Radio and the Struggle for Civil Rights in the South / Edition 1

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This compelling book offers important new insights into the connections among radio, race relations, and the civil rights and black power movements in the South from the 1920s to the mid-1970s. For the mass of African Americans—and many whites—living in the region during this period, radio was the foremost source of news and information. Consequently, it is impossible to fully understand the origins and development of the African American freedom struggle, changes in racial consciousness, and the transformation of southern racial practices without recognizing how radio simultaneously entertained, informed, educated, and mobilized black and white southerners.

While focusing on civil rights activities in Atlanta, Birmingham, Charlotte, Washington, D.C., and the state of Mississippi, the book draws attention to less well-known sites of struggle such as Columbus, Georgia, and Columbia, South Carolina, where radio also played a vital role. It explains why key civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King and organizations such as the NAACP, SCLC, and SNCC put a premium on access to the radio, often finding it far more effective than the print media or television in advancing their cause. The book also documents how civil rights advocates used radio to try to influence white opinions on racial matters in the South and beyond, and how the broadcasting industry itself became the site of a protracted battle for black economic opportunity and access to a lucrative black consumer market. In addition, Ward rescues from historical obscurity a roster of colorful deejays, announcers, station managers, executives, and even the odd federal bureaucrat, who made significant contributions to the freedom struggle through radio.

Winner of the AEJMC award for the best journalism and mass communication history book of 2004 and a 2004 Choice Outstanding Academic Title Award, this book restores radio to its rightful place in the history of black protest, race relations, and southern culture during the middle fifty years of the 20th century.



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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813027296
  • Publisher: University Press of Florida
  • Publication date: 2/28/2006
  • Series: New Perspectives on the History of the South Series
  • Edition description: First
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 437
  • Product dimensions: 6.80 (w) x 9.90 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Brian Ward, associate professor of history at the University of Florida, is the editor of Media, Culture, and the Modern African American Freedom Struggle (UPF, 2001) and the author of Just My Soul Responding: Rhythm and Blues, Black Consciousness, and Race Relations, which won the 1999 James A. Rawley Prize from the Organization of American Historians.  


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Table of Contents

Introduction : dials set to freedom 1
1 An uphill battle : network radio, local radio, and the roots of racial change 21
2 Goodwill radio : labor, liberals, and the search for interracial understanding 52
3 Respectability, religion, and rhythm and blues on Black-oriented radio 81
4 A Dixie dilemma : racially progressive radio in the age of massive resistance 115
5 Edwin T. Randall and friendly world broadcasting : radio and White racial liberalism in the age of mass protest 134
6 Black-oriented radio and the Southern civil rights movement 149
7 WENN's push came to shove : Black-oriented radio and the freedom struggle in Birmingham 182
8 Ample and frequent moderation : radio and race relations in Charlotte 210
9 A telling silence : freedom radio in Mississippi 249
10 The quest for Black power in Southern radio 281
11 Riots, respect, and responsibility : radio in the New South 315
Conclusion : radio and the Southern freedom struggle 358
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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2008

    A multifaceted study of a little known aspect of the Civil Rights Movement

    Much has been said and written about how television raised the veil on Jim Crow - for example, the fact that stark images of police brutality against African Americans were broadcast into homes around the nation. But before television, Americans connected with the world via radio, and Jim Crow lacked the power to segregate what came over the airwaves. Ward explores the myriad ways network and local radio were used to advance the cause of Civil Rights and racial uplift, from obvious uses such as announcements of protests and rallies, to more subtle image enhancing programs such as ¿homemaker shows¿ 'which might have served double duty by helping to create the collective female consciousness so crucial to the movement.' Ward neither presents nor defends a monolithic image of black vs white radio owners, producers, on-air personalities or even consumers. Throughout the book, in various towns and sometimes even at the same station, we meet some professionals of both races dedicated to the cause, and others dedicated to the bottom line. We meet listeners who are tuning in for news of the struggle and others who just want to be entertained. Sometimes they got both at the same time. It¿s rare to find a book which is both exhaustively researched AND enjoyable to read. I can obviously recommend it to anyone interested in African American Studies but I go a step further and recommend it to ¿old time radio¿ buffs as well. As one with an interest in both areas, I feel like I got 2 books for the price of one!

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