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Playboy's First Black Models and A New Lawsuit

Our culture is fascinated with "firsts" and tedious records are kept so that the first of just about anything is recorded for posterity. Playboy magazine broke a long standing tradition of featuring white "Playmates of the Month" in their honorary and anxiously awaited centerfold spread of the monthly periodical. That changed in March, 1965.

Jennifer Jackson was the first of many black Playboy models that would grace the magazine once she appeared in the March, 1965 issue. Most "firsts" tend to be celebrated occasions in the media and particularly if the boundary breaker is a media entity itself, of which Playboy notably qualifies.

As the first of a long list of ensuing black Playboy models, Jennifer Jackson's appearance was not heralded as a pioneering event by Playboy magazine. In spite of the low key, normal presentation of her article and pictorial center spread, her appearance drew a large response and turned the matter into a widespread controversy.

Much like Jackie Robinson's color barrier breakthrough into major league baseball, Jennifer Jackson's debut was followed by a number of black Playboy models.

Model Darine Stern made history by becoming the first Black woman to grace the cover of Playboy Magazine in October of 1971.

Rising from the embers of the Vietnam conflict, Woodstock, The Summer of Love and Marvin Gaye’s classic “What’s Going On” album, Playboy art designer Len Willis had a burst of inspiration. Using a chair with the company’s logo, photographer Richard Fegley shot the iconic cover featuring Stern which has become a classic for the magazine.

The Chicago-native continued her career as a high-profile model working in the 1970s and 1980s. During that span, she was represented by Ford Models, Nina Blanchard, Ellen Hart and Shirley Hamilton Models of Chicago. In 1994, she died of complications due to breast cancer at the age of 46.

Some of the first Black celebrities that have appeared in Playboy magazine include: Naomi Campbell, Robin Givens, LaToya Jackson, and Vanessa Williams. Others include, Garcelle Beauvais, Stacey Dash and 'Lil Kim who is rumored to appear in the December 2008 issue.

SEPTEMBER 18, 2008 - WAKE UP CALL?

According to TMZ, a lawsuit is claiming that Playboy Plays Dirty With Blacks.

Terri Hughes was a producer for the Playboy Radio show "Night Calls." Hughes claims during a live broadcast, she was asked to repeatedly "wax" the "ass" of co-host Christy Canyon. She alleges Canyon created a hostile environment by, among other things, "exposing her genitals and breasts to co-workers, making requests to guests and co-workers to touch her genitals and breasts, and masturbating herself with her own hands as well as with various sex toys during live broadcasts of 'Night Calls.'"

Hughes, who is African-American, alleges that when a host of another Playboy show -- who was also an African-American woman -- requested for Hughes work on her show, the executive producer of Playboy Radio warned, "I don't know how to say this, and it might offend you, but I'm just going to say it anyway -- no Negro shows."

Hughes is seeking unspecified damages. Calls to Playboy were not immediately returned.

Perhaps she remembers her great-great grandmother who wanted to protest but only rolled her eyes and willed herself not to scream when the white man mounted her from behind. --Andrea Williams

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