The Power of Black Radio

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photoThere was music that said "stand up," charismatic DJs, and direct calls for real equality. Black radio during the civil rights movement played a key role in the struggle. In some cases that meant gospel songs, in other cases, R&B with chart toppers like "People get ready" or "keep on pushing."

From a very practical standpoint radio was also the best way to get the word out to many black communities in Birmingham, Chicago, Atlanta. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Council, shared a building with black radio station WERD. One DJ there, Jockey Jack Gibson, used to drop his microphone out the window and down a few stories so that King could read his announcements early on in the civil rights struggle.

Hear a conversation with historian Brian Ward and Shelley Stewart, one of the era's most prominent DJs, the role of black radio in the civil rights movement of the '50s and '60s.


Brian Ward, professor of history at the University of Florida

Shelley Stewart, nationally recognized radio personality and civil rights activist

Tricia Rose, Professor of American studies at University of California at Santa Cruz

This program aired on January 17, 2005.


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