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Super Bowl's Blackest Moments (204 hits)


The super bowl has come a long way since its original days of being just like any other football game, and black artists have been crucial to that evolution.

The Super Bowl has come a long way since its original days of being just like any other football game — back when halftime was nothing more than an intermission accompanied by the sounds of a marching band on the field. In fact, during its early days, starting with Super Bowl I in 1967, oftentimes, there was less excitement around the event than college games. As we all know, over the years, that has drastically changed. And along the way, Black people have been a crucial part of that evolution and economic impact.

Despite the National Football League’s (NFL) obvious and significant issues when it comes to race, paired with its lack of meaningful engagement in matters of racial justice, it’s impossible to discuss the sport, the league, the network, or the Super Bowl without talking about Black people.

From the very first Super Bowl, which took place in Los Angeles and featured the marching band from the HBCU Grambling College (now known as Grambling State University), to this year’s game, featuring Usher as the halftime show headliner — year-after-year, Black talent and culture are on full display as the world tunes in. Thankfully so, because when looking back at some of the Super Bowl’s Blackest moments, it’s clear that the event wouldn’t be what it is without us.

1 When Michael Jackson changed the game

It’s hard to explain the “Michael Jackson effect” during the height of his fame to folks who didn’t witness it at the time — in person or on screen.

When the King of Pop shot up onto the 1993 Halftime show stage, he stood still for over a minute. All the while, the crowd was going wild. He then proceeded to perform hits like “Billie Jean” and “Black or White,” as 133 million people tuned in — making his the most-watched halftime show ever and one of the highest-rated telecasts of all time.

Prior to Jackson’s performance, the Super Bowl Halftime show was an afterthought that wasn’t known for featuring chart-topping artists. That all changed after Jackson.






PASADENA, CA – JANUARY 31: Michael Jackson performs during the Halftime show as the Dallas Cowboys take on the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVII at Rose Bowl on January 31, 1993 in Pasadena, California. The Cowboys won 52-17. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)


2 When Beyoncé got in formation

In 2016, Coldplay was advertised as the headlining act for the Halftime Show. Prior to the show, the band’s lead singer, Chris Martin, reached out to Bruno Mars and asked him to join.

Specifically, Martin wanted to see Mars perform Uptown Funk with Beyoncé. In true Beyoncé fashion, she came out and gave one of the most memorable halftime performances of all time.

As she and her dancers — all Black women, sporting natural hair, and wearing clothes that invoked imagery of the Black Panthers — formed a large “X,” she performed Formation for the very first time.

Her performance was so Black, that it outraged people, like former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.






SANTA CLARA, CA – FEBRUARY 07: (L-R) Bruno Mars and Beyonce perform during the Pepsi Super Bowl 50 Halftime Show at Levi’s Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)




3 Ella Fitzgerald and a Salute to Louis Armstrong

Following the 1971 death of Louis Armstrong, the 1972 Super Bowl, set to take place in New Orleans with the theme, “Salute to Louis Armstrong” — the first Super Bowl to pay tribute to someone.

When Carol Channing and Ella Fitzgerald were selected to perform they became the annual event’s first “celebrity” singers. A surprising piece of Black history: Fitzgerald became the first Black woman to perform at the halftime show.






Ella Fitzgerald sings while Al Hirt plays the trumpet during the half-time show at the Superbowl. (Photo by Jerry Cooke/Corbis via Getty Images)





4 Whitney Houston singing the national anthem

The only way the National Anthem can find its way on a list of the Blackest anything is the voice of an angel.

Whitney Houston’s vocals were truly one-of-a-kind. Her rendition of the National Anthem during Super Bowl XXV in 1991 remains one of the most iconic performances of the song of all time.






TAMPA, FL – JANUARY 27: Whitney Houston sings the National Anthem before a game with the New York Giants taking on the Buffalo Bills prior to Super Bowl XXV at Tampa Stadium on January 27, 1991 in Tampa, Florida. The Giants won 20-19.




5 Rihanna and her pregnancy surprise

When Rihanna took the stage at the 2023 Super Bowl Halftime show, it was her first performance in more than 5 years. That alone was reason enough to celebrate. But as the Barbadian beauty billionaire reminded us of the countless hits she has under her belt she also revealed her growing belly and announced her pregnancy with her second child.






GLENDALE, AZ – FEBRUARY 12: Rihanna performs at halftime during Super Bowl LVII between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, February 12th, 2023 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, AZ. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)




6 My Quarterback is Black

ESSENCE fave, Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback, and Patrick Mahomes, quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs, made history when their teams came face-to-face during Super Bowl 2023.

That was the first Super Bowl in history to feature two Black quarterbacks.






PHOENIX, AZ – FEBRUARY 06: Jalen Hurts #1 of the Philadelphia Eagles speaks with Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs at Footprint Center on February 6, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)



7 Sheryl Lee Ralph, a Dreamgirl, made history

Fresh off the heels of her historic Emmy win for her role in Abbott Elementary, the legendary actress, singer, author, and activist Thee Sheryl Lee Ralph made history when she became the first person to sing the Black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” at the Super Bowl.

Naturally, some white people were outraged. Months later, in August 2023, she tweeted a video of herself singing the same melody, but different lyrics, “lift every chair and swing.” A truly full circle moment. (If you know, you know.)






GLENDALE, ARIZONA – FEBRUARY 12: Actress/Singer Sheryl Lee Ralph performs Lift Every Voice and Sing ahead of Super Bowl LVII kickoff between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles on February 12, 2023 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)



8 Black in every language

The 2023 Super Bowl was especially Black — from Rihanna and Sheryl Lee Ralph, to the historic face-off between two Black quarterbacks. In addition to those household names, there was also Justina Miles.

At the time, Miles was a 20-year-old nursing student at an HBCU (Bowie State University in Maryland). Her incredible rendition of Rihanna’s “BBHM” in American Sign Language (ASL) went viral that night. “(It’s) not only for me to share this experience with the whole world,” she said, “but to really bring that empowerment to millions and millions of Black deaf people all over the country who’ve never really seen that before. I feel that is truly lifting every voice, even my voice.”




GLENDALE, ARIZONA – FEBRUARY 12: Justina Miles performs “Lift Every Voice and Sing” in American Sign Language prior to Super Bowl LVII between the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles at State Farm Stadium on February 12, 2023 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)




9 California Love

When Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, Eminem, and Mary J. Blige rocked the halftime stage during the 2022 Super Bowl, that undoubtedly became one of, if not the, Blackest Super Bowl performance ever.

This performance became the first hip hop halftime show — a direct result of the NFL’s partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation.




INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 13: Dr. Dre performs alongside Mary J. Mary J. Blige and Snoop Dogg during the Pepsi Super Bowl LVI Halftime Show at SoFi Stadium on February 13, 2022 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)



10 Usher and The Men Of Kappa Alpha Psi Shimmy For The Culture

It was a performance to remember!

Usher took the stage for the Super Bowl LVIII halftime show, making waves not only with his iconic hits but also by sharing the spotlight with Jackson State University’s Sonic Boom of the South marching band and two members of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. He kicked off his first-ever Super Bowl show, drawing in a massive audience of 30.1 million households–five percent more than Rihanna’s 2023 show, according to TV intelligence company Samba TV.





Jackson State University’s Sonic Boom of the South & Kappa Alpha Psi Joins Usher for Super Bowl Performance / Credit: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images/Roc Nation




11 Nothing Compares to Prince’s Purple Rain

Only Prince could pull off the dramatic and iconic performance that he did at the 2007 Super Bowl in Miami. The rain was pouring and the wind was roaring, when NBC producer Don Mischer gave the star a call. “I want you to know it’s raining,” he told Prince. To which Prince responded, “Yes it’s raining.” Mischer then asked, “Are you OK?” Prince then said, “Can you make it rain harder?”

Prince went on to perform one of the most memorable halftime shows — in the rain, on a dangerously slippery stage. And yes, his set included Purple Rain.





US musician Prince performs during half-time 04 February 2007 at Super Bowl XLI at Dolphin Stadium in Miami between the Chicago Bears and the Indianapolis Colts. AFP PHOTO/Roberto SCHMIDT (Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP) (Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP via Getty Images)





SOURCE Essence
Posted By: Sofía Montiel
Tuesday, February 13th 2024 at 1:53PM
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