30 Years Later, 7 Ways A Different World Was Woke AFOctober 28, 2017
A Different World was an American sitcom that aired for six seasons beginning in September 1987, making it 30 this year. The show focused on students attending a fictional historically black college in Virginia, Hillman, the alma mater of Clair and Cliff Huxtable of The Cosby Show.
While the show has been cited as a large motivation for many in the ’80s and ’90s who wanted to attend college, mainly HBCUs, it also played a major role in bringing difficult and contemporary topics to the fore, placing real historical, social, political and economic issues within the context of young black people’s lives, especially black women and femmes, and connecting to their gender, bodies, sexuality and community.
The sitcom explored pertinent reproductive-justice issues for black women, including stereotypical imagery like Mammy, intimate-partner violence, sexual harassment and assault, misogynoir, contraception and condom use, and young-adult pregnancy. A Different World was way ahead of its time in creating and shifting narratives about black college life specifically and black life in general.