On January 25, 1980, Bob Johnson launched Black Entertainment Television (BET). The network originally broadcasted for two hours a week as a block programming on Nickelodeon. It wasn’t until 1983 when BET became a full-fledged channel, where the lineup consisted of mostly music videos and reruns of popular Black sitcoms. In year’s to come BET launched programs such as: “BET News”, “Black Men Speak Out: The Aftermath”, and several other shows focusing on issues of the Black community.
Reggae Legend Bob Marley died in Miami, Florida, in 1981. Marley was an influential figure in the growing popularity of Reggae music. He became internationally known for his distinct sound and songwriting. His album “Exodus” established him as a worldwide artist and catapulted him to become one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time.
Michael Jackson created his sensational album “Thriller” in 1982. The album became one of the most popular albums in music history, selling over 40 million copies. It was Jackson’s sixth studio album and produced by Quincy Jones. Seven singles were released from the album and all of them reached the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. The album also broke records when it won eight Grammy Awards in 1984.
Oprah Winfrey took over “AM Chicago” in 1983, which was later renamed “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in 1986. This made her the first Africa American woman to host a television talk show. The show reached 140 countries, was one of the highest rated shows in television talk show history and reached about 46 million people in the U.S. weekly. Her show lasted until May of 2011.
The Cosby Show
In 1984, “The Cosby Show” starring Bill Cosby became one of the most popular situation comedies in TV history and won praise from critics for its cross-cultural appeal, socioeconomic portrayal and avoidance of racial stereotypes. The show aired for eight seasons on NBC.
Def Jam Records
Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons formed Def Jam Records in 1984. The development of the record company shaped the industry of Hip-Hop and Urban music. The first releases with the Def Jam catalog were LL Cool J’s “I Need a Beat” and Beastie Boys “Rock Hard”. The singles did really well and put the label on the music scene.
In 1993, Angela Bassett became the first African American woman to win the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress-Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy for her role as Tina Turner in “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” Bassett got her role as Tina Turner after beating out Halley Berry and Robin Givens a month before the actual movie began to shoot. The real Tina Turner advised and helped Bassett prepare for the role.
My Brother and Me
In 1994, “My Brother and Me” made Nickelodeon history by being the first show to air on the network with a predominately African American cast. The show revolved around the life of a North Carolina family who experienced the highs and lows of life—with lessons to be learned. Although, the show was catchy and a first for the cable network, it only lasted for one season.
In 1995, Tupac became famously known for being the first man to have a number one album, “Me Against the World”, while serving a prison sentence. This was his third studio album, which discussed his pending prison sentence, police relations and his socioeconomic status growing up. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200.