Nat King Cole Was the 1st Black Person to Have His Own Nationally-Syndicated TV Show on NBC

Nat King Cole

"Ladies and Gentlemen, The Nat King Cole Show!" This was the intro to a TV show only a few people today remember as it aired back in the mid-1950s. The Nat King Cole Show was an NBC sponsored and sustained show hosted by none other than the music legend Nat King Cole. 
During the days of variety shows such as The Johnny Carson Show and The Ed Sullivan Show, it was a time when Black people were given only sparse roles on the screen. Of course, Cole had power and charisma that caught the attention of every audience member and performer around him. This led the television network NBC to sign him up for his very own variety show.

Due to this decision, although it was short-lived, The Nat King Cole Show became the very first nationally broadcasted TV show hosted by an African-American. On this show, Cole would sing, perform, and converse with guest stars for a run of five seasons before the show was discontinued in 1957, due to its lack of support from sponsors.

According to the National Museum of African American History & Culture (NMAAHC), even with excellent reviews and an extended run of 64 episodes, potential advertisers were uninterested in the work of a Black man on television, as it was considered "problematic."

The article shares that Cole furiously commented on the matter by stating: "Madison Avenue [the advertising industry] is afraid of the dark."