Although we may take it for granted now, it used to be very uncommon to see Black characters in pajamas. The first African-American characters were only peripheral, meaning we never got to see where they lived, much less their bedroom attire. But this began to change in the 70s, as TV shows such as Good Times and Different Strokes showed characters in pajamas.

GOOD TIMES –  JJ (1974)The character JJ’s (played by James Carter Walker Jr.) orange jumpsuit pajamas was a laughing matter, matched by the character’s trademark bucket hat. Even when sleeping JJ kept on his signature bucket hat. 
DIFF’RENT STROKES – ARNOLD (1978)Arnold’s pajamas are a conventional top and bottom set, featuring football players wearing yellow and green with accents on the collar, cuff, and green socks.
THE COSBY SHOW – CLAIRE AND HEALTCLIFF (1984)Claire and Healthcliff, a Black power couple (she’s a lawyer, he’s a pediatrician) had moved up from the subsidized housing depicted in Good Times. Claire wore champagne colored, silk pajamas. Dr. Huxtable wears the same light blue PJs in several episodes.
THE COSBY SHOW – CLAIRE AND HEATHCLIFF (1984)In this episode we see Claire wearing silk pajamas again, this time they are purple while Heathcliff wears striped light blue and white pajamas.
A DIFFERENT WORLD – WHITLEY GILBERT (1987)The spinoff, A Different World, had a southern belle character played by Jasmine Guy. She came from privilege. Her sleepwear was a silk nightgown. Her roommates seem to wear old t-shirts to bed.
FAMILY MATTERS – STEVE URKEL (1989)Steve Urkel (played by Jaleel White) traded his suspenders for sleepwear: he is wearing a light blue and white striped pajama set with a robe and matching hat.
HOUSE PARTY 2 (THE MOVIE) – KID & PLAY  (1991)One of the most iconic pajama sets are donned by Kid (played by Christopher Reid) and Play (played by Christopher Martin). Kid is wearing jumpsuit pajamas covered in pool balls for the design. Play is wearing a black pajama set with a blue robe covered in gold floral designs to match. Kid’s pajamas were recreated for Alicia Key’s birthday.
MARTIN – GINA (1992)In this episode we see Gina (played by Tisha Campbell) wearing purple silk pajamas.
LIVING SINGLE –  (1993)In a scene where the main cast are all singing together, we see all four characters together. Three of them are wearing pajamas:  Khadijah James (played by Queen Latifah) is wearing a silk pajama set of dark green with floral, pink patterns. Synclaire James-Jones (played by Kim Coles) wears a white pajama set with a repeating design on it. And Regine Hunter (played by Kim Fields) is seen wearing a racy red silk gown with a matching red robe. Maxine (played by Erika Alexander) is seen fully dressed.
THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL AIR – WILL SMITH (1995) Will Smith’s character expressed his uniqueness in his choice of sleepwear. He wore wacky prints outside his bedroom, and even outside the house!
BLACK-ISH (2015) The entire family has appeared in pj’s a number of times. Reflecting a well-to-do family, the PJ’s worn by Tracee Ellis Ross often retail for several hundred dollars. 

The evolution of PJs on Black TV shows had some way to go. We’ve yet to see Woke Pajamas (TM) on the small screen.

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