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Robert L. Johnson

Black Entertainment Television

1980 - 2001

Entertainment & Broadcast Media

Military ServiceArmy
1980 b. 1946
UndergraduateUniversity of Illinois
GraduateMA, Princeton University
BirthplaceMississippi (MS)
RaceBlack or African American
FatherLaborer, Un-/Semi-skilled
Era - 1980

Johnson created the first and only cable television station with programming for and about black Americans. Though he struggled to gain a subscriber base in the early eighties, Johnson persevered and built a viable enterprise. When he took the company public in 1991, it was the first black-owned firm to be traded on the New York Stock Exchange. With the capital infusion from the public offering, Johnson expanded his business operations moving into film production, publishing, and new programming. By the end of the nineties, BET was reaching over 40 million households. Johnson sold BET to Viacom in 2001 for $3 billion.