Despite what the CVS greeting card section might tell you, Father’s Day is a joyous time of the year. It’s when we celebrate the men who helped guide our lives and were there when we needed them. The ones who gave us the Talk, the ones we wanted to play catch with or talk music with.
But fatherhood comes in many forms—and one of those forms is television. Sesame Street wasn’t the only show out here helping to raise people; over the decades, sitcom dads have also dropped knowledge. We wanted to give these characters their due, so enjoy this indisputable, scientific ranking of the 31 best Black sitcom dads to ever do it. And happy Father’s Day to all Black TV dads, y’all; you might not have been real, but your lessons were.
Well, except James St. Patrick, the worst Black TV dad ever.
31. George Jefferson (The Jeffersons)
Played By: Sherman Hemsley
Kids: 1 (Lionel)
Profession: Dry cleaner
Parenting Style: Gruff but caring (once you get past the ego)
Yeah, you’re seeing that right — Mr. Movin’ On Up is all the way down here. What? Lionel was already grown when the show started, and when George did get involved, he wasn’t exactly turning in A-1 fathering lessons.
30. Calvin Butler (The Neighborhood)
Played By: Cedric the Entertainer
Kids: 2 (Malcolm and Marty)
Profession: Auto-repair shop owner
Parenting Style: Always bothered
Calvin’s got one son who is off in the world, and one still at home annoying him. In that, though, he learns a lot from his kids — who seem to have all of the sense and manage to get through to their dear old dad even if he doesn’t like to let on that they’re getting to him. Now if only his neighborhood doesn’t end up fully gentrified, he’d be able to die as a happy Black father of two.
29. Charles Thorne (Half & Half)
Played By: Obba Babatundé
Kids: 2 (Mona and Dee-Dee)
Profession: Vaguely defined “businessman”
Parenting Style: Patiently present
Charles had a lot of women to deal with in his life, and he loved them all in different but involved ways. While watching his daughters’ relationship grow, he often had to answer questions and reconcile parts that didn’t make sense, ultimately attempting to make up for lost time with one and keep the other level-headed when possible. He may have been a secondary character, but he did the best he could.
28. Cleveland Brown (The Cleveland Show)
Played By: Mike Henry
Kids: 3 (Cleveland Jr., Roberta, Rallo)
Profession: Deli owner
Parenting Style: Cartoonishly cautious
Cleveland loved his kids, and wanted what’s best for them as long as everybody is okay in the end. Somebody has to be the voice(ish) of reason, and that was Cleveland Brown through and through, except when he was being painstakingly unreasonable. (Though it should probably be noted that the literal voice of Cleveland is a White actor, which…yeah, that’s a whole other piece.) But what father hasn’t had to be all those things at the same time? Not that we’re speaking from experience or anything.
27. Oscar Proud (The Proud Family)
Played By: Tommy Davidson
Years: 2001–2005; 2022—
Kids: 3 (Penny, BeBe, Cece)
Profession: Snack-food mini-mogul
Parenting Style: He really tries his best
Oscar Proud was the kind of man for whom shenanigans and learning were always on the menu — usually because he tended to need a lesson or two. But through all of those moments where it seemed like he either didn’t get it or was being too ridiculous, he managed to show up when he was needed most.
26. Daryl Parks (A.N.T. Farm)
Played By: Finesse Mitchell
Number of Kids: 2 (Chyna and Cameron)
Profession: Police officer
Parenting Style: The one-liner king
Daryl was a cop whose only narrative function was to make sure that viewers knew that Chyna had parents. He was there for one-liners, sarcastic retorts, and the occasional uplifting speech. So, basically, dad goals, except for the always-forgetting-about-his-son part.
25. Marlon Wayne (Marlon)
Played By: Marlon Wayans
Kids: 2 (Marley and Zack)
Profession: Hey, what’s over there?
Parenting Style: Inappropriately relatable
Marlon Wayne is the kind of father who understands his kids, for better or worse — it’s probably why he and his ex-wife got a divorce to begin with. Marlon is ridiculous and never afraid to take an idea where it shouldn’t go, but his kids love him for it. Too bad NBC didn’t.
24. Kenya Barris (#blackAF)
Played By: Kenya Barris
Kids: 6 (Drea, Chloe, Izzy, Pops, Kam, Brooklyn)
Profession: TV writer
Parenting Style: Asshole
Kenya Barris is both the worst father ever and also, somehow, a good one. He’s a provider through and through and clearly loves his kids, he just wants them kids to know how hard he works for all of the things they have. (Also, he prefers his parenting from afar.) As a result, his kids clearly picked up their old man’s sarcasm, and most of them have at least a little bit of asshole in them. Good thing they’re #richAF, too.
23. Darryl Hughley (The Hughleys)
Played By: D.L. Hughley
Kids: 2 (Sydney and Michael)
Profession: Vending-machine salesman
Parenting Style: Streetwise matter-of-factness
Hughley (the comic, not the character) was the second of the Kings of Comedy quartet to get his own sitcom, and while it didn’t ever really rise to the level of must-watch TV the way The Bernie Mac Show did, at least his persona carried over to his character well. Don’t expect any spared feelings, kids.
22. Ernest Frye (Amen)
Played By: Sherman Hemsley
Kids: 1 (Thelma)
Parenting Style: Kinda-holy
Ernest Frye was one of those deacons whose love for the lord was something that could be questioned every episode. But Thelma he loved all the time, and it showed — especially in matters of love. His methods might have been hard to understand, but in the end, his daughter loved him so he must have been doing something right. Just don’t leave your wallet around him.
21. Craig Cooper (K.C. Undercover)
Played By: Kadeem Hardison
Kids: 2 … and 1 robot (K.C., Ernie, Judy)
Parenting Style: Wholesome, but make it spy
If your kids are the right age, you know the Disney Channel show well — and if you did, you probably rocked with Craig. What’s not to like about a dad who secretly works as a spy and helps his kids live out their dreams? But also, who else are you gonna rock with? You’re a grown-ass man, and this is the Disney Channel.
20. Alonzo Sparks (Sparks)
Played By: James Avery
Kids: 2 (Greg and Maxey)
Parenting Style: Laying down the law
In a family full of lawyers, somebody has to be the voice of reason, and Alonzo Sparks was that for his sons. He was the last word when necessary, but gave his sons enough space to learn and grow as people and lawyers. Is Alonzo Uncle Phil? Nah. But who is?
19. Joe Carmichael (The Carmichael Show)
Played By: David Alan Grier
Kids: 2 (Jerrod and Bobby)
Profession: Good question!
Parenting Style: Old school
Joe was the kind who liked to sit in his chair in the living room and his chair in the kitchen. He had his ways about him and he liked to call it like he saw it, which was often at odds with his more progressive and introspective son, Jerrod. But he was the family linchpin and the one who could always bring a conversation back to its humorous center when Jerrod got too heady about something.
18. Michael Kyle (My Wife and Kids)
Played By: Damon Wayans
Kids: 3 (Claire, Junior, Kady)
Profession: Trucking service owner
Parenting Style: Letting kids learn lessons the hard way
Michael Kyle was always with the shits. There was no challenge his pride wouldn’t let him accept, including those from his kids. He was willing to let them fail to see how they needed to succeed — and while that sometimes bit him in the ass, he always made sure to let them know how important the lessons were to learn. The show as a whole loses points for re-casting Claire with a lighter-skinned actress (Justice for Aunt Viv!), but it’s not a [puts sunglasses on] major pain.
17. Lester Jenkins (227)
Played By: Hal Williams
Kids: 1 (Brenda)
Profession: Construction company owner
Parenting Style: Incredulous and happy
It’s Lester, man. What can you say about Lester, other than he took it all in stride? Kept his family safe, kept Mary happy, kept Calvin from pushing up on Brenda. Classic peripheral sitcom dad.
16. Robert Peterson (The Parent ‘Hood)
Played By: Robert Townsend
Kids: 4 (Michael, Zaria, Nicholas, Cece)
Profession: College professor
Parenting Style: Adventurously imaginative
Robert loved his kids the fun way. There never seemed to be a problem that couldn’t be fixed or addressed with a dream sequence and a big dose of “why not?” energy. Because of that, he seemed like one of those fun dads who never made you go ask mom before you entered into hi-jinks — most of which he actively participated in. That’s love.
15. Robert James (All Of Us)
Played By: Duane Martin
Kids: 1 (Bobby)
Profession: TV reporter
Parenting Style: Compromising
Robert James was the father who had to figure out how to keep the mother of his son happy without making his fiancé uncomfortable. Too real. Thankfully, he was a great father to Bobby, teaching him about life and showing him just how happy a non-traditional family could be. In other words, exactly what you’d expect from a show created by Will and Jada.
14. Julius Rock (Everybody Hates Chris)
Played By: Terry Crews
Kids: 3 (Chris, Drew, Tonya)
Profession: Newspaper deliveryman, security guard, cab driver, fish packager…
Parenting Style: Hardworking (and cheap AF)
Julius was a penny pincher to the nth degree. Everybody had to sneak around to get little things here and there but his hardworking attitude is one his kids took on as well and used in their own ways. Julius was present and accounted for and his kids loved him for it, even if that love meant they had to hear how much that love cost…at all times.
13. Colonel Bradford Taylor (A Different World)
Played By: Glynn Turman
Kids: 3 (Terrence, Suzette, Imani)
Profession: Uh … colonel. Did you not get that?
Parenting Style: Military
File this one under Ultimate Father Figure. Colonel Taylor brought a rigid, but loving, style to his parenting — which would have been fine, except Terrance was all over the place and seemed to have rebelled against it all. But on Hillman campus, at least, the Colonel was a figure everybody could look to for advice and never steered anybody wrong. In college, what more could you ask for?
12. Fred Sanford (Sanford & Son)
Played By: Redd Foxx
Kids: 1 (Lamont)
Profession: Junk dealer
Parenting Style: Annoyed and grouchy
Fred Sanford ran the junkyard and seemed to be annoyed by anybody and everything. He wasn’t much for other people’s feelings, he was quick with a one-liner that bordered on verbal abuse, and his son Lamont — the big dummy — couldn’t catch a break. But Fred managed to raise a kid who looked after him and made sure his father was gon’ be alright, so he must have done something right.
11. Flex Washington (One on One)
Played By: Flex Alexander
Kids: 1 (Breanna)
Parenting Style: Cool as a fan, unless you test his cool
Flex was an NBA athlete-turned-sportscaster, enjoying the bachelor life — until his daughter’s mother moved to Canada and his daughter (played by Kyla Pratt) comes to live with him instead. This one turned sitcom-dad archetypes on their head: Having had Breanna when he was 18, Flex was still young enough to connect with his teenage daughter without the usual punchlines about being out of touch, but still be a nurturing force of guidance. One of the few images we saw of a young father who got it right.
10. John “Pops” Williams (The Wayans Bros.)
Played By: John Witherspoon
Kids: 2 (Shawn and Marlon)
Profession: Diner owner
Parenting Style: Obnoxiously loving, with a flair for cooooordinating
Pops was the guy to tell you how it is and how it’s going to be, but because of his kids, shenanigans were never too far away. He ran his business, loved on his kids, and gave them the freedom to hope and dream. In a nutshell, Pops was fun — but we wouldn’t expect anything else from a legend like John Witherspoon.
9. Ray Campbell (Sister Sister)
Played By: Tim Reid
Kids: 1 … but 2? (Tamera, Tia)
Profession: Limo service owner
Parenting Style: Caring and hella patient to a fault
Ray really was a good dude. Once he learned that his adopted daughter was a twin, he moved that twin and her adoptive mother (played by Jackée Harry) into his suburban home to ensure that they all had solid footing. He was firm, but a pushover, and that household loved him — so much so they let him cook with that goofy mustache for the entirety of the show’s run. Nobody said “Go Home, Roger” quite like Ray.
8. Andre Johnson (black-ish)
Played By: Anthony Anderson
Kids: 5 (Zoe, Junior, Jack, Diane, DeVante)
Parenting Style: Obnoxious, meddling, and paranoid with purpose
It’s impossible not to love Dre’s character, mostly because his life is what many of us aspire to achieve. He had a very nice expensive home in a very nice expensive neighborhood where he had both all the shoes he wanted and kids who were all smart and caring. He may drive everybody crazy with his paranoia — a paranoia that was rooted in his very success, a theme Kenya Barris continues to explore — but even at his worst, his decision-making was always rooted in ensuring that his family looked good as a unit. Dre’s the kind of dad who rocks Gucci, then worries about the signal it sends to the hood he came from… and then buys more to assuage that pain. That’s real.
7. Bernie McCullough (The Bernie Mac Show)
Played By: Bernie Mac
Kids: 2 nieces and a nephew (Bryana, Nessa, Jordan)
Profession: Stand-up comic
Parenting Style: tough love, but make it funny
There’s a reason this show was so well received: Bernie was hilarious. His no-nonsense approach to parenting was textbook old-school Black man. He didn’t suffer fools, and he kept those kids on the straight and narrow. And whew, lawd: his wife, Wanda (played by Kellita Smith), was fine as May win. Bernie is a great father for taking in his sister’s kids and not missing a beat, raising them as his own, and giving them a life they could thrive in. Add in his patented ridiculous comedy, and you’ve got a household we didn’t want to live in, but loved watching.
6. Granddad (The Boondocks)
Played By: John Witherspoon
Years: 2005–2008, 2010, 2014
Kids: At least one, since he had 2 grandkids (Huey and Riley)
Parenting Style: “I’ll whup your ass, boy”
Granddad — sorry, Robert Jebediah Freeman — is the kind of dude who brings a raincoat and galoshes to a protest because he knows they’re going to spray fire hoses. He keeps it real, speaks his mind, and is raising two kids who are about that life in two very different ways. Sounds like a successful dad to us.
5. Frank Mitchell (Moesha)
Played By: William Allen Young
Kids: 3 (Moesha, Miles, Dorian)
Profession: Car dealer (and a Kappa!)
Parenting Style: He tried, man. He tried.
Frank did his best to let his kids have fun while keeping them away from trouble — but on paper, at least, he might have failed. Dorian, his nephew who was actually his son, was a mess of epic proportions. Miles was cool but goofy, and Moesha was a straight-up handful. That said, the show, and Frank specifically, is the only reason we think of Saturn cars these days, so big up to the marketing team on that one!
4. Carl Winslow (Family Matters)
Played By: Reginald VelJohnson
Kids: 3…ish (Eddie, Laura, and Judy — then just Eddie and Laura, plus Steve Urkel and a nephew, Richie)
Profession: Police officer
Parenting Style: Loud but loving, and as patient as the day is long
Carl was one of the most patient individuals in television history — hell, in human history. Not only did the neighbor kid walk up in his house whenever he felt like it, but Steve Urkel singlehandedly drove up their home improvement bill by several hundred thousand dollars. Yet, Carl was still there for him, as well as his own kids, whenever they needed him; Eddie went from goofball to college man and responsible adult, and Laura blossomed into a wonderful human being. In an episode where Carl almost died (actually, that happened more than once), Urkel saves his life because — in his words — Carl was the best guy he knew. Urkel had his own father and he said that. What made Carl especially special, though, is that when one of his own children went upstairs and never came back down, he didn’t miss a beat. That’s what the great ones do: they keep it movin’.
3. James Evans (Good Times)
Played By: John Amos
Kids: 3 (JJ, Thelma, Michael)
Profession: Various (dishwasher, repairman, etc.)
Parenting Style: Annoyed with love
James Evans is on the Mt. Rushmore of Black TV dads. He was the working man’s working man. He kept food on the table and did his best to keep JJ grounded. He was the rock of the family and underneath the constant annoyance of the burden of his lot in life, he managed to help his wife and family make the most of what they had. Plus, when they killed James off the show — reportedly because the producers wanted more JJ and John Amos wanted a better show — Florida gave us one of the best quotables ever: DAMN DAMN DAMNNNNNNN!
2. Heathcliff Huxtable (The Cosby Show)
Played By: Bill Cosby
Kids: 5 (Sandra, Denise, Theo, Vanessa, Rudy)
Parenting Style: Fun, accessible, and uplifting
There’s no way to discuss “America’s Dad” without discussing the monster who created him. In a vacuum, Cliff Huxtable was as close to a perfect dad as can be imagined. His wife genuinely loved him, he was a doctor who worked from home, and he went to the greatest HBCU of all time not named Morehouse. Cliff was a father you could talk to, but who wouldn’t let you get over on him, a husband who would go to the store multiple times in the pouring rain because his wife asked him. It’s just too bad that Bill Cosby was trash, because the legacy of Cliff arguably died along with the myth of Cosby’s humanity. If there’s ever been a time to separate the art from the artist, it’s this one.
1. The Honorable Judge Phillip Banks a.k.a. Uncle Phil (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air)
Played By: James Avery
Kids: 4 (Hillary, Carlton, Ashley, plus half a point for Season 3 arrival Nicky and unofficial child Will)
Parenting Style: No-nonsense, with a tremendous helping of humanity
There is no discussion of black TV dads without Uncle Phil. I had my dad around and I still looked up to the guy. Despite his misgivings about Will disrupting the lives of his family, he took in an edgy, unpolished youngster with something to prove and helped him become not just a good person, but a good person with potential. When Will’s own father dropped the ball, Uncle Phil picked up the slack and made sure Lou couldn’t drop the ball over and over. Early on in the show’s run, Will tells Phil that when he got out to Bel Air he felt like all the other kids had two skates and he was trying to keep up with one — then thanks his Uncle Phil for giving him the other skate. Uncle Phil gave a lot of us our other skate.