Remembering Max Robinson: The First Black Man To Anchor The Network News
Before the emergence of the faces of Roland Martin, Melissa Harris Perry, Bob Herbert and their counterparts on the network news, there was Max Robinson. The eloquent man with skin the color of chocolate, a towering afro, dressed in chic three piece suits, an obvious zeal for the news that had catapulted him to that height and described by his co-host as having a natural gift to look in the camera and talk to people.
On April 19th 1978, this man with zeal would stand in front of the camera and read the news on the ABC Network making history, becoming the first African American to ever do so, representing a fraction of the society that was and still largely is under-represented in American television.
Nineteen years earlier, Robinson had been fired from his first television job in Virginia for removing the slide of the stations logo (which hid his face) from behind which he read the news, for daring to be seen, to show his face.
He had after the termination of his appointment moved to another local news station where he worked for over a decade as the first African American on a local news as well, gathering small fame among her viewers, before landing the ABC role as news anchor for Chicago on the ‘World News Tonight” alongside Frank Reynolds and Peter Jennings in 1978.
Robinson was conscious about his struggles as a black journalist and he occasionally spoke about them. Once, he told an audience at Smith College in Northampton; the news media is a crooked mirror through which white America views itself and only by talking about racism, by taking a professional risk, will I take myself out of the mean, racist trap all black Americans find themselves in.
Before his death on December 20th 1998 at forty-nine, Max founded an association of black journalists to source for and mentor upcoming African-American media persons.
Clarence Page, a Chicago Tribune columnist who was hired to help write Robinson’s autobiography once said about him; Max helped open the door for a lot of other journalists, he was cognizant of his impact on future generations of African-American broadcasters. If he didn’t do his job right, he knew they weren’t going to have another one for a long time.
References: New York Times