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Olivia Pope is smart, runs a successful business and is the center of attention when she enters a room.

She’s the kind of woman who magazines say every woman can be, and the type that others love to hate.

There’s just one thing: She is also black.

After a successful first season, viewers know that Pope, the lead character on ABC’s “Scandal,” is African-American.

But they might not realize the significance of her race.

Pope, played by Kerry Washington, is the first African-American female lead on a major network show in 38 years.

“Like any human being, [Pope] is someone who happened to be born female and black and those elements add to who she is as a human being,” Washington said. “So do I think that another person of another race could play her? Yes. Do I think it would change the story a little bit, do I think it would change the character a little bit? Yes.”

Portrayals of black women have come a long way from the blaxploitation-inspired characters like Teresa Graves, the last black actress to play a lead on network television, in “Get Christie Love!”

While blaxploitation was based on exaggeration, Olive Pope was based on Judy Smith, a real-life crisis management specialist for the George W. Bush administration.

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TV Show ‘Scandal’ Updates Image Of Black Women On Network Television  was originally published on

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