Last night, Black-ish, the hit ABC sitcom centered on fictional advertising executive Andre Johnson (Anthony Anderson) and his family, returned to the air for its fourth season. The writers went for hot-button topics right out of the gate this year, using allusions Schoolhouse Rock and some help from The Roots and Aloe Blacc to paint teach audiences about misconceptions regarding slavery and the treatment of African Americans throughout our country’s history.
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The episode, titled “Juneteenth,” ponders why Americans celebrate Columbus Day instead of holidays more relevant to North American history. In the episode, the Johnson family attends a Columbus-themed school play featuring twins Jack and Diane, and Dre (Anthony Anderson) took issue with some of the production’s historical inaccuracies–namely, that the Italian explorer discovered (or even set foot in) North America, and dramatically pulls his kids off the stage. At work the next day, Dre decides to use his frustration for creative good, recruiting Aloe Blacc to write a song that accurately portrayed Columbus’s legacy. And the ordeal left Dre wondering . “We celebrate a horrible man when we don’t even acknowledge important moments in our own history like Juneteenth.”
When he’s met with blank stares regarding “Juneteenth,” the holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S. on June 19th 1865, the show drops into an animated short to help educate Dre’s coworkers about this important event in American history featuring animated versions of The Roots. The tune is modeled after “I’m Just A Bill,” a memorable number from everyone’s favorite educational cartoon, Schoolhouse Rock.
Check out The Roots’ animated “I’m Just A Bill” parody, “I Am A Slave,” from Black-ish below via ABC:
Watch the official clip from Black-ish released by ABC, which features the second half of the Roots’ parody and the show’s narrative punchline below:
The critically lauded episode also heavily referenced Broadway phenomenon Hamilton, with the cast performing several musical numbers (produced by Fonzworth Bentley) that portray historical events through theatrically dramatized hip-hop numbers.
You can watch Black-ish Tuesdays at 9pm ET on ABC.