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Robinson, Max (1939-1988)

Max Robinson was an American broadcast journalist for ABC News and served as a co-anchor for ABC World News Tonight. He was the first African American broadcast network news anchor in the history of American television. He was also one of the original founders of the National Association of Black Journalists.

Robinson was born on May 1, 1939 in Richmond, Virginia to Maxie and Doris Robinson. A talented student, he later attended Oberlin College where he served as president of the freshmen class. He later attended Indiana University and eventually earned his degree from Virginia Union University. Robinson served in the Air Force and eventually received an honorable discharge due to a medical condition.

Robinson began his television journey in Portsmouth, Virginia in 1959 where he applied for a position at a local radio station that had a “white’s only” policy which at the time was legal.  Nonetheless, the station owner allowed Robinson to audition for a position along with several white candidates.  Robinson was given a job reading the news on the air, although he was told that his face could not be seen.  When Robinson protested, he was fired. Afterwards he moved to Washington, D.C. and worked at WTOP-TV as a cameraman trainee and in other behind the scene jobs.

Robinson found a job at Washington"s WRC-TV in 1967, remaining there until 1978.  While there he won six journalism awards for his coverage of civil rights events of the era including the 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  By the end of the decade, Robinson was one of the most popular news anchors in the nation’s capital.

In 1978, Robinson was selected by ABC executive Roone Arledge to become the co-anchor of ABC News. He served in this capacity until 1983.  Despite his success, Robinson was sensitive to racism and its negative impact on him and other black journalists. During his time at ABC Robinson clashed with the management of ABC News over what he (Robinson) saw as the one dimensional, often negative, portrayal of black

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