Go 'Head! 23 Black Celebs Who Have Made History

Earlier this week, soulful R&B singer The Weeknd made music history when he became the first singer to ever nail the top three slots on the Billboard R&B charts. Take a look at 22 other famous names who have broken boundaries and records in recent times.

Yolanda Sangweni Jul, 16, 2015

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The Weeknd slid into Billboard charts history earlier this week when he became the first artist to ever hold the top three slots on the Billboard R&B charts. The songs? "The Hills," "Earned It" and "Can't Feel My Face," all off of his upcoming album, Beauty Behind the Madness

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Misty Copeland has been at the top of the ballet game for years, but last month, she became the first Black woman to ever be named the principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre. How is she celebrating? By joining the cast of Broadway's On the Town for 12 very special performances next month and into September.

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In what will surely be dubbed one of the greatest moves by any artist in history, Beyonce released a suprise album in 2013 without marketing or a publicity machine. She made iTunes (and music) history by selling close to a million copies in less than a week. That album and its songs would go on to earn six Grammy nominations in 2014, making her the most Grammy Award-nominated female artist of all time.

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In 2013, when she was 9 years old, Wallis, became the youngest person, and eighth Black woman, ever nominated for an Oscar in the Best Actress category.

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ESSENCE 2014 Black Women in Hollywood honoree Cheryl Boone Isaacs was elected president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the governing body behind the Oscars) in 2013, making her the first Black person, and third woman, to ever hold the title.

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The comedienne and View co-host is the first and only African-American winner of an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony).

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With Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder, and Greys Anatomy under her belt, Shonda Rhimes is the first African-American woman to create and executive produce three top-ten network series.

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When she won a Tony in 2004 for the Broadway adaptation of A Raisin in the Sun, Phylicia Rashad became the first Black woman to ever take home the Best Actress honor.

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Ava DuVernay

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Gabby Douglas stole the show by becoming the first African-American to win Olympic gold in the women’s individual all-around finals in gymnastics at the 2012 London Olympics.

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In 2007, Tony Dungy became the first African-American NFL head coach to win the Super Bowl when his team, the Indianapolis Colts, beat the Chicago Bears.

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With her Best Actress win for for playing Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill earlier thie year, McDonald became the only woman to ever earn six Tony Awards. "I am standing on Lena Horne's shoulders," she said. "I am standing on Maya Angelou's shoulders. I am standing on Diahann Carroll and Ruby Dee, and most of all, Billie Holiday. You deserved so much more than you were given when you were on this planet. This is for you Billie."

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In 2014, Lavern Cox became the first openly transgender person to be nominated for an Emmy in an acting category for her role in Orange Is The New Black. She is also the first transgender person to appear on the cover of Time magazine. 

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Our January 2015 cover girl was the first Black Cinderella on Broadway, starring in the production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic. 

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Remember her name. Mo'ne Davis made world history as the first female athlete to pitch a shutout at the Little League World Series and the first Little Leaguer ever to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated. 

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Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison is one of the most influential Black writers of all time. Morrison penned numerous popular novels including The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon and Beloved about the Black women finding identity for which she won a Pulitzer Prize and American Book Award. Morrison was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama in 2012.

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TLC is the best-selling girl group of all time. That’s no surprise, the trio gave us some of the biggest hits of the 90’s from “Ain’t to Proud to Beg” to “No Scrubs”

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Just after winning an Oscar for her outstanding performance in 12 Years A Slave, Lupita Nyong’o was named the new ambassador of Lancome, becoming the first African American to represent the multi-million dollar beauty brand.

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Barry Gordy is the founder of Motown, a record company that launched soul music and the careers of some of our favorite musicians from Michael Jackson to Diana Ross. Motown Records would become one of the most lucrative Black-owned businesses in American history.

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The man behind the music. Quincy Jones is an iconic music producer and holds the record for the second most Grammys won in history.

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When Scandal premiered in 2012, Kerry Washington became the first Afrian American woman to play the lead role in a network drama in nearly 40 years.