The 25 Most Important Civil Rights Moments in Music History

Michael Jackson's "Thriller" Breaks Down MTV's Racial Barrier

Date: December 2, 1983

There was a time, long, long ago, like the early 80s, where MTV was shook to play videos by black artists. It may be hard to believe, considering the many colors, creeds, and religions featured on music television today, often in compromising positions on gaudy reality TV shows (I see you, Salwa). But in the station's early years, programmers took a hard-stance toward its "rock" format, and R&B/funk/hip-hop artists were all left out to dry. It wasn't until MJ's inescapable, genre-smashing hit "Billie Jean" and its iconic video dropped that MTV was forced to adjust with the times or, according to Mike's label, have all other CBS programming pulled from the station. MTV folded, and unwittingly set up the King of Pop to change music videos forever with the 14-minute epic "Thriller." Soon, mainstream America couldn't get enough of seeing Black artists beamed into the comfort of their homes, and programs like "Yo! MTV Raps" became the station's bread and butter. Jackson proved there was room for all of us on the boob-tube, so hail the King of Pop next time you see Joe Budden on VH1.

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