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Black Entertainment History Timeline

February is Black History Month! Kidzworld takes a look at some important moments in Black Entertainment History.

  • 1824 - The African Company became the first African-American drama group and produced plays at the African Grove in New York City.
  • 1912 - The Railroad Porter, a comedy directed by Bill Foster (a pioneering black filmmaker), became the first black film.
  • 1914 - Sam Lucas was the first African American actor to star in a full-length film playing the title role in Uncle Tom's Cabin.
  • 1921 - Shuffle Along opens on Broadway as the first musical written and performed by African Americans.
  • 1922 - Louis Armstrong revolutionized jazz music after arriving in Chicago to play second trumpet in King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band.
  • 1930 - Katherine Dunham started Ballet Negres, America’s first black ballet company.
  • 1933 - Caterina Jarboro became the first black person to perform with an American Opera company.
  • 1940 - Hattie McDaniel was the first black person to win an Oscar, after winning best supporting actress for her role in Gone With the Wind.
  • 1945 - Ebony magazine is founded by John H. Johnson and is an instant success.
  • 1955 - Musician Chuck Berry arrives in Chicago and records Maybellene, an immediate sensation among teenagers. The hit helps shape the evolution of rock and roll.
  • 1956 - Arthur Mitchell, future director of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, becomes the only black dancer in the New York City Ballet.
  • 1959 - Motown Record Corporation is founded by Berry Gordy, Jr. The Motown sound dominates African-American popular music through the 1960s and attracts a huge crossover audience becoming the sound of young america.
  • 1959 - Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry, becomes the first drama written by a black woman to be produced on Broadway.
  • 1963 - Sidney Poitier wins the Academy Award as best actor for his performance in Lilies of the Field.
  • 1965 - Bill Cosby became the first black lead actor on television in the drama I Spy.
  • 1967 - Jimi Hendrix makes a spectacular debut at the Monterey International Pop Festival, following the release of his first album, Are You Experienced?
  • 1971 - Beverly Johnson is known as the first black supermodel after gracing the cover of Glamour.
  • 1972 - Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids premieres as the first cartoon with an all-black cast.
  • 1974 - Foxy Brown, starring Pam Grier, perhaps the most famous "blaxploitation" (a film genre staring and targetting African-Americans) film ever, is released.
  • 1977 - Alex Haley's Roots: The Saga of an American Family (1976) is adapted for [KWLINK10667]television[/KWLINK], becoming one of the most popular shows in the history of American television.
  • 1980 - Black Entertainment Television (BET) was launched by Bob Johnson, now owner of the Charlotte Bobcats.
  • 1981 - Bob Marley, the most influential figure in reggae music, dies.
  • 1982 - Michael Jackson creates a sensation with the album Thriller, which becomes one of the most popular albums of all time, selling more than 40 million copies.
  • 1983 - Oprah Winfrey takes over AM Chicago, which is then renamed the Oprah Winfrey show.
  • 1983 - Eddie Murphy releases Delirious, a film of his stand up comedy, and stars in Saturday Night Live.
  • 1984 - The Cosby Show, starring comedian Bill Cosby, becomes one of the most popular situation comedies in television history and is praised for its [KWLINK 7045]cross-cultural appeal and avoidance of racial stereotypes.
  • 1984 - Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin form Def Jam Records and begin shaping the industry of hip hop as we know it.
  • 1993 - Angela Bassett became the first African-American woman to win the best actress Golden Globe Award for her role as Tina Turner in What's Love Got to Do with It?
  • 2001 - Denzel Washington became the only black Academy Award winner to win both lead and supporting actor Oscars after wins for Glory and Training Day.
  • 2002 - Halle Berry becomes the first African-American woman to win the Academy Award for best actress for her role in Monster’s Ball.
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