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This Day in Black History: July 23, 1984

Suzette Charles is crowned the second Black Miss America.

Suzette Charles, a New Jersey native, grew up in the shadow of the Miss America contest held each year in Atlantic City. She grew up dreaming of winning the title, but when it actually came true on July 23, 1984, it was by default.

The crown initially was won by Vanessa Williams and Charles was the first runner-up. But after nude photos of Williams were released, her short reign ended and the title went to Charles.

She was Miss America for just seven weeks, but parlayed it into a successful entertainment career.

"I want people to know I'm around," she said back then. "And I'm going to be around a long time."

The beauty pageant was not Charles' first claim to fame. As a child, Charles was featured in public television's Sesame Street and Electric Company and the film production of the musical Hair.

After turning over her crown, Charles went on to perform with Lou Rawls, Stevie Wonder, Frank Sinatra, Bill Cosby, Sammy Davis Jr. and others. She's also worked in educational television and has appeared in movies and several soap operas.

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 (Photo: Tribune/Getty Images)

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