In the early 70’s, there was this young man who grew up in Chicago’s Cabrini-Green housing project. His mother Ilene told him, “There has never, ever been a black writer in Hollywood. If they ever get one he’s going to be some high-yellow black with a Harvard degree, not some high school dropout from Cabrini” and his response was “Momma, I’m going to do this.” A week later, he left Chicago, with $5.00, a suitcase, no script, but a dream to be the next “Writer”. He went out to Route 66 and hitchhiked their way to Hollywood, hoping to never return to Cabrini-Green housing project.
Eric Monte, a man who allowed his pen and desire to eliminate the stereotypes of African-Americans, became one of America’s favorite writers with credits of the movie Cooley High and the television shows: “All in the Family”, “The Jeffersons’s”, “Good Times”, “What’s Happening!” and he was also the guest writer penning an episode for the shows: “The Wayans Bros” and “Moesha”. A trailblazer in black television, Eric Monte showed America and the world an authentic view of life as a black American. Prior to 1970, blacks were portrayed as servants, sidekicks or clowns and uneducated. Eric Monte changed that by creating characters that were controversial and politically and socially conscious. With male figures such as James Evans and George Jefferson, it was the first time we saw ourselves on television living in a positive and productive way, regardless of our economic status.
Eric Monte credits his partnerships with Mike Evans (who played Lionel Jefferson on All in the Family) and Norman Lear (television writer and producer who produced a lot of 1970s sitcoms), regardless of the script of project, these two men were by his side. However, we all know that in any business industry, knowing the legal and business side of things is essential to your longevity, financial success, and reputation. Unfortunately for Eric Monte, he lost ownership rights of his creations, as well as the financial benefits that were to gain. In 1977, Eric filed a law suit against Norman Lear, CBS and ABC alleging that his story ideas were stolen. After winning the lawsuit, he was blacklisted in Hollywood and is still to this day. “As soon as I filed that suit, all of my offers dried up. Nobody in Hollywood would talk to me. I was blacklisted,” he said.
Hollywood may have blacklisted him, but his stories, scripts, and characters such as J.J. Evans, Thelma Evans, Richard “Cochise” Morris, Leroy “Preach” Jackson, Mr. Mason, Dee Dee Thomas, Roger Thomas, ReRun Stubbs, Florence Johnston, Tom Willis, Louise Jefferson… he will never be blacklisted in the homes of many people.