Sep. 10, 1990
30 min.
NBC TV Network

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The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air » Season 1
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air - 01x17 The Ethnic Tip

1x17 The Ethnic Tip

3/5 (1 vote)
First Aired: Jan. 14, 1991 on NBC
Summary: Vivian starts teaching black history at Bel-Air Academy.

Watch Episode On:

- VUDU (purchase)
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- Amazon (purchase)

Main Characters in this Episode

Guest Stars

Will Smith played by Will Smith
Geoffrey Butler played by Joseph Marcell
Coach Smiley played by Dave Florek
Assistant Headmaster Armstrong played by Edward Edwards
Jonathan Cartwell played by Keith Bogart
Chadney Hunt played by Michael Landes
Kellogg Lieberbaum played by Michael Weiner
Cheerleader #1 played by Monica Allison

Episode Quotes

William 'Will' Smith: I'm gonna be the star of this class
Carlton Banks: No you're not I am
William 'Will' Smith: You tripping, how you figure that?
Carlton Banks: Because the teacher's my mummy
Vivian Banks: [ After Will proposes a Black History class] That's not a bad idea
Will: It's not?
Philip Banks: It's not?
Carlton Banks: [ offscreen] It's not?
Vivian Banks: [sings] Follow the drinking gourd, follow the drinking gourd for the old man's waiting to carry me to freedom. [stops singing] Now, who can tell me what that song means?
William 'Will' Smith: I can, this is something I definitely know about. Spirituals were sung so that the slaves could keep their spirits up and their minds on God during times of hard oppression.
Vivian Banks: That was very well put, Mr. Smith, but you're wrong.
William 'Will' Smith: Beg pardon?
Vivian Banks: Who can tell me what the Underground Railroad was?
William 'Will' Smith: This I can... the Underground Railroad was a group of people that helped the slaves escape to freedom.
Vivian Banks: And when was it established?
William 'Will' Smith: During slavery.
Vivian Banks: That covers about 260 years, Mr. Smith. Would you care to narrow it down?
William 'Will' Smith: Not really.
Vivian Banks: The Underground Railroad was established in the year 1830. Now these spirituals were codes telling the runaway slaves how to get to freedom. In "Follow the Drinking Gourd", they mean the Big Dipper, so at night when the slaves escaped, they would know to follow the Big Dipper. There they would meet with the Abolitionists and escape to freedom.
William 'Will' Smith: Well, that's what I meant.


  • The idea that spirituals contain coded messages is considered to be folklore by many scholars. It is uncertain whether "Follow the Drinking Gourd" existed before the 20th century.
  • This episode was shot before "The Lucky Charm", but aired after it. This is made known by the fact that in "The Lucky Charm", Hilary opens her first paycheck, but in "The Ethnic Tip", she is asking Geoffrey about what to say at her job interview for the same art gallery.
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