The enduring optimism of Ja'Net DuBois' 'Movin' On Up'

This story was originally published in 2020. For more onThe Jeffersonsand other groundbreaking comedies, watch CNN Original SeriesHistory of the Sitcom Sundays at 9 午後. ET/PT.

ワシントン If ever someone made the notion of the American dream feel within Black America’s reach, it was the late actress Ja’Net DuBois.

In addition to her popular role as the spirited neighbor Willona Woods on the hit 1970s sitcomGood Times,” DuBois was known for her work onThe Jeffersons” — another iconic, Norman Lear-developed series from roughly the same timefor which she co-wrote and performedMovinOn Up,” the show’s theme song that became an anthem for many Black viewers.
The series charts the adventures of George (Sherman Hemsley) and Louise (Isabel Sanford) Jefferson, a Black couple in New York City, as they relocate from a working-class area of Queens to majestic Manhattan, thanks to George’s flourishing dry-cleaning business.
      DuBoisbuoyant tune reflects this sense of Black success.
        “上手, we’re movinon up / To the East Side / To a deluxe apartment in the sky,” 彼女は歌う, backed by the baptismal vocals of a gospel choir. “Movinon up / To the East Side / We finally got a piece of the pie.
        As with other beloved songs from the decade, 含む the soul band Odyssey’s 1977 cover ofNative New Yorker (これ, notably, is featured in an episode ofGood Times”), “MovinOn Upnods to the combination of big-city excitement and hardship Black Americans experienced at the time: “Took a whole lotta tryin’ / Just to get up that hill,” DuBois sings.
          But what makes the track stand out is its triumphant attitudewe finally got a piece of the pie.
          While the ’70s saw important cultural and political achievements for Black Americans — に 1972, Shirley Chisholm became the first Black candidate to seek a major party’s presidential nominationthe decade was still afflicted by a virulent strain of conservatism. 特に, Richard Nixon’s 管理 (and later, in the ’80s, Ronald Reagan’s) did little to fuel mobility for the poor and did much to pulverize protections against discrimination.
          For many Black viewers, その後, “MovinOn Upwasn’t merely a song to accompany a show’s opening credits. It was spiritual, and aspirational, at a time when Black Americans were pushing for pop-cultural visibility — “Good Times” そして “The Jeffersonswere among the first series to have predominantly Black castsand for advancement broadly.
          この 1977 のエピソード 'The Jeffersons' broke new ground

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            この 1977 episode of ‘The Jeffersonsbroke new ground

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          この 1977 episode of ‘The Jeffersonsbroke new ground 01:07

          This reading of the song as an ode to Black empowerment isn’t a stretch. DuBois’ 娘, Kesha Gupta-Fields, explained her mother’s thinking in writingMovinOn Up”: “(DuBois) wrote that song as a promise to her mother, that when she obtained a certain level of stardom, that her dream was to essentially have her mom live in a deluxe apartment,” Gupta-Fields said. “That was written and sung as a gift to her mother, Lilian DuBois.
          Crucially, the news of DuBoisdeath arrived at a moment of renewed discussion of the witchesbrew of racism and economic inequality. Consider the charged 2020 Democratic debate that took place in Las Vegas, ネバダ, the same week as DuBoispassing.
          Democrats aren’t going to win if we have a nominee who has a history of hiding his tax returns, of harassing women, and of supporting racist policies like redlining and ‘stop and frisk,'” その. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said at the time.
            Warren’s remarks were perhaps the most memorable of the debate-stage digs at former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. His 11th-hour bid for the Democratic nomination was dogged by his support, even within the past few years, for the exact sorts of practices that have long oppressed Black Americans and other people of colorthat have quietly aimed to keep DuBoisdream of Black prosperity at a distance. (“It targeted Black and Brown men from the beginning,” Warren said of the “停止して新鮮” policing strategy.)
            The power ofMovinOn Upcan’t be diminished that easily, しかしながら. DuBois is gone, but in important ways, the radical optimism so associated with the actress remainsthanks to a theme song that turned out to be much, much more.

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