[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/SHOWBIZ/Music/06/28/michael.jackson.black.community/art.jackson.1992.afp.gi.jpg caption="Michael Jackson was one of the first black global superstars."]
Michael Jackson was an international superstar, and many in the black community herald him for breaking down racial barriers in the music industry.
"Michael Jackson made culture accept a person of color way before Tiger Woods, way before Oprah Winfrey, way before Barack Obama," said the Rev. Al Sharpton. "Michael did with music what they later did in sports and in politics and in television. And no controversy will erase the historic impact."
As the Jackson 5, Michael Jackson and his brothers "became a cutting-edge example of black crossover artists," said Mark Anthony Neal, a professor of black popular culture at Duke University's Department of African and African American Studies.
"You basically had five working-class black boys with Afros and bell bottoms, and they really didn't have to trade any of that stuff in order to become mainstream stars," Neal said.
Young Michael Jackson was the first black "bubblegum teen star" in the vein of Monkees singer Davy Jones, Neal said.
Jackson continued as a pioneer in the black culture when he broke barriers by appearing on MTV, and by breaking sales records with the 1982 album, "Thriller."
"At the time that he releases 'Thriller,' I always argue that MTV was arguably the best example of cultural apartheid in the United States," Neal said.
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