For the second time in a week, the NBC drama Little House on the Prairie – which hasn’t been on the network in nearly four decades – became a trending topic on Twitter. The name of the beloved drama, along with creator and star Michael Landon (who died of cancer in 1991) and Todd Bridges who played the character of Solomon, all trended over the weekend after a fan noticed just how ahead of its time the show actually was.
Little House on the Prairie ran from 1974 to 1983, and it was based on the popular series of children’s books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. She told the story of her family’s struggles with frontier life during the late 19th century.
"Would you rather be black and live to be 100, or white and live to be 50?"
This series of scenes from Little House on the Prairie is why @ToddBridges and #Michael Landon are trending. Incredible. This show was on TV from 1974-1983. (For added context, #Roots came out in 1977.) https://t.co/lk4QHrNVmS
— Victoria Brownworth (@VABVOX) May 3, 2020
In the 18th episode of Season 3 titled “The Wisdom of Solomon,” that first aired on February 28, 1977, it tells the story of a young boy named Solomon Henry (an 11-year-old Bridges, as a guest star) who is the son of former slaves-turned-Mississippi sharecroppers. He runs away to the town of Walnut Grove, Minnesota, after his father dies, and takes refuge with Charles Ingalls (Landon) and his family.
In fact, Solomon offers to sell himself to the Ingalls’ family in exchange for an education. Ingalls offers him room and board and enrolls him in the local school. During an assignment that asks the kids to share things they don’t like, Solomon says he doesn’t like being black.
Charles eventually gets Solomon to confess why he ran away from home, and the young boy tells him that he is tired of everyone treating him differently because he is black. He says that his dad’s skin color is what caused him to die young, and he wishes for a different fate.
I loved this show. Michael Landon wasn't afraid to go straight on. I admired that about him. Big loss when he died of cancer. I think I'll take time to sit down and watch the reruns. Thanks for sharing the clip. I'd forgotten how good Todd Bridges was in this role.
— highdesertresists (@highdesertresi1) May 3, 2020
The episode – which is set in the 1880s – uses terms that are not politically correct, but Charles convinces Solomon that he should be proud of who he is and return home to his family.
However, before the happy ending, young Solomon asks Charles: “Would you rather be black and live to be 100, or white and live to be 50?”
Solomon ends up teaching Charles a powerful lesson, and one Twitter was so surprised by Landon’s progressive handling of the topic of racism and white privilege that they shared a clip from the episode. Not only did Landon create and star in the series, but he also wrote and directed multiple episodes.
I cant believe TV show in 1980s tackled racism so brutally&honestly. Appropriate use of the N word. Wow. Props to a very young @ToddBridges 4playing those scenes so well. Props2the late Michael Landon, too. He probably wrote/directed that episode. Watch this video. It’s powerful. https://t.co/HEGb5DWL99
— Kenny BooYah! (@KwikWarren) May 1, 2020
“Kudos to Michael Landon, writer, executive producer and director he tried to bring light to a subject many wouldn’t touch back in the day,” wrote one fan, while another added, “If you’re wondering who Todd Bridges is and why he’s trending, watch this classic clip from his childhood acting days. POWERFUL.”
Earlier this week, Little House on the Prairie was trending on Twitter because of the episodes “Quarantine” and “Plague,” which felt eerily similar to the current pandemic despite airing more than 40 years ago.
All nine seasons of Little House on the Prairie are available on Amazon Prime.