Black Woman You Should Know: Debra Lee | 2nd Annual Digital Black History Month Education Campaign (Day VII)

We are pleased to share day VII of 540’s 2nd Annual Digital Black History Month Education Campaign

Debra Lee | Businesswoman & Media Executive

Who: Debra Lee
Date of Birth: August 8, 1955
Place of Birth: Fort Jackson, South Carolina

  • M.A in Public Policy, Brown University
  • J.D Harvard Law School


  • Board of Directors of Twitter, Marriot, Revlon
  • CEO BET Networks (1996-2018)
  • VP + COO BET Networks
  • General Counsel BET Networks

Debra Lee has been regarded as one of the country’s top female executives and served on the corporate board of directors of global businesses including Marriott International, Revlon and Eastman Kodak Company. She has also been affiliated with several professional and civic organizations including the National Board of Directors for National Symphony Orchestra, the National Women’s Law Center and the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater. Lee was also named Trustee Emeritus at Brown University, her alma mater.

Over the decades Debra Lee consistently ranked in lists of the most powerful women in the entertainment industry. In her long tenure at BET (since 1986), she moved up the ranks from vice president and general counsel to president and COO before taking on a position as chairman and CEO in (1996-2018). She’s played a key role in re-defining and re-energizing the company’s overall brand by focusing on BET and sister network Centric’s core audiences and issues that are important to them: family, aspiration, black culture, and entertainment.

Lee’s honors include the 2001 Woman of the Year Award from Women in Cable and Telecommunications and the 2003 Distinguished Vanguard Award for Leadership from the NCTA, a first for an African American female executive. Outside of the cable industry, Lee has also received special recognition, including the 2005 Madame C. J. Walker Award from Ebony magazine for best exemplifying the entrepreneurial spirit of the pioneering Black businesswoman.

“Debra Lee consistently ranks in lists of the most powerful women in the entertainment industry”

About the Campaign

Every day throughout the month of February 540Blog will devote space to sharing Little Known Facts About Black Americans Throughout History. For us every month is Black History Month but we recognize and support the continuous need to take time and space to put a special spotlight on the accomplishments of Black and brown Americans from all ethnicities that have literally changed the course of history and yet have legacies that are not know by the masses.


  3. Variety
  4. Deadline

Published by Calvin Eaton

(he/his/him) Calvin Eaton is a disabled community educator, content creator, and social entrepreneur, whose area of expertise includes antiracism, equity, justice, instructional design, and program development. In 2016 Mr. Eaton founded 540WMain, Inc. a non-profit online and community-based organization for accessible education and events that promote justice for all.

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