Black Hollywood History

Best man

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Celebrities in Black Hollywood are on fire! This talented class of artists continue to perfect their craft and fight for recognition among their peers.  African Americans undoubtedly contribute their creativity to the entertainment of the world. But, before modern day superstars there were great musicians and actors that paved the way – making it possible for us to enjoy the sensations we all know as household names. Cheers to African American entertainment greats in music, television, and film!


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Before musical icons such as Beyonce, Whitney Houston, and Michael Jackson topped the charts there were a host of African American artists who paved the way with their music talents. We may be used to these aformentioned artists toping the charts but when Rock & Roll, Jazz, and Blues were king artists such as The Platters broke racial barriers as the first to reach the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for their song “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” in 1958.  Proceeding them were the Mills Brothers “Paper Doll” in 1943 as the first African AMerican artists to hit #1 on the Billboard charts and in 1950 Nat King Cole become the first African American solo singer to have a #1 hit on the Billboard charts for his song, “Mona Lisa.”
Perhaps the biggest accolade of any musician, is a Grammy win. Though modern day couple Beyonce and hubby Jay Z are two of the leading African Americans with the most Grammy wins, in 1959 Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie became the first African-American Grammy Award winners. Ella won Best Female Vocal Performance for “But Not For Me” and Best Individual Jazz Performance for “Ella Swings Lightly.” For his role as a musical composer in the film Duke won two Grammys for Best Sound Track Album – Background Score from a motion picture and Best Musical Composition.
Ethel Waters


Many of us love leading ladies such as Kerry Washington and Gabrielle Union of Scandal and Being Mary Jane respectively. Their shows and talent have won accolades during this award season but before HD, DVR, and Internet television, African American actors paved the way for these lovelies to shine on the silver screen.  In 1939, Ethel Waters became the first African to star in her own television show, The Ethel Waters Show which aired on NBC.  Bob Howard was the first African American to star in a regularly scheduled network television series, The Bob Howard Show in 1948. That same year Amanda Randolph starred in the television show, The Laytons. Several years later, before his widely known success on The Cosby Show, Bill Cosby became the first African American to star in a network drama, I Spy, for which he would later be the first African American male to be nominated for and win a Primetime Emmy Award.

As a television actor, winning an Emmy is a golden moment where you are recognized by peers for your talent and artistry. Before Halle Berry, Lauretta Divine, and even Bill Cosby won their awards, African American actors proceeding them paved the way. Notably, Diahann Carroll was the first African American to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Comedy Series in 1969. She was nominated for her role in Julia in which she became the first African American to play lead in a role outside of being a domestic. She won a Golden Globe for this same performance. Later, in 1979 Ester Rolle became the first African American and person to win an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Miniseries.


2013 marked an incredible year for Black films such as Fruitvale Station, 12 Years a Slave, and Mandella. Before big time actors such as Denzel Washington, Will Smith, Idris Elba, and Halle Berry commanded millions of dollars for their Blockbuster and award winning films, African American cinema stars years before led the way. Ethel Waters was a prominent actress with roles in such films as Pinky. Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee led the way for power couple movie stars like Will and Jada with their decades of film success. Remarkably, not only have African American actors blazed trails in their roles in front of the camera but also behind the scene. Before independent directors such as newcomer Ryan Coogler, or veterans such as John Singleton, and Spike Lee there was Oscar Micheaux. Widely credited as the first African American director, Micheaux made his cinematic debut with the silent film production of his famed book, Homesteaders in 1919. Before there was Tyler Perry Studios, Oscar founded the  Micheaux Film and Book Company to independently produce his own feature films and books.

The success of a movie star is crystalized by recognition from the Academy Award. Denzel Washington and Halle Berry  both made history with their 2001 Oscar wins. Before these greats were African American actors whose performances demanded the attention and recognition of the Academy.  In 1940, Hattie McDaniel was the first African American to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in her role in the 1939 classic film, Gone with the Wind. In 1954 Dorothy Dandridge became the first African American women to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Carmen Jones. Halle Berry would later win an Emmy, Golden Globe, and Screen Actors Guild Award for her role as Dorothy Dandridge. Sidney Poitier won an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1964 for his role in Lilies of the Field. During Denzel Washington’s own Oscar acceptance speech he stated about Poitier, “I’ll always be following in your footsteps, there is nothing I would rather do.”

Lifting as We Climb

BHM_Five officers of the Women's League, Newport, Rhode Island, 1900, Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-51555

Five officers of the Women’s League, Newport, Rhode Island, 1900, Library of Congress

In 1896 a group of progressive women from various organizations joined forces to create the National Association of Colored Women’s Club (NACW) in our country’s capital, Washington D.C. Adopting the mantra, “lifting as we climb,” this group was organized by visionary women who saw the need for self empowerment and upliftment against the oppressive force of racism and consistent misrepresentations about the character and respectability of Black women. Over the course of 119 years this organization has been instrumental in organizing and enhancing the lives of women, as well as securing social and political rights for people who have been traditionally disenfranchised.

Fast forward one hundred years and myths and stereotypes about Black women still exist, as do societal ills. Fortunately, groups of women who fight valiantly to progress themselves and others continue to exist.

Poncho  new HR

Much like the women of the NACW, we too have a mission to empower and inspire women. When U Blush Magazine was created, we envisioned a community of the best and brightest women of today coming together to empower each other to make strides in our respective careers, blaze trails for others, and be the best woman each of us can be – based on our own standards. We are founded on the principle of “lifting as we climb” because to us it’s important to not only reach great heights, but to also create positive change in our communities and help others to realize their potential. We are sassy, have style, charisma, class, sophistication, and big dreams! We wanted to create a network of like-minded women who take part in creating their own identity and reaching new heights.

Our vision is vast and our goals are lofty, sometimes they may even seem unattainable. But when we look back on the empowered women who came before us, we realize we stand on the backs of giants who have made it possible for us to even see beyond the horizon. We pay homage to the women who paved the way for us to be here, including the founding members of the National Association of Colored Women’s Club, who undoubtedly upheld “lifting as we climb.”

BHM_Harriet Tubman,2

Harriet Tubman

BHM_Frances E.W. Harper,3

Frances E.W. Harper

BHM_Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, _Founder

Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin

BHM_Margaret Murray Washington,

Margaret Murray Washington

Ida B wells

Ida B. Wells-Barnett

BHM_Mary Church Terrell2

Mary Church Terrell

Together we can progress, as a network of women linked together, by “lifting as we climb.”