A scene of the US children's series "Sesame Street" with puppets Ernie (r) and Bert (l), photographed in March 1976. Photo by: Dieter Klar/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Sunny Days

The History of Sesame Street in America and the World

This month marks the 50th anniversary of Sesame Street, the children’s television show that has made an indelible mark on American culture, not to mention people all over the world. So on this episode of BackStory, Brian, Ed and Joanne explore the history of Sesame Street and what made a show about muppets and their neighbors so revolutionary.

This episode and related resources are funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this podcast, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Sunny Days Lesson Set

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In November 2019, Sesame Street celebrated its 50th anniversary of being on television. The original concept of the show was simple: using television to teach young children. Specifically, the show’s creators wanted to help young, disadvantaged children who were at risk of struggling in school. Sesame Street has evolved over these fifty years, but the show’s core objective remains the same. Though income inequality has remained a significant problem in the United States, Sesame Street remains steadfast in providing equal educational opportunities for children.

As the audience for Sesame Street has grown, the show has used its characters to embody the values of multiculturalism and diversity. The show has incorporated characters with autism, HIV, and physical disabilities to provide children with relatable examples of people different from themselves. They have also embraced different cultures, languages, races, and ethnicities, giving children opportunities to see themselves in the lives of puppets. As a result, Sesame Street has become a global phenomenon with variations of the show existing in countries across the world.

This lesson focuses on the history of Sesame Street and its value in promoting diversity and multiculturalism. Using a segment about Rosita, a longstanding bilingual character, students will examine how the show explores issues of identity and diversity.