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Image Awards History

(NAACP Image Awards original program book cover from 1968)

History of the NAACP Image Awards

From its inception, the NAACP has been at the forefront of the struggle to ensure fair employment and positive images in the entertainment industry. In this tradition, the Beverly Hills/Hollywood Branch of the NAACP was founded in 1962 and heralded as the first branch of the NAACP to deal specifically with the racism experienced by African Americans in the entertainment industry.

Almost immediately after its establishment, the Beverly Hills/Hollywood Branch of the NAACP hosted a dinner in the Coconut Grove Ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on October 22, 1962. The evening was dedicated to honoring Sammy Davis Jr. who had loaned the Branch his Beverly Hills address, which made it possible for them to get the Beverly Hills/Hollywood charter. Davis was also feted for his tireless work to obtain fair employment for African-American entertainers in Hollywood, and for his financial support in helping to establish the Beverly Hills/Hollywood Branch of the NAACP.

Five years later, under the leadership of then-Branch President Don Lanclos, a committee of entertainment professionals conceptualized an awards show that would celebrate the achievements of African-American artists and professionals who were largely overlooked by mainstream Hollywood. The show would also honor those people who had worked to change African-American images in Hollywood. 

Toni Vaz motioned to call the show the Image Awards and with Maggie Hathaway seconding the motion, the Beverly Hills/Hollywood Branch of the NAACP officially named the award the NAACP Image Awards; and on February 4, 1967, 200 guests arrived at the Beverly Hilton Hotel to honor Sidney Poitier and nominees in two categories: Motion Picture and Television. 

Now spanning 60 categories, the NAACP Image Awards celebrates outstanding achievements of people of color in the arts—television, music, literature, and film—and also honors individuals and groups who promote social justice through creative endeavors. 

Special honorary awards such as the Chairman’s Award, the President’s Award, the Vanguard Award, the Jackie Robinson Sports Award and the NAACP Image Awards Hall of Fame extol exceptional individuals and organizations for distinguished public service. 

Prior Hall of Fame inductees include groundbreaking filmmaker-photographer Gordon Parks (1984) and trailblazing talk show host, actress and OWN network founder Oprah Winfrey (2005). Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder received the Chairman’s Award in 2015, renowned filmmaker Steven Spielberg was honored with the Vanguard Award during the 31st ceremony in 2000, and esteemed actress and activist Kerry Washington was presented with the President’s Award during the 44th ceremony in 2013. At the 36th NAACP Image Awards in 2005, beloved civil rights icon and former NAACP Chairman Julian Bond presented then-Senator Barack Obama with the Chairman’s Award.

Media giants continue to beam powerful images throughout the world that shape our beliefs, opinions and decisions. Social media empowers individuals to amplify Hollywood’s images and messages and to create and distribute their own images and messages. Given these developments, the need has never been greater to spotlight works that foster greater collective empathy and heighten mutual awareness and understanding.

NAACP Image Awards Broadcast

The NAACP Image Awards initially broadcasted locally in Los Angeles on KHJ-TV (currently known as KCAL-TV). 

In an effort for all of America to be educated on the diverse talents and contributions of African Americans in the industry and beyond, Willis Edwards, former president of the Beverly Hills/Hollywood Branch of the NAACP, persuaded then-NBC President Brandon Tartikoff to nationally broadcast the 19th NAACP Image Awards, which was held at The Wiltern in Los Angeles on December 14, 1986.

Originally, the Image Awards aired in a late night slot on NBC, but in subsequent years, audiences were able to view the show during primetime on FOX as well as on NBC. 

From 2014 – 2018, the NAACP partnered with TV One to air the Image Awards, marking a five-year collaboration with the Black-owned cable network. This multi-layered relationship helped to expand the visibility of the NAACP and bring attention to its key message of promoting and protecting the political, educational, social and economic equality of all citizens in this country. 

This year for the 51st NAACP Image Awards, the show will broadcast live on BET Networks on Saturday, February 22, 2020.

(NAACP Image Awards original program book cover from 1968)

History of the NAACP Image Awards

From its inception, the NAACP has been at the forefront of the struggle to ensure fair employment and positive images in the entertainment industry. In this tradition, the Beverly Hills/Hollywood Branch of the NAACP was founded in 1962 and heralded as the first branch of the NAACP to deal specifically with the racism experienced by African Americans in the entertainment industry.

Almost immediately after its establishment, the Beverly Hills/Hollywood Branch of the NAACP hosted a dinner in the Coconut Grove Ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on October 22, 1962. The evening was dedicated to honoring Sammy Davis Jr. who had loaned the Branch his Beverly Hills address, which made it possible for them to get the Beverly Hills/Hollywood charter. Davis was also feted for his tireless work to obtain fair employment for African-American entertainers in Hollywood, and for his financial support in helping to establish the Beverly Hills/Hollywood Branch of the NAACP.

Five years later, under the leadership of then-Branch President Don Lanclos, a committee of entertainment professionals conceptualized an awards show that would celebrate the achievements of African-American artists and professionals who were largely overlooked by mainstream Hollywood. The show would also honor those people who had worked to change African-American images in Hollywood. 

Toni Vaz motioned to call the show the Image Awards and with Maggie Hathaway seconding the motion, the Beverly Hills/Hollywood Branch of the NAACP officially named the award the NAACP Image Awards; and on February 4, 1967, 200 guests arrived at the Beverly Hilton Hotel to honor Sidney Poitier and nominees in two categories: Motion Picture and Television. 

Now spanning 60 categories, the NAACP Image Awards celebrates outstanding achievements of people of color in the arts—television, music, literature, and film—and also honors individuals and groups who promote social justice through creative endeavors. 

Special honorary awards such as the Chairman’s Award, the President’s Award, the Vanguard Award, the Jackie Robinson Sports Award and the NAACP Image Awards Hall of Fame extol exceptional individuals and organizations for distinguished public service. 

Prior Hall of Fame inductees include groundbreaking filmmaker-photographer Gordon Parks (1984) and trailblazing talk show host, actress and OWN network founder Oprah Winfrey (2005). Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder received the Chairman’s Award in 2015, renowned filmmaker Steven Spielberg was honored with the Vanguard Award during the 31st ceremony in 2000, and esteemed actress and activist Kerry Washington was presented with the President’s Award during the 44th ceremony in 2013. At the 36th NAACP Image Awards in 2005, beloved civil rights icon and former NAACP Chairman Julian Bond presented then-Senator Barack Obama with the Chairman’s Award.

Media giants continue to beam powerful images throughout the world that shape our beliefs, opinions and decisions. Social media empowers individuals to amplify Hollywood’s images and messages and to create and distribute their own images and messages. Given these developments, the need has never been greater to spotlight works that foster greater collective empathy and heighten mutual awareness and understanding.

NAACP Image Awards Broadcast

The NAACP Image Awards initially broadcasted locally in Los Angeles on KHJ-TV (currently known as KCAL-TV). 

In an effort for all of America to be educated on the diverse talents and contributions of African Americans in the industry and beyond, Willis Edwards, former president of the Beverly Hills/Hollywood Branch of the NAACP, persuaded then-NBC President Brandon Tartikoff to nationally broadcast the 19th NAACP Image Awards, which was held at The Wiltern in Los Angeles on December 14, 1986.

Originally, the Image Awards aired in a late night slot on NBC, but in subsequent years, audiences were able to view the show during primetime on FOX as well as on NBC. 

From 2014 – 2018, the NAACP partnered with TV One to air the Image Awards, marking a five-year collaboration with the Black-owned cable network. This multi-layered relationship helped to expand the visibility of the NAACP and bring attention to its key message of promoting and protecting the political, educational, social and economic equality of all citizens in this country. 

This year for the 51st NAACP Image Awards, the show will broadcast live on BET Networks on Saturday, February 22, 2020.