10 Influential Black Drama Series From The Last Decade You Need To Check Out

Mike Colter on Marvel's Luke Cage, Terrance Howard on Empire, Daniel Ezra on All American
(Image credit: Netflix/Marvel/Fox/The CW)

The 2010s and 2020s saw a resurgence of Black-centric or Black-led dramas after a downturn in the late 2000s. The aughts saw multiple outstanding TV dramas hit the airwaves, like Soul Food, The Wire, The Unit, City of Angels, Lincoln Heights, Kevin Hill, and Boston Public. Unfortunately, they received little support but developed loyal fanbases. In recent years, Black-led dramas have received acclaim, support, and fanfare not seen since the early 2000s. Since then, Black dramas have subverted expectations by serving intense melodrama, water cooler moments, and commentary on the Black experience.

So, here are some influential Black dramas from the last decade you need to check out.

The cast of Lovecraft Country

(Image credit: HBO)

Lovecraft Country

Based on the best-selling book of the same name, Lovecraft Country premiered in 2020 with Jonathan Majors’ Tic Freeman searching for his absent father on a road trip with his childhood friend and uncle. The sci-fi horror period drama centered on Tic, Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance), and Leti Howard (Jurnee Smollett) navigating the 1950s Jim Crow South by using the Green Book.

Trauma and healing were central as Tic met family revelations and secrets. However, the show shined in its supernatural and fantastical moments, including an episode steeped in Afrofuturism. All the characters (main and supporting) were multilayered and held space in this realistic and otherworldly experience. Unfortunately, the surprise cancelation threw off viewers and the show's stars despite setting the internet on fire for weeks.

Noah (Aldis Hodge) on Underground

(Image credit: WGN America)


Before spearheading Lovecraft Country, Misha Green made her name on TV with WGN’s Underground, which premiered in 2016. The period drama focused on a group of slaves (masterfully led by Aldis Hodge and Jurnee Smollett) plotting to escape a plantation during the Underground Railroad.

Taking place during the Antebellum South, the series epitomized the period with the slaves’ desire for freedom while tapping key figures like Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass to bring context. Viewers also witnessed the anxiety and pressure around escaping their slave masters. The show’s true center came from Smollett and Hodges’ chemistry in multiple scenes. Change in ownership cut the drama short from exploring more of their quest for freedom.

Spencer James (Daniel Ezra) in All American Season 6 trailer

(Image credit: CW)

All American

Inspired by the life of former NFL linebacker Spencer Paysinger, All American made a splash in 2018 with its mix of sports and melodrama. The high school (and college) sports drama explores the culture clash Spencer James (played by Daniel Ezra) faces transferring from Crenshaw to Beverly Hills.

While Spencer serves as the center, the ensemble makes the show with its on and off-the-field activities of young and older adults. Delving into a coming-of-age story lends itself to balancing sports with secrets and rotating relationship dynamics. Spencer’s father-son dynamics tap into a rarity in TV – multi-dimensional Black male relationships. Viewers can keep up with Spencer and co. by catching the drama's sixth season premiere this year.

Franklin Saint (Damson Idris) on the first episode of Snowfall

(Image credit: FX)


Premiering in 2017, FX’s Snowfall brought the crack epidemic to the small screen. The crime drama centered on the intersecting lives of several drug cartels and their impact on 1980s Los Angeles through the eyes of Franklin Sain (portrayed by Damson Idris).

Franklin tackles the ever-changing drug game as he evolves and ascends in the drug world over the series’ run. However, growth didn’t just extend to the rising drug dealer as rise, fall, and redemption became central themes for several characters. The money, lifestyle, and drugs made the series darker towards the end.

James "Ghost" St. Patrick (Omari Hardwick) on Power

(Image credit: Starz)


Power shifted the TV landscape with tales of drugs, crime, and sex when it premiered on Starz in 2014. The crime drama focused on James “Ghost” St. Patrick (played by Omari Hardwick) trying to balance his life as a drug kingpin, nightclub owner, and family man.

Ghost does a masterful job (in the earlier seasons) balancing these various personas while seeking an exit from the drug game. However, the drugs take a backseat to a crumbling marriage, extramarital affairs, raising children, police evasion, and shifting alliances with friends and associates. Of course, the cast went through multiple changes as dynamics and circumstances shifted. However, the series’ debated conclusion spawned the ever-popular Power universe.

Luscious Lyons (Terrance Howard) on Empire

(Image credit: Fox)


Empire surprised many viewers in 2015 with its over-the-top storylines and radio-friendly music. The music primetime soap centered on the dysfunctional Lyon family (led by Terrance Howard) trying to support their music empire after the matriarch (played masterfully by Taraji P. Henson) returns from prison.

The central family must navigate the power, prestige, and corruption in the music industry amidst business dealings and changing family dynamics. The competitive nature between the three sons was a real draw as others (insiders and outsiders) come into the manipulative orbit of patriarch Luscious Lyon. His ways don’t change the strong cast chemistry, especially over the six-season run.

The Bordelon siblings at their father's funeral on Queen Sugar

(Image credit: OWN)

Queen Sugar

Upon premiering in 2016, OWN’s Queen Sugar put family trauma and redemption front and center. The epic family drama centered on the three Bordelon siblings (Rutina Wesley, Dawn-Lyn Gardener, and Kofi Siriboe) reuniting to manage their New Orleans family farm after their father’s death.

The series puts the siblings’ relationship, trauma, and healing while making racial, social, and gender commentary. Viewers were drawn in by the siblings’ private and business lives colliding as they and their friends and family evolved and grew over the series run. Connection is a pivotal part of the drama’s deep and painful narrative over seven seasons.

Luke Cage (Mike Colter) on Marvel's Luke Cage

(Image credit: Marvel/Netflix)

Luke Cage

Marvel’s Luke Cage became an internet obsession after debuting on Netflix in 2016. The superhero action drama focused on a former convict namesake (portrayed by Mike Colter) using his superpowers to fight corruption and crime in Harlem, New York.

The series expanded on and modernized the longtime Marvel hero’s lore while highlighting post-prison life and villains across multiple fields. Compared to other superhero fare, the show highlighted the thin veil between heroes and villains. A modern Luke Cage dealt with superheroism, newfound celebrity, and corruption in an ever-changing landscape. Its brief run served as a nice part of the Netflix Marvel universe.

The cast of Godfather of Harlem

(Image credit: MGM+)

Godfather of Harlem

Godfather of Harlem brought the life of infamous crime boss Bumpy Thompson to the masses in 2019. The crime biopic focused on the drug lord (portrayed by Oscar winner Forest Whitaker) reasserting his power in Harlem after a ten-year prison stint.

The revered crime boss’ story tapped into convicts’ reacclimation to regular society in the 1960s. The series dabbles in historical context and shifting dynamics in Harlem. Doing so allowed the show to shine a light on the unexpected relationship between Johnson and civil rights leader Malcolm X, which was just the beginning of interactions with historical figures. Bumpy Johnson’s life will continue as the biopic series secured a fourth-season renewal.

Dushane (Ashley Walters) and Sully (Kane Robinson) facing off in a bathroom during Top Boy Season 3

(Image credit: Netflix)

Top Boy

Despite its shift from BBC to Netflix, Top Boy became a must-watch for those looking for a The Wire replacement after debuting in 2019. The British crime drama centered on two drug dealers (played by UK rap icons Ashley Walters and Kane Robinson) who wreak havoc on London as they delve into drugs and gang violence.

The two leads must coexist in the same world. The series gave a rarely-seen peek into the seedy and violent side of Black London culture. The deterioration of Dushane and Sully’s friendship and rivalry shaped the drama and was the driving force in some of the best scenes (thanks to Walters and Robinson’s chemistry). This rivalry may have focused on drugs and violence, but racial tension in London grabbed the spotlight. The rotating roster of supporting characters helped build the series' gritty appeal.

Unfortunately, some of these shows concluded their runs, like Power and Empire, in recent years. Snowfall and Queen Sugar wrapped up their runs last year.

There are still current dramas on network TV, cable, and streaming, even with a wave of cancellations of Black TV shows. There are series like The Equalizer and Found that are rated highly on network TV. Cable has prestige shows like the Power franchise, P-Valley, BMF, and The Chi are going strong. Peacock’s Bel-Air, Hulu’s The Other Black Girl and Reasonable Doubt, and Prime Video’s Three Little Birds are making waves on streamers. What other Black-led dramas are premiering this year? Check out our TV schedule.

Adreon Patterson
News Writer

A boy from Greenwood, South Carolina. CinemaBlend Contributor. An animation enthusiast (anime, US and international films, television). Freelance writer, designer and artist. Lover of music (US and international).