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Christine Houston is widely considered a living legend. She used her life growing up on the South Side of Chicago as content for a hit show which solidified her place in television history. In honor of Black History Month, NBC 5 News shared Houston’s influence in Hollywood as a testament to the transformative power of education and a dream. Her current mission as a professor at Chicago State University is to teach writer’s both on and off the screen.
Many people believe life imitates art, but for Houston art is a reflection of life. For example, the popular hit television show, 227, was titled as a tribute to her childhood address. The screenwriter grew up in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood and the content of the hit series was based on experiences during that season of her life. When speaking of the show, Houston said:
I was told if I wanted to be successful with the first thing I wrote, I needed to write about something I knew about. I find comedy in every phase of life, and what I knew about was me.
Houston is a Hollywood pioneer and the first African-American female to create her own show. Ironically, her rise to fame was a planned accident. As a working mother with a love for writing, the author entered and won a contest. The prize for winning the Norman Lear contest was the opportunity to write for one of his shows. Houston chose The Jeffersons which jump-started a notable career in Hollywood.
Norman Milton Lear is a producer and television writer who has been credited with many famed 1970s sitcoms. In addition to The Jeffersons, Lear has to his credit other hit series such as Maude, Good Times, Sanford and Son, All in the Family and One Day at a Time. He is also recognized as a political activist, who has supported many progressive causes and First Amendment rights. Lear led the way in giving Black Hollywood an opportunity to bring their talents to the masses. What most of the Lear sitcoms had in common was they utilized a live studio audience, and most importantly, dealt with the political and social issues of the day.
Refusing to allow her background, which included years of racial tension and great struggles, to stifle her talents, Houston went on to receive her Bachelor’s degree at the age of 70. She is a living legend, not just for her mark in the comedic world of entertainment, but also as one who serves as a role model for students and a true testament to the power education has in the lives of people young and old. When speaking of Houston, Christopher Taylor, student at Chicago State University, had this to say:
She is a powerhouse in the industry who has gone through discrimination and many obstacles. If she could do it, I can as well.
Houston is no stranger to challenges; as a child, she was targeted because of her race. These experiences shaped her life, however, Houston refused to allow them to define who she is as a person. While establishing her place in history, she had to withstand a large amount of prejudice and fought hard to be treated as an equal human being.
This living legend has received an NAACP Image Award for playwriting. She also worked as a staff writer on the Punky Brewster television series, and in 1985, her hit play titled, Two Twenty-Seven went on to become NBC’S hit television series 227. Professor Houston has written a novel called Laughing Through the Tears and co-wrote the textbook, The Screenwriter’s Guidebook: Learning from African American Film and Television Writers, with Christine List.
The Chicago native’s influence as a legend goes beyond the walls of Hollywood. The mastermind behind the popular television show 227, which captivated audiences in the 1980s with its humor, created the show while still a student at Kennedy King College. In honor of Black History Month, her story was featured on NBC 5 News as a testament to the transformative power of education. As a lecturer in screenwriting, Houston’s passion as a professor at Chicago State University is to teach writer’s both on and off the screen. Christine Houston is truly a living legend and celebrated educator.
By Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
NBC Chicago: Black History Month: Christine Houston’s Influence In Hollywood
Chicago State University: CMAT Faculty and Staff
DNAinfo: ‘227’ Play That Became a TV Series Set to Show at Eta Creative Arts
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Inline Image Courtesy of Tuesday Way – Flickr License