The Nicest Kids in Town: American Bandstand, Rock 'n' Roll, and the Struggle for Civil Rights in 1950s Philadelphia

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“By challenging Dick Clark’s claim that he helped integrate American popular music and culture, Matthew Delmont puts the lie to Clark’s air-brushed history of American Bandstand’s role in racial desegregation. The Nicest Kids in Town shows how the nexus of sound, place, race, and space operated together to create and reinforce a myth of national memory and belonging. Just as importantly, this compelling cultural history demonstrates the importance of the youth market as a theater of struggle where brave young men and women—outraged by the discrimination and racism they faced for the simple act of enjoying music—refused to have their bodies, tastes, or desires policed. Delmont shows how the music moved them, and how in turn they moved the music onto television screens across America.”—Herman Gray, author of Cultural Moves.

The Nicest Kids in Town speaks simultaneously to several significant current lines of inquiry among historians of the United States after World War II. Delmont takes on issues that we thought we already knew completely—the social and cultural history of the 1950s and ‘60s, the Civil Rights movement, the birth of television—but he brings original material to his story and connects these issues in new ways. Delmont’s work proves him to be a talented, careful, and thorough scholar, and in a large body of work on these topics, his book stands alone.”—Jay Mechling, author of On My Honor: Boy Scouts and the Making of American Youth.

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Editorial Reviews

Orange County Register

“Reveals a hidden history of racial segregation on the United States' first television program centered on the teenage population. . . . Provocative.”
History News Network

“Well-researched, tightly-written. . . . Impressively bright, clear, and comprehensive.”

“Excellent. . . . Offers a valuable understanding of the . . . melding of African Americans into the national youth culture.”
Cbq Communication Booknotes Qtly

“The study illustrates how . . . nostalgic representations of the past . . . can work as impediments to progress in the present.”
Jrnl Of The Society For American Music (Jsam) - Gayle Wald

“The Nicest Kids in Town counters the (false) mythology of American Bandstand with valuable descriptions of ‘forgotten’ cultural productions.”
American Historical Review - Brian Ward

"Lively and perceptive. . . . Delmont’s book offers a subtle, refreshingly interdisciplinary reading of Bandstand as a site of the civil rights struggles in Philadelphia."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520272088
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 2/22/2012
  • Series: American Crossroads
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 312
  • Sales rank: 430,027
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Matthew F. Delmont is Assistant Professor of American Studies at Scripps College.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations


1. Making Philadelphia Safe for “WFIL-adelphia”
Television, Housing, and Defensive Localism in Bandstand’s Backyard

2. They Shall Be Heard
Local Television as a Civil Rights Battleground

3. The de Facto Dilemma
Fighting Segregation in Philadelphia Public Schools

4. From Little Rock to Philadelphia
Making de Facto School Segregation a Media Issue

5. The Rise of Rock and Roll in Philadelphia
Georgie Woods, Mitch Thomas, and Dick Clark

6. “They’ll Be Rockin’ on Bandstand, in Philadelphia, P.A.”
Imagining National Youth Culture on American Bandstand

7. Remembering American Bandstand, Forgetting Segregation

8. Still Boppin’ on Bandstand
American Dreams, Hairspray, and American Bandstand in the 2000s

Everybody Knows about American Bandstand


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