Just a few of our favorite #BlackExcellence moments from this decade. Enjoy!
Whitney Houston’s Legendary Career Celebrated At The 2010 BET Honors
On January 16, Kim Burell sang “I Believe In You and Me” and Jennifer Hudson sang “I Will Always Love You” onstage at the Warner Theater in a beautiful tribute to Whitney Houston, who accepted the BET Honor for Entertainment presented by Ne-Yo, thanking her family, fans, and God.
Library of Congress Launches New Online National Association For The Advancement Of Colored People Exhibition
On February 3, for Black History Month the Library of Congress launched a new online exhibition about the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Beyoncé Makes History At The Grammys
The 52nd Annual Grammy Awards took place on January 31, 2010, and Beyoncé dominated the ceremony receiving six awards. She set the record for the most Grammys won by a female artist in one night. She won Song of the Year for “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It),” Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for “Halo,” Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It),” Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance for “At Last,” Best R&B Song for “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It),” and Best Contemporary R&B Album for “I Am... Sasha Fierce.”
Geoffrey Fletcher Becomes First Black Adapted Screenplay Writer To Win An Oscar
On March 7, Geoffrey Fletcher made history when he became the first African-American to win an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for the film Precious. While Fletcher was surprised by his historic win, director Lee Daniels said, “I told him he was going to make history. He executed my dream to perfection.”
Mo’Nique Is Fourth Black Actress To Win An Academy Award For Best Supporting Role
Mo’Nique won big on Oscars night March 7, 2010, when she took home the trophy for Best Supporting Actress in the drama Precious. Not only was she the only Black woman nominated in the category, beating out stars like Penelope Cruz, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick, but she also became the fourth Black woman ever to win the coveted award.
Roger Ross Williams Becomes The First Black Director To Win An Academy Award For Best Documentary Short Subject
On March 7, 2010, at the 82nd Academy Awards Roger Ross Williams became the first Black director to win an Oscar for best documentary short subject for Music by Prudence, sharing the award with Elinor Burkett.
Princess Tiana Officially Inducted Into The Disney Princess Royal Court
On March 14, Princess Tiana formally joined the Disney Princess Royal Court at celebrity-filled crowning ceremony held at The Palace in New York City featuring actress Anika Noni Rose.
President Barack Obama Signs The Affordable Care Act Into Law
On March 23, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law by President Barack Obama despite not one Republican supporting it in either the House of the Senate. The bill is the biggest expansion of federal health care guarantees in more than four decades and is considered one of the biggest accomplishments of President Obama’s tenure in the White House.
Kobe Bryant Wins His Fifth NBA Championship
Kobe Bryant led the Los Angeles Lakers to their 16th NBA title. The Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics 4-3 in the best-of-seven NBA Finals in June of 2010. Bryant earned his second consecutive Finals MVP honor.
BET’s Black Girls Rock! Awards Show Debuts And Honors Ruby Dee With The Living Legend Award
On Nov. 7, the annual BET ceremony celebrating the accomplishments of Black women and girls, Black Girls Rock!, made its official television debut, and iconic actress and activist Ruby Dee won the Living Legend award.
Kamala Harris Becomes First Woman, African-American And Indian-American To Win California’s Attorney General Election
Democrat Kamala Harris became California’s Attorney General in a victory over “the one sure thing on the ballot,” Steve Cooley, when on Nov. 24 he conceded. On Nov. 30, Harris declared victory. Harris’ win marked the first woman, first African-American, and first Indian-American in California history to be elected to the coveted post.
President Obama Signs Claims Resolution Act
On December 8, President Obama signed a $1.15 billion measure that funds a separate $3.4 billion settlement to pay Black farmers and Native American tribes after decades of discrimination, racial bias, being unfairly denied federal aid and unpaid royalties from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.
Oprah Winfrey And Bill T. Jones Receive Kennedy Center Honors
President Barack Obama Signs Into Law The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act
Oprah Winfrey Launches OWN
On January 1, 2011, Oprah Winfrey debuted her network, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). On May 25, 2011, after 25 memorable years on air, the last episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show aired. Winfrey achieved the highest-rated television program of its kind in history and was dubbed the “Queen of All Media.”
President Barack Obama Honors Maya Angelou, John Lewis And Bill Russell With The Presidential Medal Of Freedom
On February 15, 2011, President Barack Obama awarded author, activist and poet Maya Angelou, congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis and Boston Celtic great Bill Russell with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country's highest civilian honor.
Esperanza Spalding Wins The Grammy For Best New Artist
At the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards held on February 13, 2011, Esperanza Spalding earned her first Grammy for Best New Artist for 2010.
Jay-Z And Alicia Keys Win The Grammy For Best Rap Song
53rd Annual Grammy Awards were held on February 13, 2011, and Jay-Z and Alicia Keys won big for their smash hit "Empire State of Mind.” The song won them Grammys for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration and Best Rap Song.
Kimberly Bryant Launches Black Girls CODE
In April 2011, activist Kimberly Bryant creates Black Girls CODE, a nonprofit that offers education for Black girls interested in technology and computer science, to bridge the digital divide for women in tech and to increase inclusion.
President Obama Announces Death Of Osama Bin Laden
On May 1st 2011, President Obama addresses the Nation to announce the United States killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda and tells the families of the victims of September 11, 2001 they have never been forgotten.
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Dedication Held On 16th Anniversary Of The Million Man March On The National Mall
On October 16th 2011, President Barack Obama delivered the dedication address for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in a ceremony hosted by the Washington, D.C., Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation. The memorial was initially scheduled for Sunday, August 28, 2011, the 48th anniversary of the "I Have a Dream" speech that Martin Luther King Jr. delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, but was rescheduled to the 16th anniversary of the 1995 Million Man March on the National Mall due to Hurricane Irene. Dr. Maya Angelou wrote a poem for the dedication that she shared at a luncheon where guests also paid tribute to Coretta Scott King. The memorial’s official address is 1964 Independence Avenue SW, in honor of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Maya Moore Becomes Second WNBA Player Ever To Earn Rookie Of The Year And Championship In The Same Season
Coming off a decorated and storied collegiate career at UConn, Moore was the #1 pick in the WNBA Draft by the Minnesota Lynx. Moore helped lead the Lynx to the franchise’s best record and the league’s best record. On October 7, 2011, the Lynx won their first WNBA title with a sweep of the Atlanta Dream. Moore also earned Rookie of the Year for that season.
Civil Rights Leader Benjamin Chavis Forms Occupy The Dream To Collaborate With Occupy Wall Street Movement
Dr. Benjamin Chavis, who worked with civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s and mobilized the Million-Man March on Washington, D.C., in the 1990s, merged the American Civil Rights Movement with Occupy Wall Street through the creation of Occupy the Dream in December 2011. Occupy the Dream aimed to mobilize Americans around the vision of Dr. King, who sought to wage war on poverty, unemployment and economic justice. “It is in our interests to build coalitions beyond ourselves,” Chavis said.
First Lady Michelle Obama Presents Dr. Maya Angelou With Her BET Honors Literary Arts Award
On January 14, 2012, at the BET Honors, then first lady Michelle Obama presented the Literary Arts award to Maya Angelou, who the first lady said was one of her "she-roes."
Octavia Spencer Wins Her First Academy Award
On February 26, 2012, at the 84th Academy Awards, Octavia Spencer won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Minnie Jackson in the film The Help. Her win marked the fifth time a Black actress took home the trophy for the coveted award.
Director T.J. Miller Becomes The First Black Documentary Feature Winner
On February 26, 2012, at the 84th Academy Awards Director T.J. Miller became the first Black documentary feature winner for his film Undefeated and shared the award with Dan Lindsay and Rich Middlemas.
Kanye West Wins Best Rap Album At Grammys
On February 12, 2012, at the 54th Grammy Awards Kanye West won Best Rap Album for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
President Obama Becomes First U.S. President To Endorse Same-Sex Marriage
On May 9, 2012, President Obama endorsed same-sex marriage. He became the first U.S. president in history to say that same-sex couples should be granted the right to marry. “I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” Obama said in an interview with ABC News’ Robin Roberts at the time.
LeBron James Wins His First NBA Championship
Arguably the best basketball player of the decade, LeBron James needed to win a title to validate himself as an all-time great. In June of 2012 he won his first NBA championship and Finals MVP as a member of the Miami Heat. The Heat defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 4-1 in the best-of-seven NBA Finals series. Just two years earlier LeBron was persona non grata for the poorly executed “Decision,” and then losing the NBA Finals in 2011. The 2012 title was the first of many high points throughout the decade.
Gabrielle Douglas Makes History And Wins Big At The London 2012 Summer Olympics
At the 2012 London Summer Olympics gymnastics event Gabrielle Douglas and her "Fierce Five" teammates (Jordyn Wieber, McKayla Maroney, captain Aly Raisman and Kyla Ross) won the team event gold medal. This was the first team Olympic gold for U.S. women’s gymnastics since the "Magnificent Seven" (Shannon Miller, Dominique Moceanu, Kerri Strug and Dominique Dawes) won in 1996. Douglas also won the gold medal in the individual all-around, and made history as the first African-American woman, as well as the first woman of color of any nationality, to win the event. She also became the first American gymnast to win both the team and individual all-around gold at the same Olympics. She also received a sweet congratulations letter from Beyoncé.
Usain Bolt Becomes First Man In 24 Years To Defend Sprint Titles At The Olympics
At the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Bolt became the first man since Carl Lewis (1988) to defend a sprint title. He won gold in the 100- and 200-meter races and the gold medal on the 4X100 relay team. Bolt would go on to win the 100- and 200-meter races at the 2016 Olympics as well, becoming the only man to sweep the sprint races in three consecutive Olympics. He is also the current world record holder in both the 100- and 200-meter races.
President Obama Elected To Second-Term With Black Voter Turnout Surpassing Whites For The First Time Ever
On Tuesday, November 6, 2012, President Barack Obama was elected for a second-term. Vice President Joe Biden coined the clever phrase, “Osama bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive,” which became the reelection effort’s unofficial slogan, CBS News reported. Black voter turnout was highly credited for Obama’s reelection when, for the first time ever, Black votes surpassed whites and were at a higher rate than other minority groups.
Rihanna Named Spotify’s Most Popular Female Artist
In December 2012, Rihanna was crowned the most popular female artist on Spotify, a music platform with five million paid subscribers worldwide, CBS News reported. After garnering the recognition, Spotify put together a celebratory playlist with all the top female artists of 2012, and Rihanna’s “Diamond” got the No. 1 spot.
Muhammad Ali Honored With The Liberty Medal
On December 13, 2012, boxing legend, activist and philanthropist Muhammad Ali received the National Constitution Center's 2012 Liberty Medal.
Adrian Peterson Records Second Highest Rushing Yards For A Single Season Ever
On December 30, 2012, Peterson rushed for 199 yards, finishing the season with 2,097 rushing yards, just nine yards shy of breaking Eric Dickerson's single season all-time record. Peterson amassed 2,314 all-purpose yards from scrimmage in 2012, tying Marcus Allen for the eighth-highest total ever. For his efforts, he received the NFL MVP Award and the AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year Award. His 2012 season was one of the greatest seasons by any running back in NFL history.
Quvenzhane Wallis Makes Oscar's Nominee History
On January 10, 2013, Quvenzhané Wallis became the Academy Awards' youngest nominee for Best Actress at 9 years old. She’s the third youngest nominee in all categories and the first African-American child actor to earn a nomination. She is also the first person born in the 21st century to be nominated for an Academy Award.
President Barack Obama’s Second Inauguration Ceremony
On January 21, 2013, President Barack Obama was sworn into office for a second time.
BET’s Leading Women Defined Conference Honors Diahann Carrol
In February of 2013, BET’s Leading Women Defined Conference honored screen legend Diahann Carrol.
RELATED: At 77, Diahann Carroll Still Wows
BET Celebrates The Legendary Charlie Wilson With The Lifetime Achievement Award
On June 30, 2013, Charlie Wilson was honored with BET’s Lifetime Achievement Award and gave a show-stopping performance with Pharrel, Snoop Dogg and Justin Timberlake.
#BlackLivesMatter Movement Launches
On July 13, 2013, Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors founded the Black Lives Matter Movement. BLM campaigns against violence and systemic racism towards Black people have since become an international activist movement.
Cheryl Boone Isaacs Makes Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences History
On July 30, 2013, Cheryl Boone Isaacs is elected as the 35th president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). She becomes the first African-American and third woman to serve as president of the AMPAS.
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce Wins 100/200 Double At World Championships, First Woman In 22 Years
Arguably the greatest sprinter of the decade, maybe even all-time. The Jamaican entered the World Championships in Moscow with the fastest times run in the world that year in the 100- and 200-meters. She won the 100-meter race in a new world-leading time of 10.71 into a headwind, the second fastest 100-meters ever run at the world championships. Her margin of victory was 0.22 seconds, the largest in world championship history. Fraser-Pryce then went on to win the 200-meters title in 22.17s. She was the only runner to have bettered that time the entire year.
President Barack Obama Awards Presidential Medal Of Freedom To Bill Clinton, Oprah
On November 20, 2013, President Barack Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Bill Clinton and Oprah. Other recipients of the 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom included sports champions and scientists, musicians and civil rights leaders, activists and journalists, media moguls and public servants.
Beyoncé’s Digital Drop Changes The Game
Beyoncé releases her self-titled album at midnight December 13, 2013, surprising and delighting fans with 14 new songs and 17 videos as part of her first “visual album.” The unexpected digital release of her fifth album changed how artists rolled out new music for the rest of the decade.
Black Excellence At The 56th Annual Grammy Awards
On January 26, 2014, at the Grammy Awards, Black excellence was on full display with Beyonce and Jay-Z opening the show with a performance of “Drunk in Love.” Record of the Year went to Pharrell Williams and Daft Punk for "Get Lucky.” Pharrell took home another Grammy for the song when he and Daft Punk also won Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. Bruno Mars won Best Pop Vocal Album for "Unorthodox Jukebox,” and Jay-Z won Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for "Holy Grail,” featuring Justin Timberlake. Everyone’s favorite bad gal Rihanna won Best Urban Contemporary Album for "Unapologetic." Alicia Keys took home a Best R&B Album award for "Girl on Fire." And Darius Rucker won Best Country Solo Performance for "Wagon Wheel.”
BET Honors Nelson Mandela With The Champion Of Humanity Award
On February 24, 2014, Nelson Mandela’s family accepted the BET Honors Champion of Humanity Award on his behalf and reflected on the legacy of one of history’s greatest leaders of all time, who had passed away at the age of 95 a couple of months before. During the acceptance speech, his daughter said Mandela had a unique combination of “greatness and humility.”
Aretha Franklin Receives BET Honors’ Musical Arts Award
On February 24 2014, “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin accepted the BET Honors Musical Arts Award.
Steve McQueen Becomes First Black Director To Win Best Picture At The Oscars
On March 2, 2014, at the 86th Academy Awards, Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave won best picture at the 2014 Academy Awards. McQueen became the first Black director to make a best picture winner. “I dedicate this award to all the people who have endured slavery,” McQueen said during his acceptance speech. The riveting film also nabbed the Oscar for best adapted screenplay and Lupita Nyong’o won for best supporting actress.
Lupita Nyong’o Becomes Sixth Black Woman To Win The Best Supporting Actress Oscar
Lupita Nyong’o took home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress on March 2, 2014, at the 86th Academy Awards for her riveting portrayal as Patsey in 12 Years a Slave, which was her first-ever feature film role, becoming the sixth Black actress to win in that category. In her speech she honored the real Patsey and Solomon Northup, who was played by Chiwetel Ejiofor.
Black High School Student Excelling In Academics, Sports And Music Receives 150 College Scholarship Offers
Chad Thomas was an 18-year-old senior at Booker T. Washington High School in Miami when he received 150 college scholarship offers. Not only was he an All-American defensive end football player, but he had a 3.3 GPA and played a total of nine instruments. Thomas decided to stay close to home and attend the University of Miami “for music technology, and I’m going to play football.” In 2018, he was drafted into the NFL to play for the Cleveland Browns. He’s also produced tracks for hip-hop and rap artists such as Rick Ross.
Morehouse College Hosts The First White House Summit On Black Male Success
The White House and Ebony magazine partnered to launch a national summit series with the hope of brainstorming new ways to help Black boys succeed in school and in life. In March 2014, Morehouse College became the first host of the educational excellence series, which brought together young people and experts to address the issues facing Black males and the effectiveness of solutions currently in place nationwide.
Kevin Durant Wins First MVP For Oklahoma City Thunder/Seattle Supersonics Franchise
The enigmatic 7-foot superstar’s social media habits confounds the average sports fan just as much or maybe even more than his offensive skills do to NBA defenders. On May 6, 2014, he won league MVP. The first for the Oklahoma City Thunder/Seattle Supersonics franchise. He averaged 32 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game, leading the Thunder to the Western Conference Finals. He also earned All-NBA honors, was an All-Star and won a scoring title.
Brittney Griner Sets WNBA Block Record And Helps Phoenix Mercury Set Single Season Wins Mark
On June 29, 2014, Griner set a WNBA record with 11 blocks in a regular season game win against the Tulsa Shock. On August 24, 2014, Griner became the first WNBA player to dunk in a playoff game when she helped the Mercury defeat the Los Angeles Sparks, 93–68. She won a WNBA championship, was an All-Star, was All-WNBA, All-WNBA-Defense, was Defensive Player of the Year, and the blocks champion.
President Obama Announces The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders
In July 2014, President Obama announced the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders program would be renamed in honor of former South African President Nelson Mandela. The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is the flagship exchange program of the President’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI).
Black Excellence At The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards
On August 25, Joe Morton won an Emmy Award for outstanding guest actor in a drama for his role as Rowan Pope in ABC’s Scandal. Uzo Aduba took home the award for outstanding guest actress in a comedy series for her role as Suzanne Warren "Crazy Eyes" in Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black.
President Obama Honors Stevie Wonder And Alvin Ailey With The Presidential Medal Of Freedom
On November 24, President Barack Obama honored Alvin Ailey (posthumously) and Stevie Wonder with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Quvenzhané Wallis Becomes First Black Actress To Star As ‘Annie’
Just in time for Christmas, on December 19, 2014, the movie Annie was released in theaters, starring Quvenzhané Wallis, Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz. The 2014 remake of the 1977 original Broadway musical of the same name made history as it was the first time the title role was played by an African-American actress. The movie went on to receive two Golden Globe nominations, including one for Wallis’ performance.
Al Green Receives Kennedy Center Honors
Iconic singer Al Green’s career and voice celebrated at the 37th Kennedy Center Honors.
Serena Williams Wins Three of Four Grand Slam Titles
While she might call 2015 a disappointing year for what she failed to do, it would be a career for 99% of professional tennis players. Williams won the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon Championships. She entered the U.S. Open as the odds-on favorite but fell in the semifinals to Roberta Vinci. That loss prevented Williams from becoming the first player since Steffi Graf to win the calendar Grand Slam (all four majors in the same calendar year). Still, winning three out of four Grand Slam titles in one year is extremely impressive.
Comedian And Activist Dick Gregory Gets Star On the Hollywood Walk Of Fame
On February 2, comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the category of Live Theatre/Performance.
Diahann Carroll Presents Phylicia Rashad With BET Honors Theatrical Arts Award
In February 2015, Diahann Carroll expressed her love for Phylicia Rashad when she presented her with the BET Honors Theatrical Arts Award.
John Legend And Common Win Oscars For Best Original Song During First Year Of #OscarsSoWhite Controversy
On February 22, 2015, at the 87th Academy Awards ceremony, John Legend and Common won the Oscar for Best Original Song for "Glory” from the film Selma, which was also a Best Picture nominee. Their big win marked the first Oscar for both artists, which they received during the controversial first year of #OscarsSoWhite, the hashtag that activist April Reign created that started a movement.
President Barack Obama Delivers Remarks From The Edmund Pettus Bridge For The 50th Anniversary Of The Selma Marches
On March 7, 2015, President Obama and the first family joined Americans gathered in Selma, Alabama, to honor the 1965 marches from Selma to Montgomery in support of voting rights for all Black Americans.
Loretta Lynch Becomes First Black Female US Attorney General
On April 23, 2015, the U.S. Senate confirmed Loretta Lynch as the nation’s first Black female attorney general, and on April 27 she was sworn in by Vice President Joe Biden, making her the top law enforcement official for the final months of President Barack Obama’s time in office. Obama nominated her to succeed Eric Holder.
Teen Mom Receives $600,000 In Scholarships And Is Accepted To 26 Schools
In May of 2015, it was reported Trameka Pope, who gave birth to a son when she was in eighth grade, became valedictorian of Wendell Phillips High School in Chicago. The teen mom received more than $600,000 in scholarships and was accepted to 26 schools.
Chicago Teen Is Awarded Over $3 Million In Scholarship Funds
In June 2015, it was reported that Arianna Alexander, who was valedictorian at Kenwood Academy in Chicago, was awarded over $3 million in scholarship money. The teen had a 5.1 GPA and was accepted to 26 colleges, including six Ivy League schools. She decided to attend the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.
Misty Copeland Becomes American Ballet Theater’s First Black Prima Ballerina
Misty Copeland achieved what no other Black ballerina had done before in the American Ballet Theater’s 75-year history when she was promoted to the female principal dancer in June of 2015. She was also named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in 2015 after being with the ballet company for 14 years.
High School Student Kyemah McEntyre Breaks The Internet With Afrocentric Prom Dress And Designs Naturi Naughton’s BET Awards Gown
Kyemah McEntyre, an 18-year-old student at the Cicely Tyson School of Performing and Fine Arts in New Jersey, set out to “break the internet” when she shared photos of her one-of-a-kind prom gown, a stunning long-sleeve creation featuring a vibrant African print, full skirt and plunging V-neckline. The images were shared more than 13,000 times on Instagram and nearly 7,000 times on Twitter.
Jasmine Twitty Becomes Youngest Judge Ever In Easley, South Carolina
In September 2015, at the age of 25, Jasmine Twitty made history by becoming the youngest judge ever in the history of Easley, South Carolina.
#BlackExcellence At The Emmys
Viola Davis won the 2015 Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her role as Annalise Keating in ABC’s How To Get Away With Murder and gave a powerful speech about opportunity. Prolific actor Reg E. Cathey won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for playing "Freddy" in Netflix’s House of Cards. Uzo Aduba won an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her work as Suzanne Warren "Crazy Eyes" in Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black.
Queen Latifah And Mary J. Blige Land Star In The Wiz Live-Action Special
On December 3, The Wiz Live-Action Special aired on NBC starring Queen Latifah and Mary J. Blige. Latifah landed the role as the Wiz, the most powerful person in Emerald City, and Blige played the show’s villain, Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the West. Shanice Williams played Dorothy Gale, Common played The Bouncer / The Gatekeeper of the Entrance to the Emerald City, Amber Riley played Addaperle, the Good Witch of the North, Uzo Aduba played Glinda, the Good Witch of the South, Stephanie Mills played as Auntie Em / Emily Gale, Elijah Kelley played the Scarecrow / Sticks the Farmhand Man, Ne-Yo played the Tin-Man / John the Farmhand Man, and David Alan Grier played the Cowardly Lion / Robert the Farmhand Man.
Cicely Tyson Receives Kennedy Center Honors
On December 29, 2015, Cicely Tyson was celebrated at the Kennedy Center Honors for her contributions to the performing arts. Actors Kerry Washington, Viola Davis and Tyler Perry as well as singer CeCe Winans were on hand to pay tribute to her accomplishments.
Jessica Byrd Celebrated As One Of Time Magazine’s '12 New Faces Of Black Leadership'
In January, Jessica Byrd was highly celebrated in 2016 when she was named “12 New Faces of Black Leadership” by Time Magazine and one of the most influential Millennials shaping the 2016 election by Rolling Stone. Byrd founded Three Point Strategies in 2015 to provide a home for electoral strategy that centers racial justice and is transformational rather than transactional, according to the website.
Rihanna Releases 'Anti'
Rihanna’s eighth studio album, Anti, was released on January 28 and peaked at number one on the US Billboard 200 and was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) after only two days.
Beyonce’s Super Bowl Performance Hailed As The Blackest Takeover Of The Halftime Show
Beyonce was the true champ at the Super Bowl in February 2016 when she took the field alongside hundreds of dancers to perform a 13-minute set, which included her new trap feminist track “Formation,” which included many references to African-American history and Black politics and culture. Her performance was so powerful that the lights in the SuperDome went out moments into the beginning of the second half of the game and lasted 34 minutes.
Channing Dungey Becomes First African-American Entertainment President Of Disney’s ABC Television Network
In February 2016, Channing Dungey made history as the first African-American entertainment president of Disney’s ABC television network at the age of 46. She was credited with helping develop ABC hits including Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder.
Grandma, 106, Dances With President Barack Obama And First Lady Michelle Obama In Viral Video
Virginia McLaurin became an instant internet sensation when the 106-year-old’s video dancing with President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama in the White House went viral in February 2016. Her secret to a long life is to “smile and be nice to people.”
Young Girl, 11, Gets Whole Foods Contract For Her Lemonade Business
Mikaila Ulmer secured a four-state contract with Whole Foods in March 2016 at the age of 11, turning her lemonade stand into a successful venture.
Congressional Caucus On Black Women And Girls Is Created
U.S. Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY) and Robin Kelly (D.-Ill.) formed the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls in March 2016, marking the first-ever caucus dedicated to removing barriers and disparities experienced by Black women.
Beyonce Serves Lemonade
Beyoncé released her sixth studio album and second visual album on April 23. The superstar promoted the album on her hugely successful Formation World Tour, the year's second highest-grossing tour. The album would go on to win a Peabody Award in the Entertainment category and by June of 2019, Lemonade would be certified 3× Platinum.
BET’s Black Girls Rock! Honors Rihanna
BET’s Black Girls Rock! honored Rihanna with the Rock Star Award.
Stephen Curry Becomes First-Ever Unanimous NBA MVP
On May 5, 2016, Wardell Stephen Curry II was named MVP for the second consecutive season and the first player in history to win it unanimously. Think about that. In the history of the NBA, only one player has won the league’s MVP unanimously. Not Michael Jordan, not Kareem Abdul-Jabar, not LeBron James. It was the high watermark in a fantastic year for Curry. He was an All-Star, earned All-NBA honors, was the scoring champion, steals leader and a member of the 50-40-90 club.
Jesse Williams Delivers Powerful Acceptance Speech For BET Humanitarian Award
Jesse Williams was the executive producer of the BET original documentary Stay Woke: Black Lives Matter in 2016. His human rights activism and outspoken fight against violence against Black people also won him the 2016 BET Humanitarian Award. “There has been no war that we have not fought and died on the front lines of,” he said during his acceptance speech in June.
Sheila E. Performs Epic Tribute To Prince At BET Awards
Sheila E. performed a medley of Prince songs and paid tribute to the musical genius’ legacy with an incredible display of musicianship in June 2016.
Colin Kaepernick Takes A Knee And Protests National Anthem To Bring Attention To Police Brutality
On August 26, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick does not stand during the national anthem during a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, protesting the unjust killings of Black Americans at the hands of the officers who are supposed to protect them. This moment sparks the #TakeAKnee movement and radically changes the relationship between the Black community and the NFL for the rest of the decade and eventually results in Colin Kaepernick becoming blackballed by the NFL.
Simone Manuel Becomes The First Black Woman To Win An Individual Olympic Gold Medal In Swimming
Simone Manuel made history at the Rio Summer Games in 2016, becoming the first Black woman to win an individual Olympic gold medal in swimming by winning the 100-meter freestyle.
Solange Releases ‘A Seat At The Table’
Solange released her album A Seat At The Table in September 2016. It quickly reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, making it her first No. 1 album.
Kamala Harris Becomes Second Black Woman Elected To The US Senate
On November 8, 2016, Kamala Harris made history when she won the race for Senate, making her the second Black woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate, NBC News reported. There hadn’t been a Black female senator since Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois served one term from 1993 to 1999.
President Barack Obama Awards Presidential Medal Of Freedom To Cicely Tyson, Diana Ross, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar And Michael Jordan
Cicely Tyson, Diana Ross, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Jordan and others receive Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.
BET Presents Love And Happiness: An Obama Celebration
On Dec 27, the final White House concert hosted by President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama: BET's Love and Happiness celebrated his historic two terms as the first Black president of the United States.
President Obama Surprises Joe Biden With Medal of Freedom
In January, as a special send off, former President Barack Obama surprised his VP, Joe Biden, by awarding him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the U.S.
Black Women Keep Intersectional Feminism On The Agenda At The Women's March
After voting overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton, Black women weren’t afraid to make their voices heard at the 2017 Women’s March, calling out Trump and the white women who voted for him and some who didn’t. Black activists were seen holding signs that not only addressed the whiteness of the march, but also encouraged white women to stand up for issues that do not belong to them.
Ezra Edelman Wins Best Documentary Feature For 'O.J.: Made In America'
In February, Ezra Edelman won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature for O.J.: Made in America and dedicated the award to “victims of police violence.”
Mahershala Ali Becomes Fifth Black Actor To Win Best Supporting Oscar; First Muslim Actor To Ever Win An Oscar
Mahershala Ali scored his first Oscar when he won a Best Supporting Actor award for Moonlight. In his acceptance speech, he said, “I want to thank my teachers, my professors...one thing that they constantly told me is that … it wasn’t about you, it’s not about you, it’s about these characters.”
Barry Jenkins And Tarell Alvin McCraney Mark Third Win For Blacks In Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar Category
Moonlight writers Barry Jenkins (screenplay) and Tarell Alvin McCraney (story) made history when they won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for Moonlight. It’s only the third time in Oscars history that a Black person has won in the category, following Geoffrey Fletcher for Precious and John Ridley for 12 Years a Slave.
'Moonlight' Wins Best Picture At The Oscars
The coming-of-age story about Chiron, a young Black boy growing up in Liberty City, Miami, beat out La La Land for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, and it was a major upset and validated little Black boys across America who felt their stories had finally been told.
Jay-Z Becomes First Rapper Inducted Into The Songwriters Hall Of Fame
In February, Jay-Z became the first rapper inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Others inductees in 2017 included Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds and Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, among others.
By the way, this is a win for US. I remember when rap was said to be a fad . We are now alongside some of the greatest writers in history.— Mr. Carter (@S_C_) February 22, 2017
Harvard Law Review Has Its First Black Female President
Imelme Umana made history when she was elected the first Black female president of the Harvard Law Review in February 2017. Former President Barack Obama became the publication’s first Black president when he was a law student at the age of 28.
Savannah State Cheerleading Squad Becomes First HBCU To Win First Place At Nationals
In February 2017, the Savannah State Tigers cheerleading squad won first place at CheerSport Nationals in Atlanta, marking the first-ever HBCU to take the top spot, the Savannah Morning News reported.
#BlackEcellence At The Grammys
At the 59th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony was held on February 12, a number of our favorite Black artists received awards and Beyoncé blessed the stage with a show stopping performance while pregnant. Chance the Rapper never even sold a physical copy of his album but still won a Grammy for Best New Artist in February, something that had never been done before. “I wanna thank God for my mother and my father who’ve supported me since I was young,” he said. Solange won a Grammy for Best R&B Performance for “Cranes in the Sky." Best Urban Contemporary Album went to Beyoncé for Lemonade, and Best Rap Song went to Drake for "Hotline Bling.”
Jordan Peele’s 'Get Out' Grosses Over $175 Million
In April, Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, “Get Out,” grossed over $175 million at the U.S. box office, making it the highest domestically grossing film of a Black director to date. Peele took another first the following year when the film won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, making him the first African-American to win in the category.
Viola Davis Becomes Seventh Black Actress To Win Best Supporting Oscar; First Time Ever Two Black Actors Win Best Supporting Category In The Same Year (Mahershala Ali)
Viola Davis took home the big Oscar win for her Best Supporting Actress role in Fences. Davis beat out some of the most talented actresses in the industry when she went up against Naomie Harris, Nicole Kidman, Octavia Spencer and Michelle Williams.
Houston Teen Becomes First Black Valedictorian In His High School’s 119-Year History
In May, Kellin McGowan became the first Black valedictorian in his school’s 119-year history. He graduated from St. Thomas High School with a 4.57 GPA and said he was shocked to learn he was the first Black valedictorian at his school. He maintained a minimum 4.0 GPA for seven consecutive semesters.
BET Awards Acceptance Speech: Solange Solidifies Her Seat At The Table
In June, Solange took home the Centric Award at the 2017 BET Awards in Los Angeles. Her big win came just weeks after sister, Beyoncé, welcomed twins earlier in the month.
Tamika D. Mallory Receives BET’s Shine A Light Award As Social Justice Leader, Advocate And Activist
Tamika D. Mallory received BET’s Shine A Light Award in June 2017 for her outspoken advocacy work for civil rights issues, equal rights for women, health care, gun violence and police misconduct.
Lewis Hamilton Set Formula One Record For Most Grand Slams In A Single Season
We can quibble over whether or not you think race car driving is a sport. Formula One doesn’t get a whole lot of pub on this side of the Atlantic. But what is undeniable is Lewis Hamilton’s dominance over his peers during the decade. 2017 might have been his best year ever. Hamilton registered 11 pole positions that season as he took the record for the all-time most pole positions. He was also the most consistent driver finishing every race in the points. He set the record for most grand slams in one season (3) in 2017. A grand slam is when you win the pole, win the race, record the fastest lap, and lead every lap in the same race. He also won his fourth Formula One World Championship in 2017.
Donald Glover, Lena Waithe And Sterling K. Brown Make History At 2017 Emmy Awards
The 69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards in September 2017 marked the historical moments for a few Blacks in the entertainment industry. Donald Glover became the first African-American to win an Emmy for Outstanding Director for a Comedy Series for Atlanta, the FX series he created, directed and starred in, which awarded him the Best Actor in a Comedy Emmy win, too. Lena Waithe became the first Black woman to win an Emmy for writing a comedy series for Master of None. Last, but certainly not least, Sterling K. Brown became the first Black actor in nearly two decades to win an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for This Is Us.
Mae Jemison Celebrates 25th Anniversary As First Black Woman In Space
September 12, 2017, marked 25 years since Mae Jemison became the first Black woman in space when the “Endeavor” launched from the Kennedy Space Center in 1992 in Florida for 127 orbits around the earth. "There was the sense of personal accomplishment, but at the same time, there was the whole issue and whole attention around being the first African-American woman astronaut, and even more so, being the first woman of color in the world to go into space," she said.
12 Black Elected Officials Make History As The Firsts
In the November 2017 local elections, Blacks made history is several states. Sheila Oliver was elected as the first Black lieutenant governor of New Jersey, the Philadelphia Tribune reported. Melvin Carter was elected as the first Black mayor of St. Paul, Minnesota, The Hill reported. Vi Lyles became the first Black woman to be elected as mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, the Charlotte Observer reported. Justin Fairfax was elected lieutenant governor of Virginia, making him the second African-American to be elected to the position since Reconstruction, The Roanoke Times reported. Andre Rainey was elected as the youngest mayor of Peekskill, New York, and Jonathan McCollar was elected as the first Black mayor of Statesboro, Georgia, the Philadelphia Sunday Sun reported. Mary Parham Copelan was elected as the first Black woman mayor of Milledgeville, Georgia, WRDW reported. Brendon Barber became the first African-American to be elected mayor of Georgetown, South Carolina, The Post and Courier reported. Andrea Jenkins became the first African-American transgender woman to be elected to the city council of a major city in Minneapolis, the Chicago Tribune reported. Booker Gainor was elected as the first African American mayor of Cairo, Georgia, WCTV reported. Wilmot Collins was elected as the first Black mayor in Montana’s state history, ABC News reported, and Yvonne Spicer was elected as the first mayor of the new city Framingham, Massachusetts, the Boston Globe reported.
LaToya Cantrell Became First Female Mayor Of New Orleans
In November, LaToya Cantrell made history as the first woman ever to hold the position of mayor of New Orleans in the city’s 300-year history. “We deserve better and together we truly will be better,” Cantrell told her supporters the day after she was elected.
New Class Of Rhodes Scholars Includes Record Number Of Black Students
In November, it was reported that 10 Black students were selected to attend the United Kingdom’s Oxford University for postgraduate studies, the most ever to receive the prestigious honor. Among the Black students selected was Simone Askey, the first Black woman to serve as captain of the Corps of Cadets, the highest position in West Point’s chain of command, and Tania N. Fabo, who created the first Black Health Matters conference at Harvard.
President Barack Obama And First Lady Michelle Obama Celebrate His Final Musical Evening At The White House
The Obamas were honored to welcome everyone to a White House musical extravaganza in November 2016 for the Love & Happiness, an Obama Celebration event presented by BET. “Over the past eight years, Michelle and I have set aside nights like this to honor and celebrate the music that has shaped America,” he said.
Keisha Lance Bottoms Becomes Second Black Female Elected As Atlanta’s Mayor
Keisha Lance Bottoms declared victory in the December 2017 runoff election for mayor against fellow Atlanta City Councilwoman Mary Norwood. “For all the little girls out there that needs somebody to believe that you’re better than your circumstances, I want you all to remember that Black girl magic is real,” she said.
#MeToo Movement Receives Top Honor In TIME Magazine’s Person Of The Year Issue
According to TIME, the #MeToo movement “unleashed one of the highest-velocity shifts in our culture since the 1960s.” The magazine dubbed the people behind the movement “The Silence Breakers,” although none of them, including the founder, Tarana Burke, appeared on the December cover.
Colin Kaepernick Receives Sports Illustrated’s Muhammad Ali Legacy Award
The free-agent quarterback received the honor of Sports Illustrated’s Muhammad Ali Legacy Award, which was presented by Beyonce in December 2017. “I accept this award knowing that the legacy of Muhammad Ali is that of a champion of the people,” Kaepernick said.
Oprah Winfrey Becomes The First Black Female Recipient Of The Cecil B. DeMille Award
In January, at the 2018 Golden Globe Awards, Oprah Winfrey was honored with the Cecil B. DeMille Award, which recognizes "outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment.'' She became the first Black woman to receive the award in its 66-year history.
Charlottesville, Virginia, Elects Its First Black Woman Mayor
In January, less than a year after the white supremacist and KKK rallies took place in Charlottesville, the Virginia city elected its first Black female mayor, Nikuyah Walker.
‘Black Panther’ Grosses More Than $1 Billion Worldwide
In February 2018, Marvel’s Black Panther catapulted to worldwide fame at the speed of light, grossing more than $1 billion worldwide, marking it the biggest February opening weekend ever. It was officially heralded as the most commercially successful superhero film ever in the United States. A viral GoFundMe campaign raised funds to send Harlem kids to see the film and more than doubled its original goal in just four days. The epic film went on to win multiple awards during the 2019 awards season, including Best Original Score, Best Costume Design, and Best Production Design at the Academy Awards. In August, 2019, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige and Black Panther director Ryan Coogler announced the highly anticipated sequel will debut in theaters on May 6, 2022.
Childish Gambino’s ‘This Is America’ Becomes First Rap Song To Win Grammy Record Of The Year
In February, Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” made history at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards by becoming the first rap song ever to win Record of the Year. Gambino, whose real name is Donald Glover, won a total of four Grammys that night, including Song of the Year, Best Rap/Sung Performance and Best Music Video all for the same hit song.
Black Artists Reveal Official Portraits Of Barack And Michelle Obama
In February, former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama were on hand for the unveiling of their official portraits, which are on display at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. The portraits were created by two Black artists. The former POTUS selected artist Kehinde Wiley, a Yale University-trained painter, to complete his portrait, and Mrs. Obama chose Baltimore-based artist Amy Sherald. For Halloween, an adorable 3-year-old named Parker Curry dressed as the former FLOTUS, depicting the portrait, after first meeting Mrs. Obama in March for an impromptu dance party, which was captured in a viral video.
You nailed the look, Parker! I love it!!!! ❤️ https://t.co/40CArze8gT— Michelle Obama (@MichelleObama) November 1, 2018
Black Texas Teen Receives Scholarships From Top 20 Colleges
In March, Micheal Brown, 17, from Houston, applied to 20 of the best universities in the U.S. and was admitted to every single one with a full ride. He also received $260,000 in additional scholarship offers. "It's something I'm proud of because I see my hard work paying off, determination paying off, sacrifices paying off," he said.
Black Woman, 29, Runs A Privately Owned Airline Worth $90 Million
In March, Sherrexicia “Rexy” Rolle, the VP of Operations and General Counsel for Western Air in the Bahamas, was one of the youngest executives to lead a Black-owned airline. The Bahamian airlines reportedly has a net worth of over $90 million.
Rep. John Lewis Marks Historic Civil Rights Moment With Bridge Crossing Jubilee
In March, at the Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma, Alabama, Rep. John Lewis was among those that called for continued efforts to condemn white supremacy and other forms of discrimination. Lewis renewed his call for all Americans to “stand up, speak up and find a way to bring about change.” He was one of those badly beaten on Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965.
Beyoncé Makes History At Coachella As First Black Woman Headliner
Coachella 2018 in April was marked by a historic moment when Beyoncé took the stage as the first Black woman to ever headline the music festival. “Thank you for allowing me to be the first Black woman to headline,” she said to a roaring crowd of festival-goers. “Ain’t that ‘bout a b**ch?”
Kendrick Lamar Makes History With Pulitzer Prize
In April, Kendrick Lamar made history when his album DAMN became the first non-jazz or classical work in the Pulitzer Prize for Music category. It also placed hip-hop on the board’s forecast for musical excellence for the first time ever.
First Black-Owned Water Brand Sold At Walmart Sells Out In A Month
In July, the first Black-owned water brand ever to sell at Walmart was sold out about a month after it hit shelves in Jacksonville, Florida. Live Alkaline Water, created by business partners Robert McCray and Dr. Shayla Green, was inspired by McCray’s great-aunt, who revealed that the family owned a natural spring aquifer in North Carolina. “Your blood of your ancestors is crying out for you. You’re responsible for this,” McCray said his great-aunt told him. It sold out at three Walmart locations after a month but is available for purchase online and at other retailers across northern Florida.
Janet Mock Becomes First Transgender Woman Of Color To Write And Direct A TV Episode
In July, Janet Mock made history by becoming the first transgender woman of color to write and direct a TV episode for the hit series Pose. Mock works to educate the Black community about LGBT issues. She released her memoir, Redefining Realness: My Path To Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More, in 2014 and it became a New York Time’s best seller. “The best thing I can do is tell my story,” Mock said. “I wrote this story because I had no examples.”
Paul Progba Helps France Win Its Second World Cup Title
On July 15, 2018, France’s Paul Progba scored a goal in “Les Bleus” 4-2 win over Croatia in the Final to earn the country’s second World Cup title. A decorated player throughout his career, Progba was able to add the sports' biggest prize on his resumé.
Beyoncé Makes History By Choosing First Black Photographer Ever To Shoot A Cover Of American 'Vogue'
In August, ahead of her epic September Vogue cover, Beyoncé did what no one else had ever done in the magazine’s history. She selected a Black photographer to shoot her cover. Tyler Mitchell's achievement marks a milestone in the magazine’s 125 history.
2018 Midterm Elections Result In Historic Number Of Women Of Color
In November, a great number of women, specifically women of color, made history during the 2018 midterm elections. In fact, the number of white male candidates was the lowest it has been in the past four elections. Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 29, was the youngest woman ever to be elected to Congress when she won the elections for New York’s 14th Congressional District. Jahana Hayes became the first Black woman to represent Connecticut in Congress, and Ilhan Omar became the first Somali-American elected to Congress. In 2018, over 400 Black women ran for office.
Cicely Tyson Becomes First Black Woman To Ever Receive An Honorary Oscar
On November 18, Cicely Tyson received an Honorary Oscar at the 2018 Governor's Awards in Hollywood. She became the first Black woman to ever receive such an honor.
Nicki Minaj Makes Billboard Hot 100 History With 100 Appearances On Coveted Chart
In November, Nicki Minaj became the first female artist with 100 career visits to the Billboard Hot 100 chart, debuting at No. 83 on the survey dated Nov. 10 as the featured artist on Tyga’s track “Dip.” Minaj joined just four other acts with triple-digit totals.
Michelle Obama's 'Becoming' 2018's Best-Selling Hardcover Book
In December, Michelle Obama’s Becoming was the best-selling hardcover book. It sold more than 11.7 million copies across all formats worldwide since its publication release in November 2018. According to a press release sent to BET in December 2019, Mrs. Obama vowed to donate more than $500,000 to Girls Opportunity Alliance, a program of the Obama Foundation that works to support the education of young girls across the world, confirming that Becoming is just the gift that keeps on giving.
Michelle Obama Beats Out Hillary Clinton For Most Admired Woman Title
In December, Michelle Obama was named the most admired woman in America for the first time, beating Hillary Clinton, who held the title for the last 17 years.
Congressional Black Caucus Swears In The Largest Number Of Members In Its History
For the first time ever in the Congressional Black Caucus’ 48-year history, their membership had more than 50 members. During the swearing in ceremony on Jan. 3, the CBC had a total of 55 members.
2019 Academy Awards Were Epic For Black Hollywood History-Making Moments
Among the historic moments for Black Hollywood at the 2019 Academy Awards in February was Regina King’s win for Best Supporting Actress for If Beale Street Could Talk, Mahershala Ali’s win for Best Supporting Actor for Green Book, and Spike Lee’s win for Best Screenplay for BlacKkKlansman.
Spike Lee FINALLY Wins An Academy Award
Director Spike Lee finally took home an Oscar, winning in the category of Best Adapted Screenplay for BlacKkKlansman. Lee used his time on stage during his acceptance speech to send a clear message about the 2020 presidential election. “Let’s all mobilize,” he said. “Let’s all be on the right side of history. Make the moral choice between love versus hate.”
Referencing his 1989 film that many felt was Oscar-worthy, Lee added, “Let’s do the right thing!”
Cardi B’s Best Rap Album Grammy Makes History
When Cardi B snagged the win for Best Rap Album at the 2019 Grammys in February, she made history as the first female artist to win in that category. “My nerves are so bad! Maybe I need to start smoking weed,” she said during her acceptance speech.
Teen Who Was Denied A Job At Six Flags Because Of His Locks Gets Modeling Contract
Kerion Washington, 17, was denied a job at Six Flags in Arlington, Texas, in March because of his “extreme hairstyle.” When his mother’s Facebook post about the incident went viral in July, the modeling agency IMG Worldwide referred them to Jones Model Management, a development and placement modeling agency in Austin, and the rest is history.
Harvard Law School Has Largest Class Of Black Law Students Ever In The School’s History
In March, over 60 students from the African Diaspora were a part of Harvard Law School’s class of 2021. That’s the largest class of Black law students ever in the school’s history and 28 years since Barack Obama graduated.
Black Atlanta Teen Accepted To 39 Universities And Awarded $1.6 Million In Scholarships
In March, Jordan Nixon, a senior at Douglas County High in Atlanta, was accepted into 39 schools and was awarded $1.6 million in scholarships. Nixon received more acceptances than any other Douglas County High student.
Reps. Alma Adamas And Lauren Underwood Form First Black Maternal Health Caucus
In April, Democratic lawmakers Reps. Lauren Underwood and Alma Adams announced the creation of the Black Maternal Health Caucus. It was created to address the higher rate of pregnancy-related deaths suffered by Black women. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Black women are three to four times more likely to experience pregnancy-related deaths than white women.
Congressional Black Caucus Launches Task Force On Black Youth Suicide And Mental Health
On April 30, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) launched the emergency Task Force on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health to focus on the growing problem of Black youth suicide and highlight what many professionals say is a lack of mental health care and resources. The goal is to develop and produce a report from the task force by the end of 2019.
Aretha Franklin Posthumously Wins 2019 Pulitzer Prize For Musical Contributions
In April, Pulitzer Administrator Dana Canedy announced the recipients of the 2019 Pulitzer Prizes and said, the “board is pleased to award, posthumously, a special citation to, Aretha Franklin, for her indelible contribution to American music and culture for more than five decades.”
Beyoncé Releases ‘Homecoming,’ The Film Based On Her Epic 2018 Coachella Performance
After an epic 2018 Coachella performance, when Beyoncé became the first Black woman to headline, she released the highly anticipated Homecoming: A Film By Beyoncé in April 2019.
New Orleans Teen Accepted Into 115 Colleges And Awarded $3.7 Million In Scholarships
In April, Antoinette Love was a senior at International High School of New Orleans when she was accepted into all 115 schools she applied to and secured around $3.7 million in scholarships.
Black Billionaire Pays Off Morehouse Grads’ Student Loan Debt
In May, Robert F. Smith gave Morehouse grads a priceless gift when he pledged to eliminate the student loan debt for the class of 2019. During his keynote address at the commencement ceremony, Smith announced he was creating a grant to help pay off the debt accrued by the graduating class of nearly 400.
Rihanna Makes Fashion History As Her New Luxury ‘Fenty’ Line With LVMH Is Announced
In May, Rihanna’s partnership with LVMH to create a new luxury Maison (House) based in Paris was announced. The historic partnership marks the first time a woman creates an original brand with LVMH, and the first woman of color at the top of an LVMH maison. Additionally, her line will be the first new house created by the group since Christian Lacroix in 1987.
Teen Cello Player From England Plays At The Royal Wedding
Sheku Kanneh-Mason, 19, was the winner of the 2016 BBC Young Musician competition and was presented the opportunity to pay his cello at the royal wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry in May.
Historic Number Of Black Women Graduate From West Point
In May, West Point graduated its largest class of Black women in the prestigious academy’s history. Thirty-two women participated in the traditional Old Corps photo shoot to celebrate their graduation.
Jay-Z Becomes First Hip-Hop Billionaire
In June, Jay-Z became the first hip-hop billionaire. The Brooklyn native has reportedly accumulated a $1 billion fortune, spanning real estate, sports, music and fashion. This makes him “one of only a handful of entertainers to become a billionaire and the first hip-hop artist to do so.”
HBCU Student Secures Digital Illustration Gig For Netflix Children Series
In June, Elijah Rutland secured an internship to work on the Netflix show Green Eggs and Ham. In September 2018, the 19-year-old Florida A & M student’s custom version of cartoon character “Rolf” from the show Ed, Edd, n Eddy became a viral meme, which helped create more interest in his work.
Newly Appointed Denver School Principal Began Educational Career As A Janitor
In June, Michael Atkins was appointed as a principal in the Denver public school system, but his career in education began in custodial services. The 39-year-old is now the new principal at Stedman Elementary School in northeast Denver.
Beyoncé’s ‘Spirit’ Music Video Highlights The African Diaspora
In July, Beyoncé’s music video for the single “Spirit” off The Lion King soundtrack premiered on ABC and painted a bigger picture that goes beyond box office mania, bringing in the diversity of the African diaspora to the timeless story. Blue Ivy was featured in the video.
Cyntoia Brown Released From Prison
After serving 15 years of a life sentence for murder, 31-year-old Cyntoia Brown was finally freed on August 7. The cover of Brown’s tell-all book, Free Cyntoia: My Search for Redemption in the American Prison System, was also unveiled that month.
Steph Curry Sponsors The Creation Of Howard University Golf Teams
On August 19, Steph Curry formally announced his sponsorship for the creation of men’s and women’s golf teams at Howard University. The Golden State Warriors’ two-time NBA MVP, who is an avid golfer, announced that he’d make a seven-figure donation paid out over the next six years.
Teen Registers People To Vote As They Stand In Long Lines For Popeyes Chicken Sandwich
In August, amid the craze for Popeyes new chicken sandwich, 17-year-old David Ledbetter from Charlotte, North Carolina, saw an opportunity to engage people and remind them to vote. The teen, who co-founded Imagine This, an organization aimed at giving more Charlotte students access to college, approached people outside a local Popeyes and handed out sample ballots and voter registration forms.
Saw this story of a young person doing great work and wanted to share it—keep it up, David! That’s some creative organizing.https://t.co/bbkbf7vygr— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 28, 2019
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I want you all to meet David Ledbetter. You might have heard about him before—he’s the 17-year-old from Charlotte, North Carolina, who made news when he registered voters while waiting in line for a chicken sandwich at Popeyes. On #NationalVoterRegistrationDay, I hope you’ll get creative to help folks make sure they can make their voices heard. Join me and @WhenWeAllVote by pledging to register three friends to vote at the link in my bio.
Georgia Teen Wins Doodle For Google Competition, Beating Out 200,000 Entries
In August, Arantza Peña Popo won the Doodle for Google competition, beating out more than 200,000 submissions. The Georgia teen earned a $30,000 scholarship. Popo’s Doodle, titled “Once you get it, give it back,” showed her in the future standing behind her mother in front of a framed photo of her mom in her younger years holding Popo when she was a baby.
Billy Porter Becomes The First Black, Openly Gay Actor To Win An Emmy In A Leading Category
Billy Porter was a showstopper at the 71st annual Primetime Emmy Awards in September when he took home the trophy for Lead Actor in a Drama for Pose, the first time an openly gay Black man won in the category. It was also the first time an openly gay Black man was ever nominated in the category. “The category is love,” the star said.
‘Toni Morrison Day’ Recognized By Famous Author’s Hometown In Ohio
In September, the City Council of Lorain, Ohio, declared that Feb. 18 will be Toni Morrison Day, to honor the prolific writer in her hometown. “Her books told powerful stories of Black lives in America, from the time of slavery through modern days and have been sources of inspiration for our youth,” the resolution said.
Five Black Trailblazers Among 2019 MacArthur Fellows
In September, literary scholar and cultural historian Saidiya Hartman, landscape and public artist Walter Hood, historian Kelly Lytle Hernandez, urban designer Emmanuel Pratt, and artist Cameron Rowland were among the 2019 MacArthur Fellowship, also known as the “genius” grant, which awards $625,000 to “extraordinary talented and creative individuals as an investment in their potential.”
Tyler Perry Movie Studios Opening Gala Features Black Entertainment Greats
On Oct. 5, the Tyler Perry Movie Studios officially opened in Atlanta, and Black Hollywood was in full effect. Aside from the star-studded guest list, which included the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Spike Lee, Samuel L. Jackson and Ava DuVernay, Perry’s studio is sprawled on over 330 acres of what was once a Confederate army base.
Howard University And Amazon Team Up To Diversify The Entertainment Industry
In an effort to diversify the entertainment industry, Howard University teamed up with Amazon Studios in October to create a program specifically designed to provide opportunities for students of color pursuing careers in film and television.
Steven L. Reed Is Elected First Black Mayor To Lead Montgomery Since Its Founding
On October 8, Steven L. Reed made history when he became the first-ever Black mayor-elect of Montgomery almost 200 years after the Alabama capital was incorporated. Reed, a probate judge, captured about 67 percent of the vote in the nonpartisan runoff election, defeating David Woods, a white TV station owner.
Timothy Ragland Becomes Talladega, Alabama’s First-Ever Black Mayor, And Youngest
Also, on October 8, Timothy Ragland made history twice when he became the first-ever Black mayor-elect of Talladega, Alabama, and the youngest at 28. “I am standing on the shoulders of giants,” Ragland said after beating Mayor Jerry Cooper in a very close election.
This Week In October Had Several #BlackExcellence Firsts
From elected officials to theater and rodeos, African-Americans have been shining and creating new Black history. October was a huge month of firsts for Blacks worth celebrating. For example, Tony Postell became the first African-American police chief of Tyronza, Arkansas, and Vanessa Roy became the first African-American woman to rank as an engineer for the Charlotte Fire Department. For more information see: #BlackExcellence: This Week’s Black History Firsts.
Trailblazing Black Journalist Honored With US Forever Stamp
In October it was announced that trailblazing journalist Gwen Ifill, who passed away in 2016, would be honored with a U.S. Forever stamp in 2020. The acclaimed journalist, television newscaster and author was honored as “the 43rd stamp in the Black Heritage series.”
Howard University Defeats Harvard In The Great Debate, Again
On Oct. 28, for the second consecutive year, Howard University beat Harvard in the Annual State NAACP Conference “Great Debate.” The two schools debated both “the impeachment of President Donald J. Trump [and whether] Roc Nation, the business affiliated with Jay-Z should not have entered into a contract with the NFL.”
Rihanna Makes History With The Most Solo US 'Vogue' Covers Of Any Black Woman
As of her November 2019 cover, Rihanna made history with the most solo U.S. Vogue covers of any Black woman.
NASA Women Who Inspired ‘Hidden Figures’ Film Receive Congressional Gold Medals
In November, Trump signed into law the Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medal Act, awarding the four African-American women who inspired the film Hidden Figures with Congressional Gold Medals, the highest civilian award in the U.S.
The Harriet Tubman Biopic Opens In Theaters
In November, The Harriet Tubman biopic was released in theaters nationwide.
Nike’s Value Up $26.2 Billion Since Colin Kaepernick Deal
In November of 2019 it was announced that Nike’s market cap rose $26.2 billion since the announcement of the Colin Kaepernick deal proving that associating with Kap and those who stand for human dignity and against police brutality isn’t bad for business.
Simone Biles Sets Record For Gymnast With The Most World Medals And Most World Gold Medals
We have never witnessed the sheer power and grace from an athlete so diminutive.
Standing at 4-feet 8-inches, Biles towers over the competition and is on par with the greatest athletes ever of any gender in any sport. 2019 was arguably her greatest year. At the 2019 World Championships, Biles became the gymnast with the most World medals (25) and most World gold medals (19), regardless of gender, as well as the female gymnast with the most World all-around titles (5).
Miss USA, Miss America, Miss Teen USA, Miss Universe And Miss World Are All Black
History was made in December when, for the first time ever, the top beauty pageants winners were all Black women all crowned in the same year. Miss World is Toni-Ann Singh from Jamaica, Cheslie Kryst was crowned Miss USA, Miss Teen USA winner is Kaliegh Garris, Miss America is Nia Franklin, and Miss Universe is Zozibini Tunzi from South Africa.
Earth, Wind & Fire Tribute At Kennedy Center Honors Marks First Black Group Inducted
Cynthia Erivo, John Legend and the Jonas Brothers all took to the stage in December to pay tribute to Earth, Wind & Fire at the Kennedy Center Honors. They became the first Black group ever inducted into the Kennedy Center Honors and the original members were in attendance to accept the honor.
Black Tulane University Med Students Pose In Striking Photo To Honor Ancestors At Former Slave Plantation
In December, 15 Black students from Tulane University posed for a striking photograph of the group wearing white lab coats at Whitney Plantation in Louisiana, and the pic went viral. “We are our ancestors’ wildest dreams,” one of the students tweeted.
Eddie Murphy’s Epic Return To ‘Saturday Night Live’
In December, Eddie Murphy returned to Saturday Night Live for the first time in 35 years with memorable characters like Buckwheat, Mr. Robinson and Gumby in tow.
First Black Woman Wearing Hijab On Essence Magazine Cover
In December, model Halima Aden was the first Black woman to appear on the cover of Essence magazine wearing a hijab. “A huge thank you to everyone who worked tirelessly on this historic 50th anniversary cover,” Aden tweeted.
Rihanna’s ‘ANTI’ Becomes First Album By Black Woman To Spend 200 Weeks On Billboard Charts
Rihanna’s eighth album, “ANTI,” was released in 2016 with hits like “Work” and “Love on the Brain.” The critically acclaimed album was on the Billboard charts for 200 consecutive weeks. It was the first time a Black woman ever achieved such a milestone in the chart’s history.
Father-Son Duo Created Financial Literacy Program For Youth
In December, father-son duo Kevon L. Chisolm, Esq. and his 11-year-old son, Kamari, created a financial literacy program for youth. Junior Wallstreeters: Empowering Youth with Financial Wellness aims to instill strong financial values in youngsters. In March, the two launched Black WallStreeter Consultation Services to help Black people increase their wealth through investment.
Sen. Cory Booker Introduces First Federal Bill To Ban Race-Based Hair Discrimination
New Jersey Senator Cory Booker introduced a new bill in December which prohibits race-based hair discrimination. The Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act targets discrimination against natural or protective hairstyles frequently associated with a particular race, including specific hair textures and styles such as braids, twists or locs. “Discrimination against Black hair is discrimination against Black people,” the Democratic presidential candidate said in a statement.
New York City Ballet’s ‘Nutcracker’ Features First-Ever Black Ballerina Lead
Charlotte Nebres, 11, made history by becoming the first-ever Black ballerina to lead George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, which opened Nov. 29. Nebres was cast as the young heroine, Marie, at the New York City Ballet production.
Black Mother And Daughter Make Broadway History Together
When LaChanze nabbed the starring role as the Ghost of Christmas Present in Broadway’s A Christmas Carol and her daughter, Celia Rose Gooding, made her Broadway debut starring as Frankie in Jagged Little Pill, the mother-daughter duo made history. They became the first African-American mother and daughter to perform on Broadway at the same time in December.
Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images, Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella, and Jemal Countess/WireImage