A Decade in Review: The biggest, Blackest, most memorable moments from the last 10 years

From the on fleek history makers to the ratchet lawbreakers, here is a roundup of the decade's top headlines.

TheGrio takes a look at the last decade's most memorable moments that made headlines impacting Black America for better or for worse. (photos courtesy of Getty images)

As we inch towards the end of the year, it’s painfully obvious that we’re not just closing out the last 365 days, we’re saying goodbye to an entire decade. Who could have imagined 10 years ago that Bill Cosby would be in prison and O.J. Simpson would be the one walking free?

Whether it’s sports, politics, or pop culture, Black folks continue to be at the forefront as game changers and trailblazers, dictating some of the most memorable headlines that have made worldwide news and impacted our culture and community throughout the 2010s.

By no means could we include them all, but this carefully curated list includes several of the most important moments that defined the last decade and make us excited for all that is to come in 2020 and beyond.


Jan. 2010 —  One of the decade’s first memes is viral sensation Antoine Dodson, whose catchy phrase from an on-air interview about a home invasion — “Hide your kids, hide your wife, and hide your husband cause they’re rapin’ everybody out here.” — spawned an auto-tune song that became YouTube’s most-watched video of the year.


March 2010 — President Barack Obama signs the Affordable Care Act into law.

May 2010 — Legendary actress and activist Lena Horne dies.


June 2010Dustin Byfuglien, with the Chicago Blackhawks, becomes the first African-American to win the Stanley Cup.



Jan. 2011 — She loves bread, in more ways than one. A new era begins for media mogul Oprah Winfrey, who after ending her beloved talk show, launches The Oprah Winfrey Network, otherwise known as OWN.


May 2011 — Revolutionary poet and jazz musician, Gil Scott-Heron, dies. 

November 2011 — Former heavyweight boxing champion, Joe Frazier, dies.

December 2011 — Prosecutors drop the death penalty against former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer in 1981.

December 2011Charles E. Samuels Jr. becomes the first African-American director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.


January 2012: All hail Blue Ivy Carter, the first-born child of Beyoncé and Jay-Z, who like her dad is born in New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of and we all know there’s nothing she can’t do.

February 2012  —  First legendary founder of Soul Train, Don Cornelius dies on the 1st and his death is determined to be by suicide. Then 10 days later, the world is devastated once again when headlines blare of Whitney Houston‘s sudden death. It’s a Black History month we’d all like to forget.


March 2012 — Former McDonald’s president and operating chief Don Thompson is named the corporation’s new CEO and would go on to serve in the role for three years. Thompson became McDonald’s first Black CEO.

May 2012 — The Godfather of go-go music, Chuck Brown, dies on the 16th.

June 2012 — It wasn’t the first time (and certainly not the last) an unarmed, Black man had been severely beaten by the police, but Rodney King made history when he survived the beat down of the century which would spark the infamous 1991 L.A. riots. His life would never be the same. Unfortunately, King died on the 17th from an accidental drowning, although alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, and PCP were all found in his system.

August 2012 — She overcame the haters who were concentrating on her hairstyle instead of her talent. During the 2012 Summer Olympics, Gabby Douglas competes in the individual all-around, and becomes the first African-American to win gold in Olympic history. And if that wasn’t enough, girlfriend also takes home gold as part of Team USA.



November 2012 — Remember when hope and change were concepts all Americans could believe in? Barack Obama makes history becoming the first African-American to be re-elected President of the United States, starting his second term in office. Makes you really wonder about this term limits rule, doesn’t it?




February 2013 — How to Beast It 101 is taught by little Miss Quvenzhané Wallis whose role in the movie Beasts of the Southern Wild makes her the youngest Best Actress nominee in Academy Award history at the age of 9.


March 2013 — Nigerian novelist, Chinua Achebe, considered the father of African literature, dies on 21st.

June 2013Arnold Donald is named CEO of Carnival Cruises, becoming the first Black person in the role.

July 2013Cheryl Boone Isaacs is elected the first African-American president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

December 2013 — Freedom fighter, prisoner, president, husband, and father, Nelson Mandela passes away at 95 on the 5th. Affectionately known throughout South Africa as Madiba,  his clan name, Mandela’s death, while imminent, left a gaping hole in the heart of his homeland, one that is still felt today.


December 2013 — President Obama names Jeh Johnson as the first African-American United States Secretary of Homeland Security.


January 2014 — Saturday Night Jive? In response to flak stemming from a lack of diverse cast members, specifically Black female talent, Saturday Night Live hires Sasheer Zamata. At the time, the comedian is only the fifth black woman to star on the show in its nearly 45-year history.


March 2014 —  House music all night long! A final farewell to Frankie Knuckles, the godfather of House Music, who dies as a result of Type 2 diabetes on the 31st.

April 2014  —  The Flint Water crisis begins after officials change the drinking water supply of Flint, Mich., from the Detroit city system to the Flint River just to save money. The river, contaminated with bacteria, lead, and chemicals, becomes a hazard to residents. All these years later, Flint residents are still suffering.

May 2014 — Acclaimed poet, educator, memoirist, all unofficial “mother of the culture,” Dr. Maya Angelou dies on the 28th.


May 2014  — After 63 years as a staple in Black households, the very last issue of Jet magazine is published, leaving neighborhood barbershops and hair salons with nothing new to read.

June 2014 —  Actress and civil rights activist, Ruby Dee dies on the 11th.

August 2014 — On a hot, summer’s day on the 9th, 18-year-old Michael Brown is fatally shot in Ferguson, Mo., by Police Officer Darren Wilson. His death ignited several days of protests and put a national spotlight on the town’s racial divisiveness in what some have said is the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement.

December 2014Ava DuVernay is the first African-American woman to be nominated for Best Director by the Golden Globe Awards for Selma.



April 2015Loretta Lynch becomes the first African-American woman to serve as Attorney General of the United States.

May 2015 —  Good night, Lucille. Blues legend B.B. King dies at 89 on the 14th leaving behind 15 kids by 15 different women. Somebody was busy on the road all those years.

June 2015 — You twirl girl! Misty Copeland becomes the first Black principal ballerina at the American Ballet Theatre.


June 2015 — San Antonio elects its first Black mayor, Ivy Taylor.

June 2015 — What in the Henry Louis Gates Jr. is this hot mess? Rachel Dolezal, an NAACP chapter president in Spokane, Wash., is outed as really being a white woman after it is discovered she has been lying about her race.


June 2015 — Love is love as same-sex marriage becomes legal in the U.S.

July 2015 — Critically acclaimed coming of age book “Between The World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates is published and would eventually become required reading for anyone wanting to better understand what it means to be young, and Black in America.

November 2015 — Emmy and Golden Globe-winning writer, executive producer, and showrunner, Shonda Rhimes steps out of her TV comfort zone to publish her first novel, the New York Times bestseller “Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person.”



March 2016 — The Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls officially launches in response to the tragic death of Sandra Bland and focuses on pushing through legislation important to the welfare of Black women and girls.

April 2016 — News of Prince Rogers Nelson’s death on the 21st hits like a ton of bricks. Fans are left shocked, gutted and in utter disbelief at the loss of one of the world’s most brilliant performers. RIP you sexy mutha…


April 2016 — The U.S. Treasury announces plans for Harriet Tubman to appear on the $20 bill.

June 2016 — The G.O.A.T., Muhammad Ali dies on the 3rd at the age of 74. He is widely considered to be not one of but the greatest boxer of all time.


July 2016  — Dr. Carla Hayden becomes the first African-American and woman Librarian of Congress.

August 2016 — San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick takes a bold step and begins his silent protest during the U.S. National Anthem to bring awareness to the oppression of people of color and police brutality. The one action has reverberated throughout professional sports from that moment on causing commentary from owners, fans, broadcasters, and eventually the President.


August 2016 — Let it be known, some of us do swim! Simone Manuel is the first African-American female swimmer to win an Olympic medal in an individual event.

September 2016 — A one-stop shop for all things Black history, the National Museum of African American History and Culture opens in Washington D.C and becomes the hottest ticket in town.

November 2016 — Veteran journalist and newscaster, Gwen Ifill, succumbs to cancer on the 14th.

November 2016 — In what seemed like an episode of “The Twilight Zone,”  the political upset of the century occurs as America elects a real estate mogul/reality television host whose bone spurs kept him from serving in the military. Donald Trump is elected the 45th Presiden of the United States.



January 2017Women’s March demonstrations are held around the world in support of civil rights and gender equality.

February 2017 — Harvard Law Review elects ImeIme Umana, the first Black woman president in its 130-year history.

February  2017 — Proving that Blacks don’t have to play slaves to win top awards, Moonlight makes history at the Oscars becoming both the first film featuring a completely non-white cast to win the Best Picture Oscar and one of the first films to focus on an LGBTQ character to win Hollywood’s top prize.

March 2017 — The trailblazer who was a Black History Month poster fixture for years continues with his WTF transformation. In a 58-41 vote, the Senate confirms Dr. Benjamin Carson’s nomination as new Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) even though his claim to fame is pediatric neurosurgery.


March 2017 — Rock ‘n’ roll pioneer, Chuck Berry, dies on the 18th.

June 2017Jay-Z becomes the first rapper elected into the Songwriters Hall of Fame sealing the deal that he is one of the best lyricists of all time.


July 2017 — Who says Black women aren’t funny? Tiffany Haddish becomes a breakout star after her scene-stealing role in Girls Trip, a film that goes on to gross over $140 million worldwide.

September 2017Rihanna is looking towards the future and saying bump this music thing. And just like that Fenty Beauty is born and would eventually be partially responsible for her $600 million fortune.


October 2017 — Though created in 2006, the #MeToo movement founded by activist Tarana Burke doesn’t reach the mainstream until the hashtag is tweeted by white actress, Alyssa Milano. Nonetheless, Black Twitter won’t allow the world to forget or ignore us any longer.

October 2017 — The Juice is finally loose! O.J. Simpson is released after nine years in state prison for stealing sports memorabilia….because that’s what he why he was found guilty.



January 2018 — After a Unite the Right rally in 2017 of white nationalists and supremacists at the University of Virginia resulted in violence and three deaths and a President who sided with the attackers, Charlottesville, Va., elects its first Black female mayor, Nikuyah Walker.

January 2018 — Facebook adds its first and so far only African American board member, former American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault. 

February 2018Cynthia Marshall becomes the NBA’s first African-American female CEO, leading the Dallas Mavericks.

March 2018 —  Virgil Abloh is named Louis Vuitton’s men’s artistic director, the first African-American to lead the French fashion house in its 164-year-history.

March 2018 — Comedian and writer Jordan Peele takes to the director’s chair for the first time and becomes the first African-American to win an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for his box office smash horror film, Get Out. We’ll never look at a cup of tea the same again.


April 2018 — South African anti-apartheid activist and politician, Winnie Mandela, dies.

April 2018Beyoncé gives the world a crash course in HBCU culture with a twist of lemonade when she headlines Coachella.


May 2018 — American actress Meghan Markle marries Prince Harry. And there’s a collective sigh of relief when it’s revealed that the petty family members who bash her in the press aren’t Black.


May 2018 — Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams becomes the first black woman to be a major party nominee for state governor.

May 2018 — Former J.C Penney CEO Marvin Ellison is named CEO of Lowe’s, becoming the first Black person in the role.

May 2018 — Cancel culture strikes again. Roseanne Barr’s ignorant tweet about former Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett resembling an ape lands her in hot water. ABC fires her unfunny butt and revamps her rebooted sitcom without her.

June 2018Joe Jackson, the patriarch of the Jackson musical dynasty, dies on the 27th.

June 2018Alice Marie Johnson is released from federal prison after her life sentence for a first-time drug conviction was commuted by President Donald Trump.

June 2018 — San Francisco elects its first African-American female mayor, London Breed.

July 2018 — Lieutenant General Darryl A. Williams becomes West Point’s first Black superintendent in its 216-year history.

August 2018 — The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, dies on the 16th. A diva to the end, Franklin instructed there to be three wardrobe changes for her numerous home going services including one she wanted to be called, “a celebration of life.” RESPECT indeed.


August 2018 — For the September issue of Vogue, Tyler Mitchell becomes the first African-American photographer to shoot the cover for the magazine in its 125-year history. We think perhaps cover subject, Beyonce, had something to do with the selection process.

September 2018 — “America’s favorite dad” Bill Cosby is sentenced to state prison for sexual assault. Is there a website that ships Father’s day gifts to the slammer?


November 2018 — Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s memoir “Becoming” is released, and according to her publisher sells 2 million copies in 15 days to become the bestselling book of 2018.

November 2018 — After winning Minnesota’s fifth congressional district, Democrat Ilhan Omar, a Somali refugee, becomes the first African-born American to serve in the U.S. Congress.  

November 2018Letitia James becomes New York’s first Black Attorney General.

November 2018Ayanna Pressley becomes Massachusetts’ first Black woman elected to Congress.

November 2018 — Democrat Joe Neguse becomes the first African-American to represent Colorado in Congress.

December 2018The First Step Act for criminal justice reform is passed in hopes of allowing transitioning prisoners to be released into conditions that allow for a successful life on the outside.



January 2019 — They ready! Despite the President in office, Congress saw the most diverse class of elected leaders in its history, along racial, ethnic and generational lines.

February 2019 — Empire actor Jussie Smollett is indicted on disorderly conduct and filing a false police report after his story about being attacked in the early morning hours in Chicago by two white men starts to fall apart. Further police investigation discovers that Smollett allegedly paid two Black men to attack him. Things get even more bizarre when all charges against Smollett are dropped by the following month.

February 2019Cardi B told y’all she makes money moves. The Bronx born rapper becomes the first solo woman to win a Grammy for Best Rap Album.  


February 2019 —Wakanda forever! Academy Awards history is made with two Black Panther victories: the first African-American to win an Oscar for Best Costume Design, Ruth E. Carter, and the first African-American to win an Oscar for Best Production Design, Hannah Beachler. 


April 2019 — Oscar-nominated film director, John Singleton, dies on the 28th.

April 2019 —Chicago elects its first Black woman mayor, Lori Lightfoot.

April 2019 — Black-ish actress Marsai Martin makes headlines as the youngest person in Hollywood to produce a movie. At 13, she both pitched and executive produced the comedy Little.


May 2019 Lonnie Bunch becomes the first African-American Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.

June 2019 Serena Williams, with 23 Grand Slam titles under her belt, is the first athlete ever to make Forbes’ coveted list of the World’s Richest Self-Made Women.

June 2019 —  Missy Elliot becomes the first female rapper inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame

June 2019 Yale coming strong within current times, elects its first Black student body president, Kahlil Greene, in its 318-year history.

July 2019 Life comes at you quickly or in the case of the Pied Piper of R&B, eventually. R. Kelly is finally indicted by a federal grand jury on 13 counts including child porn, enticement of a minor and obstruction of justice.

August 2019 She will always be remembered as the first African-American woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. On the 5th, legendary author Toni Morrison said farewell. She dies at the age of 88.


August 2019 Granted clemency in January, Cyntoia Brown is finally released from prison after serving 15 years of a life sentence. Her memoir (including word of a new husband) is released just a few weeks later.

August 2019 The New York Times Magazine launches “1619,” its controversial feature on America’s history of enslavement and capitalism.

September 2019 Actor Billy Porter makes history as the first openly gay actor to win an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series.


October 2019 In a real bawse move, Tyler Perry opens his own studio in Atlanta.

October 2019 Simone Biles becomes the most decorated gymnast in history.  

October 2019 Steven Reed is elected as Montgomery, Alabama’s first Black mayor in its 200-year history.

October 2019 Pioneering actress Diahann Carroll dies on the 4th inspiring Black women to find “Julia” costumes for Halloween this year in homage to her brilliance as  the first African American woman to star in a non-stereotypical role in her own primetime network series.


November 2019 Entertainment Studios CEO Byron Allen takes his racial discrimination case against Comcast straight to the Supreme Court, where after hearing arguments, the justices will decide whether or not his $20 billion lawsuit is warranted. Allen contends that Comcast used race as a “motivating factor” in their decision to deny carrying his channels.

December 2019 As of this month, five major pageant titles — Miss America, Miss USA, Miss Teen USA, Miss Universe, and Miss World – are all held by Black women for the first time in history. We’re putting it out there now, that it won’t be the last.

December 2019 Earth Wind and Fire are the first Black group to be inducted into the Kennedy Center Honors.

December 2019 — Merry Christmas Saturday Night Live! Eddie Murphy hosting the show’s final episode of 2019 (brother hasn’t been back to his old job since 1984) proved to be a ratings juggernaut bringing in nearly 10 million viewers. It’s now the most-watched episode in the last two years.