Sunday Open Thread | Black Women in Television: Phylicia Rashad as Clair Huxtable

Clair Huxtable was smart, well educated, beautiful, put together, a loving wife and mother who didn’t take any mess.
Simply put, I loved her.


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Phylicia Rashad (born Phylicia Ayers-Allen; June 19, 1948) is an American actress, singer and stage director, best known for her role as Clair Huxtable on the long-running NBC sitcom The Cosby Show. She was nominated for an Emmy Award for this role in 1985 and 1986.

In 2004, Rashad became the first African-American actress to win the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play, which she won for her role in the revival of A Raisin in the Sun.[1][2] She resumed the role in the 2008 television adaptation of A Raisin in the Sun, which earned her the 2009 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special. Rashad was dubbed “The Mother” of the African-American community at the 42nd NAACP Image Awards.

Early life[edit]
Rashad was born Phylicia Ayers-Allen in Houston, Texas. Her mother, Vivian Ayers, was a Pulitzer Prize-nominated artist, poet, playwright, scholar, and publisher. Her father, Andrew Arthur Allen, (d. 1984), was an orthodontist.[3][4] Rashad’s siblings are jazz-musician brother Tex (Andrew Arthur Allen, Jr., born 1945), sister Debbie Allen (born 1950), an actress, choreographer, and director, and brother Hugh Allen (a real estate banker in North Carolina). While Rashad was growing up, her family moved to Mexico, and as a result, Rashad speaks Spanish fluently.

Rashad studied at Howard University, graduating magna cum laude in 1970 with a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts. She is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. She was initiated into the Alpha chapter during her tenure at Howard University.[5]

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Rashad first became known for her stage work with a string of Broadway credits, including Deena Jones in Dreamgirls (she was Sheryl Lee Ralph’s understudy until leaving the show in 1982 after being passed over as Ralph’s full-time replacement) and playing a Munchkin in The Wiz for three and a half years. In 1978, she released the album Josephine Superstar, a disco Concept album telling the life story of Josephine Baker. The album was mainly written and produced by Jacques Morali and Rashad’s second husband Victor Willis, original lead singer and lyricist of the Village People. She met Willis while they were both cast in The Wiz.

Other Broadway credits include August: Osage County, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Gem of the Ocean, Raisin in the Sun (2004 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play/Drama Desk Award), Blue, Jelly’s Last Jam, Into the Woods, and Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death. Off-Broadway credits include Lincoln Center’s productions of Cymbeline and Bernarda Alba (musical); Helen, The Story and Everybody’s Ruby at the Public Theater; The Negro Ensemble Company productions of Puppet Play, Zooman and the Sign, Sons and Fathers of Sons, In an Upstate Motel, Weep Not For Me, and The Great Mac Daddy; Lincoln Center’s production of Ed Bullins’ The Duplex; and The Sirens at the Manhattan Theatre Club. In regional theatre, she performed as Euripedes’ Medea and in Blues for an Alabama Sky at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia. Other regional theatres at which she has performed are the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. and the Huntington Theatre in Boston.

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Rashad was the first African-American actress to win the Best Actress (Play) Tony Award, which she won for her 2004 performance as Lena Younger in a revival of the play A Raisin in the Sun by playwright Lorraine Hansberry. She was nominated for the same award the following year, for Gem of the Ocean. Several Black women have won in the Best Actress (Musical) category, including the late Virginia Capers, who won in 1973 for her portrayal of Lena in the musical adaptation of Hansberry’s play, entitled “Raisin.”. Rashad also won the 2004 Drama Desk award for Best Actress in a play for A Raisin in the Sun by tying (split award) with Viola Davis for the play “Intimate Apparel”.

In 2007, Rashad made her directorial debut with the Seattle Repertory Theatre’s production of August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean.[6] More recently, in early 2014 Rashad directed a revival of Fences, also by Wilson, at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ, which ran to generally positive reviews, and continued an ongoing focus on Wilson’s work.[7]



Film and television[edit]
Rashad received a career boost when she joined the cast of the ABC soap opera One Life to Live to play publicist Courtney Wright in 1983. She is best known for another television role, that of attorney Clair Huxtable on the NBC sitcom The Cosby Show. The show, which ran from 1984 to 1992, starred Bill Cosby as obstetrician Heathcliff “Cliff” Huxtable, and focused on their life with their five children.

When Cosby returned to TV comedy in 1996 with CBS’s Cosby, he called on Rashad to play Ruth Lucas, his character’s wife. The pilot episode had been shot with Telma Hopkins, but Cosby then fired the executive producer and replaced Hopkins with Rashad.[8] The sitcom ran from 1996 to 2000.[9] That year, Cosby asked Rashad to work on his animated television series Little Bill, in which the actress voiced Bill’s mother, Brenda, until the show’s end in 2002. She also played a role in the pre-show of the Dinosaur ride at Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom theme park as Dr. Helen Marsh, the head of the Dino Institute.

She played Kill Moves’ affluent mother on Everybody Hates Chris on Sunday, December 9, 2007. In 2007 she appeared as Winnie Guster in the Psych episode Gus’s Dad May Have Killed an Old Guy. She returned to the role in 2008, in the episode Christmas Joy.

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In February 2008, she appeared in the television adaptation of A Raisin in the Sun. She starred on Broadway as Big Mama in an all-African American production of Tennessee Williams’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Cat on a Hot Tin Roof directed by her sister Debbie Allen. She appeared alongside stage veterans James Earl Jones (Big Daddy) and Anika Noni Rose (Maggie), as well as film actor Terrence Howard, who made his Broadway debut as Brick. She next appeared as Violet Weston, the drug-addicted matriarch of Tracy Letts’s award-winning play, August: Osage County at the Music Box Theatre.

In November 2010, Rashad starred in the Tyler Perry film For Colored Girls, based on the play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf by Ntozake Shange. In 2012 she starred in another Tyler Perry movie Good Deeds. In that same year, Rashad played Clairee Belcher in the remake of Steel Magnolias (the role originated by Olympia Dukakis). This version has an all African American cast.

Actress Phylicia Rashad Wins People's Choice Awards

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41 Responses to Sunday Open Thread | Black Women in Television: Phylicia Rashad as Clair Huxtable

  1. Ametia says:

    Clair Huxtable. America’s MOM, always has been, always wil be, FOR ME.

    Thank you for the posts this week, rikyrah. They have been FAN-TAB-U-LOUS!

  2. Ametia says:

    Just getting around to watching this

  3. Ametia says:

    Hello Everyone. Back in the saddle for a bit. Carpal Tunnel aint’ NO JOKE!

    • Liza says:

      Hey, Ametia. I thought you had probably left town for the holiday weekend. Sorry to hear it was carpal tunnel, but I’m glad you’re feeling better.

      • Ametia says:

        Hi Liza. Trust you had a sane Thanksgiving. I did leave town, and I just had to give my right hand a rest, complete with brace. It’s so PAINFUL.

      • Liza says:

        It was reasonably sane considering what is happening out there. Just my husband and me this year. Take care of yourself, I know how painful that is.

  4. Liza says:

    In general, the more damaging you think a Trump nomination would be for the GOP, the lower the probability you should assign to it.— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) November 29, 2015


  5. rikyrah says:


    Damon Young, 11/27/15

    The youngest person at my family’s Thanksgiving dinner yesterday was my niece. She is the youngest child of my wife’s sister, and favors her (my wife) so much that people assume they’re mother and daughter when they’re out together. She is also either nine or 10 years old (I forget which), which means for as long as she can remember, the President of the United States of America has been Black.

    While I’m sure she has enough wherewithal and enough of an understanding of history to know exactly how historically abnormal this is, this is all that she has experienced. There’s nothing revolutionary or shocking or mesmerizing to her about seeing the Black president’s Black daughters laugh at his corny jokes during the annual turkey pardoning. This is her normal. Me explaining to her why this is such a big deal is like, I don’t know, a great-grandparent explaining the difference in taste and texture of backyard well water and sink water to me.


    Equally insane is how, to them, the experience of watching little Black girls named Malia and Sasha grow up in the White House — something that has been both the most delightful and even arguably the most radical part of the Obama presidency — is equally mundane. Old hat. All a little Black girl like my niece has known is little Black girls on the White House lawn with their mom and dad. And those little Black girls growing into less little Black teens. There are undoubtedly thousands of little Black girls taking their fashion cues today from what Malia and Sasha were wearing Wednesday. And thousands of little Black boys getting teased by their parents for blushing whenever either Malia and Sasha are on screen, the same way my parents would tease me about Rudy Huxtable and Ashley Banks. And the value of this — of these revolutionary existences existing as mundanities, as literally all that little Black kids like my niece have seen and known — can not be measured.

  6. rikyrah says:

    So I Watched Chi-Raq the Movie: My Review
    Awesomely Luvvie — November 26, 2015
    Spike Lee has never been known for his subtlety as a filmmaker and that is surely not going to change with his latest movie, Chi-Raq. The title is in your face, and so is everything else about it.

    It’s a film that has been drowning in controversy since it was announced, especially amongst Chicagoans who took offense to a film carrying that title. “Chi-raq” is the Windy City’s unwanted nickname, spurred by its murder statistics. Apparently, more lives have been lost in this city to gun violence than in the US military during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. So Chi-raq is a bitter moniker and it is telling a single and incomplete story about the Second City.

    People have not been silent about letting Spike know that they do not approve of his latest project owning that name. The trailers dropped and voices raised anew, pissed that he dared to do this. But never has Mr. Lee gave a damb about people’s feelings. He is committed to the art he wants to make and he will see it through. Which, he did.

    I went to the Chicago premiere of Chi-Raq at the Chicago Theater on Sunday, November 22. If all that wasn’t “Chicago” enough, the outfits that people had on surely were. People showed up in all manners of fur, and the full-length joints with the matching headgear were in full effect. Why? Because we cannot be outdone. It was so Chi that I got bashful. And my double-breasted pea coat did not measure up.

    The lights went down in the theater, and the movie started with a 3 minute long rap called “Pray 4 My City” on a black screen with lyrics in red, talking about the violence in Chicago. You knew what you were in for. Spike is just unable to subtle. He be subtlety-deficient. There is no guessing with him. You KNOW what the message is because not only does he beat you over the head with it, he will make you an mp3 file so you can listen to it as you take a concussion-induced nap.

  7. rikyrah says:

    Women of African descent have contributed to America’s food culture for centuries, but their rich and varied involvement is still overshadowed by the demeaning stereotype of an illiterate “Aunt Jemima” who cooked mostly by natural instinct. To discover the true role of black women in the creation of American, and especially southern, cuisine, Toni Tipton-Martin has spent years amassing one of the world’s largest private collections of cookbooks published by African American authors, looking for evidence of their impact on American food, families, and communities and for ways we might use that knowledge to inspire community wellness of every kind.

    The Jemima Code presents more than 150 black cookbooks that range from a rare 1827 house servant’s manual, the first book published by an African American in the trade, to modern classics by authors such as Edna Lewis and Vertamae Grosvenor. The books are arranged chronologically and illustrated with photos of their covers; many also display selected interior pages, including recipes. Tipton-Martin provides notes on the authors and their contributions and the significance of each book, while her chapter introductions summarize the cultural history reflected in the books that follow. These cookbooks offer firsthand evidence that African Americans cooked creative masterpieces from meager provisions, educated young chefs, operated food businesses, and nourished the African American community through the long struggle for human rights. The Jemima Code transforms America’s most maligned kitchen servant into an inspirational and powerful model of culinary wisdom and cultural authority.

  8. rikyrah says:

    DALAYYYY @TheToast2015
    If the police can make an assessment NOT to shoot an armed white guy who’s already shot up 11 people,

    DALAYYYY @TheToast2015
    They can decide NOT to shoot an unarmed black person who has not shot/stabbed anyone.

    DALAYYYY @TheToast2015
    Police are shooting black folks because they want to shoot. Body cameras, protests, reviews, Justice Dept is not going to stop it.

    DALAYYYY @TheToast2015
    Suing these police departments to bankruptcy will. That’s all I got to say.

  9. Hello Chicas!

    I have eye problems again. My right eye is tearing, swollen below the eye and sore as everything. Looks like someone socked me.

  10. rikyrah says:


    Carson after tour: Syrian refugees don’t want to come to US
    Nov. 28, 2015 4:46 PM ET

    AZRAQ REFUGEE CAMP, Jordan (AP) — After touring refugee camps in Jordan, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson on Saturday suggested that camps should serve as a long-term solution for millions, while other refugees could be absorbed by Middle Eastern countries.

    “I did not detect any great desire for them to come to the United States,” Carson told The Associated Press in a phone interview from Jordan. “You’ve got these refugee camps that aren’t completely full. And all you need is the resources to be able to run them. Why do you need to create something else?”–GOP%202016-Carson-Refugee%20Camp/id-7792a080425a484897cbc4f1a1ee55b0

  11. rikyrah says:

    Good Morning Everyone

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