut Mama Pope (Khandi Alexander) was an unhinged assassin who ultimately made Liv do the same to her. Besides, he had great taste in music and wine and had a Shakespearean soliloquy for every occasion. There's also no way I could rank the black dad who gave the best "twice as good" speech on TV, last.

    18. Frank Mitchell played by William Allen Young

    UPN

    Show: Moesha

    On air: 1996–2001

    It truly pains me to see Frank this far down the list, because he really was a great father to Moesha (Brandy Norwood) and Myles (Marcus T. Paulk) for most of the series. When we meet him in Season 1, he's a widower raising two children and had recently remarried, much to his teenage daughter's dismay. Sure, he was uptight and overly strict at times, but there was no question that he loved Moesha and did an admirable job balancing her rocky relationship with her new stepmother, who honestly never did anything to deserve Moesha's constant attitude in the early episodes. But then came Season 5 when their troubled cousin Dorian (Ray J) comes to live with them after running away from his mom (*sigh*). At first, it seems admirable of Frank to take on raising his sister's kid, but then it's revealed that Dorian is actually Frank's son, who he had after cheating on his late wife. It's a twist so messy and black you'd think Tyler Perry wrote it. Anyway, there's no coming back from hiding your love child by sending him to live with your sister.

    17. John "Pops" Williams played by John Witherspoon

    The WB

    Show: The Wayans Bros.

    On air: 1995–1999

    If this were a ranking for the tackiest-dressing dads, Pops would be at the tippy-top. The man was pretty strange — one might even call him the first carefree black boy on TV, but he would probably smack said person for calling him a boy. While the term may not exactly fit, Pops definitely enjoyed being the parent of two adult sons who no longer needed day-to-day care...well, Marlon (Marlon Wayans) probably still needed it, but whatever. Pops spent time with his sons daily thanks to their side-by-side jobs: Shawn (Shawn Wayans) owned the newsstand next to Pops's diner — Marlon often worked shifts at both — and always had a story or catchphrase to share, but mostly he was about as dysfunctional as his boys.

    16. George Jefferson played by Sherman Hemsley

    CBS

    Show: The Jeffersons

    On air: 1975–1985

    You may be wondering how the iconic George Jefferson, star of the longest-running series (by seasons) with a predominately black cast, is this far down on the list. But hear me out: George Jefferson is someone we loved to hate, a legendary character, but a very rude little man. To this day I don't know how Weezie (Isabel Stanford) or Lionel (Mike Evans, later Damon Evans) put up with his antics. He constantly made fun of his son's in-laws because they were in an interracial relationship, and even referred to their biracial children (including his daughter-in-law) as zebras. Bad attitude and foul mouth aside, he did move them up to a deluxe apartment in the sky and provided a legacy for son and granddaughter through his successful cleaning business, and that does count for something.

    15. Joe Carmichael played by David Alan Grier

    Chris Haston / NBC

    Show: The Carmichael Show

    On air: 2015–2017

    Joe Carmichael might have been higher on this list if the show had a longer run (and if it wasn't for that pesky secret child reveal), but despite only having three seasons, the entire family definitely left a mark. In fact, its entire stellar cast has all booked new gigs on various TV shows since it ended abruptly last year due to creative differences between Jerrod Carmichael and NBC. But back to Grier, the legend: He was funny, old-fashioned, stubborn, and devoted to his family — everything we grew up loving about the OG black dad trope but were missing when the show premiered. Please cast Grier as that black dad in all the things.

    14. Paul Patterson Sr. played by Richard Roundtree

    BET

    Show: Being Mary Jane

    On air: 2013–present

    Paul Sr. is definitely one of those dads who makes it hard for their daughters to find a man who can measure up. He, like a lot of the men on this list, worked hard to give his family a good life, but is forced to watch them struggle despite that, with lupus (Helen), a drug addiction (Patrick), multiple teenage pregnancies (Neicy), or a myriad of relationship issues (Mary Jane). Throughout all of the craziness, Paul remains his family's rock, always perfectly toeing the line between strong and compassionate. He's easily a favorite on the show, and respect for him only grew when it was revealed last season that Patrick — the child who has given him the most work and whose adult daughter still lives with Paul and Helen and continues to have babies she can't take care of — isn't his biological son. Not only that, but he's the son of Paul's former best friend, and Paul knew the whole time but chose to start a family with Helen and raise him as his own anyway. If he were a main character on the show, he'd definitely be higher up on this list.

    13. Carl Otis Winslow played by Reginald VelJohnson

    ABC

    Show: Family Matters

    On air: 1989–1997

    Ok, I'm just going to say it: There's nothing particularly noteworthy about Carl Winslow outside of the character's longevity on TV. Sure he was a loving, hard-working dad, but who on this list isn't? Carl's storylines never really had much substance to them because Steve Urkel (Jaleel White) became the unintended star of the show, and before long, Carl just became a vehicle for Steve's jokes, the target for his annoying antics. But he was the longest-running black dad on TV in the '90s. So for better or for worse, if you were a kid in the '90s like myself, Carl was the black TV dad you saw the most growing up.

    12. Joe West played by Jesse L. Martin

    The CW

    Show: The Flash

    On air: 2014–present

    Joe West is basically the dad on CW's The Flash. He's the adopted dad of Barry Allen (Grant Gustin), who becomes the Flash, and the biological father of Iris West Allen (Candice Patton) — yup Barry and Iris married each other! OK, even though they're technically not blood siblings, it's kiiiiinda awkward, but let's put that aside for now. Joe is, for all intents and purposes, a good dad: He raised his daughter alone and took Barry under his wing after Barry's mother was killed and his father imprisoned. My issue with Joe comes from the fact that he's one of those men who are super overprotective with their daughters but not their sons. He wouldn't let Iris join the police force, but Barry fights crime on the regular as the Flash. He also used to demand men got permission from him to date Iris, even though she was a grown woman. His heart is in the right place, but I wish he'd treat his adult children more equally.

    11. Andre Johnson played by Anthony Anderson

    Ron Tom / ABC

    Show: Blackish

    On air: 2014–present

    At his core, Andre cares about his family, but that love is often covered in so much selfishness that it's hard to call him one of the best dads ever. The man constantly puts himself first and only actively likes one of his kids — two if you count baby Devante — and while his extra personality absolutely makes the show funnier, it also doesn't leave one wishing he was their dad. In fact, if you watch the show regularly, you probably spend most of the episode shaking your head at him until he has his come-to-Jesus moment in the end. It's during those last few minutes each week that it's easiest to see Dre's core: a man desperate to create the family he never had growing up but always wanted. And there's no denying that he has definitely succeeded at doing that, even if he annoys them all most of the time.

    10. Jefferson Pierce played by Cress Williams

    CW

    Show: Black Lightning

    On air: January 2018–present

    Scooter is all grown-up and playing a literal superhero dad on the CW. Jefferson is a principal at a high school where he's clearly a role model to many, including his two daughters, whom he insists (with no objection from them) live with him — even his adult daughter, who also works with him at the school where his youngest is still a student. Despite being their primary caregiver, Jefferson coparents with their mother and his ex-wife, who he is clearly still very much in love with. All in all, Jefferson is a good man with a gift that he struggles with because, while it allows him to save many, it also puts his family in danger. Despite this, it's very cool to see a black dad be an actual superhero; he would be higher on the list if the show wasn't so new. Here's to hoping it goes on for more than a couple seasons.

    9. Ralph Angel Bordelon played by Kofi Siriboe

    OWN

    Show: Queen Sugar

    On air: 2016–present

    There's something to be said about the fact that the two newest black dads on TV both made the top 10 of this list. The increase in black creatives behind the scenes in the industry has had a positive impact on the nuances and layers black characters are getting, and Ralph Angel is one of the best examples of this. In Season 1, we met him as a single father struggling with unemployment after being released from prison. His son Blue (Ethan Hutchison) is the center of his world and identity as a man; Blue is what keeps him going through the hard times. No matter how hard the world tries to make Ralph Angel rough, he is always compassionate and kind with Blue. It's especially meaningful to see the way he allows Blue to form his own identity outside of gender norms, like the way he allows Blue to play with his favorite Barbie doll Kenya, for example, and stands up to anyone who questions that decision. Their bond is one of the strongest and purest I've ever seen on TV, which is why it was so devastating when Blue's mother Darla (Bianca Lawson), who is a recovering drug user, reveals Ralph Angel may not be Blue's biological father at the end of the second season. But what's even more moving is when Ralph Angel determines that he's going to continue to raise Blue as is his son anyway.

    8. Mark "Flex" Washington played by Flex Alexander

    UPN

    Show: One on One

    On air: 2001–2006

    One on One was really the first time we got to see an entire series centered on a black dad raising a daughter on his own. The story's plotline is that Flex's daughter Breanna (Kyla Pratt) moves in with him after her mom accepts a job in another country. Watching Flex's transformation from a bachelor lifestyle, where he only saw his child two weeks out of the year and could be more of a friend than her parent, to a responsible, full-time single father was meaningful. It hadn't been done before on TV despite the number of men in this country who have had to struggle with making that journey. Flex and Breanna also highlighted what it's like for a child to learn to trust and respect a parent who wasn't always a part of their daily life. They were lowkey pioneers.

    7. Ray Campbell played by Tim Reid

    ABC

    Show: Sister, Sister

    On air: 1994–1999

    Listen, Ray Campbell was a good dad. He adopted Tamera (Tamera Mowry), raised her as a single father for years after his wife passed, and then (when they discovered she was a twin at the mall) allowed Tamera's twin sister and her adopted mother to move in with them so his daughter could grow up with her sister. Thanks to his successful limo service he was able to be the primary provider for all of them, and he ultimately grew to love both Tia (Tia Mowry) and Lisa (Jackée Harry) like family. Like, what a guy! He also represented a more conservative type of black dad than we'd seen up to that point; he was dignified, intellectual, and definitely would have had Tamera up in Jack and Jill if she wasn't so opposite of him. Still, he always loved his daughter for who she was, even when he didn't understand.

    6. Bernard "Bernie" McCullough played by Bernie Mac

    FOX

    Show: The Bernie Mac Show

    On air: 2001–2006

    Bernie Mac represented the many black uncles out there who have stepped up to become a father figure for their nieces and/or nephews. In this show's case, Bernie and his wife Wanda take in his sister's kids when she's no longer able to be a proper parent for them due to drug addiction. Bernie is definitely a part of the strict but comical trope of TV dads: He unapologetically portrayed how a parent could be both loving and still believe in a good ol' fashioned ass-whooping threat as a form of discipline — a balance I'm sure many black parents appreciated. I would also be remiss if I didn't mention the important work in showing America the way in which many black families implement the nickname "baby girl."

    5. Michael Kyle played by Damon Wayans

    ABC

    Show: My Wife and Kids

    On air: 2001–2006

    Micheal Kyle was the best TV dad of the early '00s. He represented a new millennium version of the black dad. He didn't just reach for his belt to get his kids to behave, he had a distinct parenting style that involved playing mind tricks and literal pranks to teach them lessons. The show both defied stereotypes (for instance, Michael had a blue-collar job but turned it into a successful company) and found new ways to break past them when dealing with issues like teenage pregnancy, which is how Michael and Jane (Tisha Campbell-Martin) started their family. There was even a storyline about Micheal having a *gasp* vasectomy. It was really refreshing to see the way he blended old- and new-school parenting, and I'm sure it helped some black fathers at the time do the same.

    4. James Evans Sr. played by John Amos

    CBS

    Show: Good Times

    On air: 1974–1979

    Let's be clear, James Evans Sr. is the original black TV dad. In fact, many often joke that the show raised them in a way, as it was the first time a black family was represented on TV in such a big way. The Evans family lived in the projects of Chicago. James often worked multiple jobs to try to provide for his wife and kids, and while there were periods he was unemployed, he never liked to accept charity because was a proud man. He represented many black fathers at the time, struggling to achieve in a country filled with racial bias, and gave society a look into their hearts versus just their circumstances. It's a shame his character was killed off in the Season 4 premiere (Amos and those behind the scenes of the show had creative differences about the show's direction). James should automatically make everyone's top five off the strength that every black actor who has played a dad since Good Times aired has stood on this man's shoulders.

    3. Christopher "Julius" Rock II played by Terry Crews

    CW

    Show: Everybody Hates Chris

    On air: 2005–2009

    Julius was one of the funniest and realest black dads on TV, probably because he was inspired by the show's creator, Chris Rock's, dad. Julius was a devoted father who worked multiple jobs to take care of his family, and as a result, was never about to let them blow HIS money fast. In other words, he was cheap. I'm talking "make your family stop using certain household devices to save on the electricity bill" cheap. The only thing he ever wasted his money on was playing the lotto, because #blackfolk. Even though he often took the penny-pinching too far, I love that Julius highlighted the traditional black dad from the '80s in the new millennium thanks to the show's flashback premise. He was tough on his boys, while often still spoiling his only daughter, which is quite on the nose for most fathers. As was the fact that he left most of the disciplining up to his wife, but made sure his kids knew he had a belt for every offense if they tried him too hard. He wasn't super affectionate, but his love language was service, and no one can question how hard he worked for his kids.

    2. Randall Pearson played by Sterling K. Brown

    NBC

    Show: This Is Us

    On air: 2016–present

    Randall Pearson is actually a perfect human and this is not debatable. He has the biggest heart and is undeniably dedicated to making sure his girls grow up to be the best versions of themselves. Randall is number two because even his flaws are endearing — trust that a lot of the other families on this list wish their biggest complaint could be that their dad was a little corny, worked too hard, and overthought situations. Randall also pushes through the "tough love" stereotype most black dads on TV have been boxed into by being even more emotional than his wife when it comes to his kids and marriage. In Season 2, he even takes a step back from his stellar career and becomes a *gasp* house husband. The way he cares for his family is beyond moving. Tess (Eris Baker) and Annie (Faithe Herman) are the luckiest girls. And all of this is even more impressive when you consider he lost his adopted dad when he was a teenager and had to deal with not knowing his birth father until adulthood.

    1. Philip Banks, aka Uncle Phil, played by James Avery

    NBC

    Show: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

    On air: 1990–1996

    "First things first rest in peace Uncle Phil / For real, you the only father that I ever knew." —J. Cole, "No Role Modelz”

    Uncle Phil (or "Daddy," as his kids called him) is the greatest black dad in TV history because 1) it's true, and 2) because I said so and this is my ranking. Feel free to @ me. Anyway, back to my fave: Philip was the definition of a teddy bear. Tough and intimidating on the outside, but with a heart of gold on the inside. He loved and provided for his family, even though they worked his nerves regularly. On top of all this, he took in his wife's knuckleheaded nephew from Philadelphia — not because he was an orphan with no other options — but because they, especially Philip as a dad, were what Will needed as he ushered his way into manhood. Lord knows, Phil and Will butted heads regularly, but at the end of the day, Uncle Phil took care of him and loved him like a son. And honestly, the scene where Uncle Phil was there to take Will's anger, and then tears, after his deadbeat dad popped in and out of his life for the umpteenth time, is one of the most iconic scenes on black fatherhood in TV history.

    TV and Movies

    Get all the best moments in pop culture & entertainment delivered to your inbox.

    Newsletter signup form