Top 5 Memorable Black Educators in TV and Film

Here are our Top 5 picks for the most memorable Black educators on television and the big screen.


By Laura Onyeneho,

As Black History continues to be under attack in public schools nationwide, it is difficult to ignore the plight of Black educators. Not only are they constantly under pressure to do their jobs, they also have to do them while trying to keep a positive attitude and elevating the future generation. Unfortunately, educators aren’t paid their worth and rarely get the respect they deserve outside of the classroom.

On television teachers are usually portrayed as devoted and valuable members of society who work hard to inspire and encourage students. But for Black educators there still continues to be a gap in representation.

According to a report from the Center for Black Educators, 15% of U.S public school students identify as Black, while Black teachers only account for 7% of public school educators nationwide.

Here are our Top 5 picks for the most memorable Black educators on television and the big screen.


From 1982-1987, Houston icon and dancer extraordinaire Debbie Allen played the role of Lydia Grant, the tough, cane-tapping, master dance instructor. The series followed the lives of students and faculty at the the New York City High School for the Performing Arts.


Morgan Freeman played the role of Joe Clark in the 1989 film “Lean on Me” that was loosely based the real life principal of Eastside High School in Patterson, New Jersey of the same name. His style of leadership was known to be unorthodox and militant and was often admired and criticised nationwide.


Award-winning actress Quinta Brunson plays Janine Teagues, the main character of the ABC hit mockumentary series “Abbott Elementary.” Teagues is a positive-minded second grade teacher in a fictionally, predominantly Black and poorly-funded elementary school in Philadelphia.


Whoopi Goldberg plays Las Vegas showgirl Deloris Van Cartier who returns as Sister Mary to teach music to a group of students, whose Catholic school is threatened for closure.


Who doesn’t love Denzel Washington? In the movie “The Great Debaters” he plays Mr. Melvin B. Tolson, a Black educator who taught at WIley College (Wiley, Texas) during the Depression era. He inspires students to form its first debate team that eventually challenged Harvard University at the national championships.

This post was originally published on Defender Network