10 Amazing Facts About the 1980s That Might Surprise You


1.Robert L. Johnson launched Black Entertainment Television (BET).

n 1980, Johnson launched Black Entertainment Television. It was the first cable television network aimed at African-Americans. When the network launched in 1980, it only aired for two hours on Friday night. BET first turned a profit in 1985 and it became the first black-controlled company listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1991. Johnson remained BET CEO until 2006.

2. Bryant Gumbel becomes the first African-American to be an anchor on a major network

NBC News made Gumbel the principal anchor of Today beginning September 27, 1982, and broadcast from Vietnam, Vatican City, Europe, South America, and much of the United States followed between 1984 and 1989. Bryant Gumbel was the first African-American co-host of the National Broadcasting Company’s (NBC) The Today Show and is well known as a broadcast journalist and sportscaster.

3. Vanessa Williams is the first African-American to be crowned Miss America

On September 17, 1983, Vanessa Williams broke color barriers and made history becoming the first black Miss America.

4. Guion S. Bluford, Jr. becomes the first African-American astronaut to make a space flight.

Guion “Guy” Bluford was a NASA astronaut who became the first African-American to fly into space. He participated in four Space Shuttle flights between 1983 and 1992. In 1983, as a member of the crew of the Orbiter Challenger on the mission STS-8, he became the first African American in space as well as the second person of African ancestry in space.

5. The novel The Color Purple, written by Alice Walker, wins the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.



6. W. Wilson Goode becomes the first African-American mayor of Philadelphia.

1983, when Philadelphia Mayor William Green announced his intention to step down, Goode immediately entered the race. He campaigned on downtown streets, greeting rush hour traffic commuters while gaining the endorsement of 67 of the 69 Democratic ward leaders and the majority of the city’s labor unions. Goode defeated former Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo in the Democratic Primary. He won the general election against Philadelphia Stock Exchange Chairman John Egan, the Republican nominee, with 55% of the vote for Mayor.

6. The Reverend Jesse Jackson runs for president in the Democratic primary.

During the primary, Jackson wins one-fourth of the votes and one-eighth of the convention delegates before losing the nomination to Walter Mondale.

7. The Cosby Show makes its debut on NBC.

The Cosby Show aired for eight seasons on NBC from September 20, 1984, until April 30, 1992. The show focused on the Huxtable family, an upper middle-class African-American family living in Brooklyn, New York.

8. Gwendolyn Brooks named the U.S. Poet Laureate.

In 1985, she was the first black woman appointed as the consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress, a post now known as Poet Laureate.

9. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s national holiday is celebrated across the United States.

President Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into law in 1983, and it was first observed three years later. At first, some states resisted observing the holiday as such, giving it alternative names or combining it with other holidays. It was officially observed in all 50 states for the first time in 2000.

10. Six crew members die when the Challenger space shuttle explodes

The space Challenger explodes after it launches from the Kennedy Space Center. One of the crew members is African-American astronaut Dr. Ronald McNair.

11. Aretha Franklin inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Aretha Franklin becomes the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.








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