Celebrating Black History: Black Pioneers in Entertainment

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You cannot tell the history of blacks without telling the stories of black people who made their name in entertainment. Whether it was music, movies, or comedy, black entertainers have broken down barriers and given us some great memories. In this edition of Celebrating Black History, we celebrate the black pioneers in the world of entertainment.

Music has a way of touching your soul. Music has a way of healing a broken heart. Music has a way of inspiring us. In the world of music, there have been some remarkable singers, songwriters, and performers. Rap, R&B, gospel, rock, jazz, or soul, black musicians have dramatically changed the course of the industry. Some of the greatest performers in any genre have been black musicians. Prince is one of the most talented musicians ever. His albums in the 80s made him famous. Prince was known for his bold stage presence and his legendary look. Prince inspired us with music that crossed over into multiple genres including blues, rock, and jazz. Stevie Wonder is widely considered one of the greatest songwriters of all time. His songs not only changed the music industry but has continued to inspire artists even today. Tupac, who is widely considered the greatest rapper of all time, lived a short life but made such an impact in his short 25 years on the earth. Known for his gangster rap approach, he is also remembered for his lyrics that taught us about social justice and his vision for a better world. He certainly showed us that something as beautiful as a rose can grow from concrete.

Who doesn’t love a good movie? There have been some amazing performances from black actors and actresses. There was a time when blacks only played certain roles such as maids, cooks, and slaves. It is amazing how things have changed and how blacks are playing a variety of roles that allow them to showcase their talents. Early movie stars opened the door which allowed blacks actors and actresses of this era to run straight through the door. Hattie McDaniel, in 1940, became the first black woman to win an Oscar for her supporting role in Gone with the Wind. Twenty-three years later, Sidney Poitier became the first black person to win an Oscar for best actor for his role in Lilies of the Field. The 2002 Academy Award Ceremony saw black excellence. That evening, Denzel Washington won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Training Day and Halle Berry became the first black woman to win the Oscar for Best Actress for her role in Monster's Ball. 

When times get hard, laughter often helps. Often times, there are events that make people sad. Comedy offers an escape. Over the years, many black comedians have changed the world and have made millions laugh. We celebrate those comedians who broke down barriers and made us laugh even during times we wanted to cry. Probably one of the most famous comedians in the world was Richard Pryor. Richard Pryor was known for his comedy focusing on race and other issues. He was one of the comedians known for his vulgar language and racial epithets. Following in his footprints was Eddie Murphy. Eddie Murphy was one of the most successful comedians who could cross over from stand up to the big screen. Eddie Murphy then opened the door for comedian/actors such as Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Bernie Mac, and Kevin Hart.

During this month, we celebrate the black entertainers who have made us move and grove, pulled at our heartstrings, and made us laugh. We honor those who paved the way and we look forward to the entertainers coming up who will continue to make us laugh and bring comfort even in our darkest of times. 

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David McGuire

Mr. McGuire is a middle school teacher in Indianapolis, Teach Plus Policy Fellow, and currently enrolled in a doctoral program at Indiana State University for Educational Leadership. Driven by the lack of having an African American male teacher in his classrooms growing up, David helped launched the Educate ME Foundation, which is geared towards increasing the number of African American male teachers in the classroom. A born and raised Hoosier, he is dedicated to improving educational outcomes for all students in Indianapolis. He describes his educational beliefs as a reformer grounded in the best practices of traditional public schools, where he was mentored by strong leaders. David graduated from Central State University with a degree in English and also holds an MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University.