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The University of North Carolina Press
Broadcasting Freedom: Radio, War, and the Politics of Race, 1938-1948 / Edition 1

Broadcasting Freedom: Radio, War, and the Politics of Race, 1938-1948 / Edition 1

by Barbara D. Savage
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The World War II era represented the golden age of radio as a broadcast medium in the United States; it also witnessed a rise in African American activism against racial segregation and discrimination, especially as they were practiced by the federal government itself. In Broadcasting Freedom, Barbara Savage links these cultural and political forces by showing how African American activists, public officials, intellectuals, and artists sought to access and use radio to influence a national debate about racial inequality.

Drawing on a rich and previously unexamined body of national public affairs programming about African Americans and race relations, Savage uses these radio shows to demonstrate the emergence of a new national discourse about race and ethnicity, racial hatred and injustice, and the contributions of racial and immigrant populations to the development of the United States. These programs, she says, challenged the nation to reconcile its professed egalitarian ideals with its unjust treatment of black Americans and other minorities.

This examination of radio's treatment of race as a national political issue also provides important evidence that the campaigns for racial justice in the 1940s served as an essential, and still overlooked, precursor to the civil rights campaigns of the 1950s and 1960s, Savage argues. The next battleground would be in the South—and on television.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807848043
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 05/31/1999
Series: The John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture
Edition description: 1
Pages: 408
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Barbara D. Savage is Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

Table of Contents



Part I Federal Constructions of "the Negro"

1 Americans All, Immigrants All: Cultural Pluralism and Americanness
2 Freedom's People: Radio and the Political Uses of African American Culture and History
3 "Negro Morale," the Office of War Information, and the War Department

Part II Airing the Race Question

4 The National Urban League on the Radio
5 Radio and the Political Discourse of Racial Equality
6 New World A'Coming and Destination Freedom

Appendix: Radio Programs Discussed in the Text


Rachel Davis DuBois
Cover of brochure advertising Americans All, Immigrants All
Cover of phonograph recordings of Americans All, Immigrants All
Paul Robeson appearing on the first broadcast of Freedom's People in 1941
Placard advertising Freedom's People
Covers of Office of Education brochure for Freedom's People
Studio audience at Freedom's People broadcast
Ambrose Caliver appearing on Freedom's People
OWI official Theodore M. Berry
Radio commentator H. V. Kaltenborn, National Urban League official Ann Tanneyhill, pianist Hazel Scott, and a member of the Charioteers preparing for the 1944 National Urban League broadcast
Announcement of an America's Town Meeting of the Air broadcast, "Are We Solving America's Race Problem?"
President Harry S. Truman addressing the 1947 NAACP convention
Roi Ottley
Richard Durham
Cast of Destination Freedom

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

A polished, scholarly account that traces the evolution of national radio in confronting stereotypes of Blacks and pushing for political and economic equality. Serious readers of Black history will appreciate this carefully researched and well-written book.—Emerge

Broadcasting Freedom is the remarkable story of the African American struggle for a national voice and the State's reluctance to give up the mic. A powerful, eloquent testament to the men and women who took to the airwaves to fight racism at home, this book will change the way we think about World War II, the role of mass culture in the civil rights movement, and the tortured relationship between black folk and the federal government.—Robin D. G. Kelley, New York University

This is a brilliant and pioneering examination of the way in which the interplay between certain sections of the mass media and of the federal bureaucracy promoted a gradual shift in white racial attitudes during the later years of the New Deal.—August Meier, general editor, Blacks in the New World

[Savage's] deft treatment of the activists, programming, public policies, and symbolic politics broadens views of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and pioneers new scholarship in radio's rich but virtually ignored historical role. . . . Highly recommended.—Library Journal

Savage's strikingly original book provides a rich perspective on public broadcasting when radio was the dominant mass medium. . . . Fastidiously executed . . . Savage has done a superb job.—Journal of Southern History

Clearly organized and well written, Broadcasting Freedom explores a previously unexamined area of the Civil Rights Movement.—Choice

Barbara Dianne Savage offers a marvelous portrait of Americans in solution as they listened enrapt, during the golden age of the medium, to broadcast versions of their improving ethnic and racial selves. Broadcasting Freedom is splendid social history told at a nuts-and-bolts level of policy-making we seldom see.—David Levering Lewis, New York University

While we have known the importance of television for the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, the mass media's role in racial politics has not had a history—at least not until the publication of Barbara Savage's extraordinary new book on radio and race during World War II. She has ingeniously opened up a whole new realm for exploring African American (and white) racial consciousness and ideology during the 1940s.—Lizabeth Cohen, Harvard University

Broadcasting Freedom contributes to two important areas of inquiry that have expanded greatly in recent years: the history of radio and the history of the African American struggle for civil rights in the 1930s and 1940s. This extraordinary book will help shape the way we think about both.—Journal of American History

Groundbreaking. . . . A study of great value to scholars of black history, communications, propaganda, and mid-century America. No one working in these subjects should overlook this book.—The Historian


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