Black History Month: Who Paved the Way

Black History Month is a time to reflect on Black issues present in our society today and celebrate Black leaders who’ve left legacies. By definition, Black History Month is “an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history.” Read on to learn more about four legendary Black professionals and the impact they had on the news and entertainment industries!

Max Robinson

Serving as co-anchor on ABC World News Tonight from 1978-1983, Maxie Cleveland “Max” Robinson, Jr. is recognized as the first Black broadcast network news anchor in the U.S.

At his first job at WTOV-TV in Portsmouth, Virginia, he was forced to read the news while hidden behind the station’s logo, and once he removed the logo, he was fired the next day. 

He then went to work at WRC-TV in Washington, DC, where he won six journalism awards for his coverage of civil rights events (including riots following the assassination of MLK). 

In 1969, Robinson joined the Eyewitness News team at WTOP-TV, also in Washington, DC. He was paired with anchor Gordon Peterson, and there he became the first Black anchor to appear on a local television news program.

Then, in 1978, ABC News’ nightly news broadcast was looking to revamp into World News Tonight, and thus—Robinson was hired. The show became an instant hit, and fame came to each of the three co-anchors. With the death of co-anchor Frank Reynolds in 1983, the third anchor, Peter Jennings, was named the main anchor. 

Robinson left ABC the same year and joined WMAQ-TV in Chicago in 1984, where he was the station’s first Black anchor. 

Retiring in 1985, Robinson left behind a legacy of diligent journalism and civil rights advocacy.

Read more about Max Robinson and his life here.

Andre Leon Talley

As the first Black male creative director of Vogue, Andre Leon Talley forged the way for Black professionals in high fashion.

Talley is known for styling first families, styling Michelle Obama for her first Vogue cover and Melania Trump for her 2005 wedding. Also recognized for supporting up-and-coming designers and advocating for diversity in fashion, Talley paved the way for Black recognition in the industry. Known for his capes, kaftans and robes, Talley enjoyed donning modern fashion as well as discussing it. 

Talley started his career as an apprentice under Diane Vreeland at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1974 and instantly impressed her with his skills. Vreeland recommended Talley to work at Andy Warhol’s Factory and then Interview magazine, where he got his first real start in the industry.

He later went on to write for Women’s Wear Daily, W, and The New York Times-Ebony, before landing his position at Vogue

At Vogue, he served as the fashion news director from 1983-1987, then as the first Black male creative director from 1988-1995.

After a short stint back at W in Paris, Talley returned to Vogue as the editor-at-large, a position he held until 2013. 

His memoir, The Chiffon Trenches, reached Amazon’s best-sellers chart following his death from COVID-19 complications in January 2022. With a career in fashion journalism spanning six decades, Talley is remembered as a forward thinking advocate for the Black community and a revolutionary fashion stylist and journalist. 

Designer, Tom Ford, said of the journalist, “André tosses out all these different words and he’s so big and so grand, a lot of people think, ‘This guy is crazy,’ but it’s a fabulous insanity.”

Learn more about Talley here.

Dean Baquet

Dean Baquet was the first Black man to serve as executive editor of The New York Times, establishing himself as a journalism legend. 

He started his career at the New Orleans States-Item, later moving on to the Chicago Tribune in 1984. Here, Baquet won the Pulitzer Prize for an investigation he conducted documenting corruption and influence-peddling in the Chicago City Council. 

Baquet then joined The New York Times in 1990 as an investigative journalist before moving on to the Los Angeles Times

After a short stint at the Los Angeles Times, Baquet rejoined The New York Times as the Washington bureau chief, before becoming the executive editor in May 2014. 

In addition to his Pulitzer Prize, Baquet was best known for his strong commitment to diversity in the newsroom, hiring reporters and editors of color wherever possible. 

Learn more about Dean Baquet and his career here

Bozoma Saint John

During her career as an American businesswoman and marketing executive, Saint John was the first Black chief marketing officer at Netflix. Additionally, she held positions as the chief marketing officer at Endeavor and the chief brand officer at Uber. 

With additional experience at Apple Music and PepsiCo, Saint John is no stranger to executive leadership positions at high profile organizations. After graduating from Wesleyan University, Saint John spent time at advertising agencies Arnold Worldwide, Spike Lee’s Spike DDB and Ashley Stewart, where she became the VP of marketing. 

In 2005, she joined PepsiCo as a senior marketing manager. She led PepsiCo into music festival-based marketing as the head of music and entertainment marketing. She stayed with PepsiCo for almost 10 years before joining Beats in 2014. After being acquired by Apple, Saint John became the head of global consumer marketing for iTunes and Apple Music. 

In 2017, she became the chief brand officer at Uber. Then in 2018, she joined Endeavor, and helped the company with crisis management after the Papa John’s Pizza founder used racist language in a conference call. 

Netflix named Saint John as their new CMO in June 2020, making her the first Black C-level executive at the organization. 

Saint John also launched a podcast alongside Katie Couric dubbed “Back to Biz with Katie and Boz.” There they discuss issues facing businesses and society, including economic downturns, systematic racism and criminal justice reform. 

Her memoir, The Urgent Lift, is set to publish in February 2023 and will detail life as a single parent, a marketing professional and as a Black woman in the U.S.

Learn more about Saint John and her life here.