Max Robinson - African American Trailblazers

Uploaded by LibraryofVa on 10.03.2009

Oh, Max!
Man, he was out there all alone.
Very few of us would doing what he was doing.
No one was saying what he was saying.
He really was an island unto himself.
And yet, millions of people watched a night after night.
At first it was shocking:
"What in the world is a black man doing on my tv reading the news like he's
Walter Cronkite or something?"
And then overtime it became normal.
The man, the woman, black, white,
Asian was no longer the story.
The story they were telling was the story.
Max Robinson made it normal,
but Max sure paid the price for it.
On September 4, 1978,
the American people witnessed something they had never before seen. "Economic news
today: the index of leading indicators, which is supposed to indicate to the
direction the economy is heading, rose 1.4% in February.
That's the sixth month in a row it's gone up."
A man of African-American descent
anchored the network news.
Max Robinson joined Frank Reynolds and Peter Jennings to break the network news
color barrier. [Dr. Elizaeth Johnston-Rice:] "I said, 'Oh my gosh, he's made it!'
I knew he would,
but look how big he made it, you know!
And I said that is just absolute, that's awesome, that's great!
And uh... I was just real proud of him. I was very proud of him." That day represented just
one of many firsts for this extraordinary journalist
who passed from our world far too early,
but did so as a man of great accomplishments. Robertson's career as a
journalist won him many awards, including two coveted Emmys for his documentary
"The Other Washington,"
which depicted African-American life in the district. He was the first
African-American anchor WRIC in Washington,
the first for WMAQ in Chicago--
yet every place he went, being first always meant paying for it.
[Dr. Tameka Bradley Hobbs:] "Anytime you're first one, you're forced into the position of being a diplomat.
You carry the burden of representing your race,
and that is particularly difficult for African-American men who--
according to stereotypes and things--that people believe are supposed to be angry,
who are not supposed to be very capable. Especially when you think about a news
environment: you having to articulate, you are having to demonstrate your ability to
write and to read,
and to you know move in a very fast pace. So, to have you go into those
spaces continually, again as the first one that many of these people have
had an opportunity to work with, but he's going to have to confront all of those
things and do the very difficult work of disabusing people of the
prejudices in the stereotypes-- as he can, if he can-- when he's entering those
spaces. So it had to have been
and tremendous burden to bear." Robinson once said of his many colleagues in the
world of journalism in the 1960s and 70s,
"It was hateful at times.
I've been the first to often, quite frankly."
He fought through it,
covering the Civil Rights Movement,
the King assassination,
and helping the world of journalism view America from a perspective it was
reluctant to see--
through the eyes of the black man.
It took courage
but also to great skill,
something that was evident in Max at an early age.
[Dr. Elizaeth Johnston-Rice:] "I remember Max Robinson first when i was a student
in high school
and I was active with the student government.
Of course, Max Robinson was active with the student government.
And iI remember seeing this--
but before i even saw him--
I heard this voice from the podium,
and he was leading his group from Richmond, Virginia.
and I was there from Lawrenceville, Virginia with my little group,
a little country school.
But I heard that voice,
and I saw that leadership ability,
and I said, 'Who is this character?' " Robinson was an honest man, far too honest for his
own good.
His outspoken ridicule of racism, both subtle and outright,
angered many in management. [Dr. Elizaeth Johnston-Rice:] "He was given a job in Portsmouth, Virginia
as an anchor
on one of the leading
uh... local television shows there.
And people were hearing this voice,
but they didn't see a face with it.
They saw the logo of the channel,
but they didn't see the face.
And the reason was, they don't want his face shown!
Things were still
pretty messy then.
But they wanted to know 'Who is this face?' And Max got restless behind the,
whatever that was that he was behind, so on this one particular day or evening
he decided he would be known as
Max Robinson giving the news--
that I'm the face behind all of this. And soon after that, he was fired.
Since Max Robinson first appeared on the air,
more and more African-American journalists have been able to take
an equal role in delivering news to viewers. [Cheryl Miller:] "I remember watching Max
Robinson on TV
when I was younger and thinking, wow, somebody who looks like me doing
something that I want to do, on television. And as I got into the business,
it was a little bit difficult. You would hit walls here and there of people who
would say 'You know you're here only because you're an African-American.
You're not here because you're talented, or you're not here because you're deserving
of this job.' So I, you know,
bow down to those who kinda broke down the walls for us so that we
can be where we are today." [Dr. Elizaeth Johnston-Rice:] "I think it made people realize that if it could happen to Max,
it coupld happen to anybody.
That everybody has a chance
because they are recognizing excellence. And he represented excellence,
regardless of his color.
He knew what he was doing and he did it well."
Tragically, Max Robinson never got the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of his
pioneering efforts.
Max Robinson's road was a difficult one,
met with terrible obstacles of racism and bad health.
But the road he paved changed the world of journalism
and helped the American people see and hear news from a different perspective,
the perspective of a black man.