Charles Santore, The Jeffersons: Sherman Hemsley, Isabel Sanford, and Paul Benedict

Gouache on board
Credit Line
Woodmere Art Museum: Gift of the Artist, 2017
11 1/2 x 16 1/2 in.

Philadelphia-born actor, Sherman Hemsley (1938–2012) portrayed hot-headed and opinionated businessman George Jefferson. The Jeffersons were a wealthy black family and the show, conceived by producer Norman Lear, addressed issues of social inequity and racism through George and his wife Louise's interaction with upscale Manhattan life.

As the series progressed, Hemsley softened his character’s personality and focused on how hard-working and loving he was with his family. Louise Jefferson, played by Isabel Sanford (1917–2004), was kind-hearted and often acted as her husband’s conscience. One of the series’ running gags was George slamming the door in the face of neighbor Harry Bentley (depicted in between George and Louise and played by Paul Benedict, 1938–2008), because he found him annoying.

The Jeffersons was the second-longest running American sitcom that featured a mostly African American cast. The show received fourteen Emmy Award nominations. Sanford was consecutively nominated for Best Actress Emmys for seven years. She won the prize in 1981, becoming the second black woman to ever win an Emmy Award.

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