The other day I was dancing with my kid to a couple DVDs of Sesame Street’s first few seasons. Yes, I realize it’s a little early to introduce the kid to TV, but the music is perfect, and in the end I plan to skip the last 25 years of children’s programming and go back to Henson for building blocks of literacy, morality, and imagination. Goodbye, SpongeBob … hello, Kermit.
So in the midst of picnicking ladybugs and alligator kings and such, up comes a segment featuring none other than a young Jesse Jackson. I was stunned. And moved. I watched it two or three times in a row:
What exactly would prevent this segment from airing today? That medallion? (Just kidding.) Actually, I think it would be the W word. What a shame. It’s a reminder that the show’s creators aggressively aimed, in the beginning, to foster self-esteem among kids living in urban poverty. I didn’t recognize this agenda as a child, of course, living in the rural southern reaches of the Rocky Mountatins. To me, Sesame Street was my key representation of a far-off place called The City, where people of all races lived and got along and played on tire swings at the termination of dead end streets.
Here’s another clip that shows where the Sesame Street version came from. Turns out it was already a little softened: