This Week in Black History: Sept. 5 – 8

Tuesday, Sept. 5

On this day in 1859 Harriet Wilson became the first Black woman to publish a novel in the United States. “Our Nig” was a fictionalized account of her life in indenture, prejudice and tenacity.

Wednesday, Sept. 6

On this day in 1960, Rafer Johnson made history as the first Black person to win an Olympic decathlon in Rome, Italy. Johnson was a world record holder, three-time Amateur Athletic Union national champion and Olympic silver medalist.

Thursday, Sept. 7

On this day in 1917, painter Jacob Lawrence was born. Lawrence went on to become known for his modernist depictions of Black people in everyday life as well as Black history. Many of his works are — or have been — on the walls of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Friday, Sept. 8

On this day in 1986​​, the first episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” aired nationally, making its producer, narrator and host — Oprah Winfrey — the first Black woman to have a nationally syndicated talk show.

The show aired more than 4,561 episodes and ran for 25 seasons.

Oprah Winfrey’s namesake talk show became an American pop culture phenomenon that earned around 48 million viewers each week.

Winfrey’s show alternated between education and entertainment by covering a range of topics as serious as sex abuse and genocide to as light as the comedian interviews or “Oprah’s Favorite Things,” a list of must-buy items the host deemed loveable or valuable.

Winfrey also covered local stories that garnered national attention, including the story of a heinous crime that took place right here in Charlotte. The episode, “A Mom Who Forgave Her Husband for Killing Their 5-Year-Old Twins,” aired on November 14, 2006.

Other iconic episodes — among many — include the time she gave away a brand new Pontiac to each one of her nearly 300 live audience members that day as she famously yelled, “You get a car, you get a car,” the time she interviewed Nelson Mandela, and Winfrey’s special on New Orleans shortly after Hurricane Katrina.

Whether praised or criticized, the show is irrefutably an essential part of American entertainment history.

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