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De V orah h ei T ner

Duke University Press Durham and London 2013

© 2013 Duke University Press All rights reserved Printed in the United States of America on acid- free paper ♾ Designed by Amy Ruth Buchanan Typeset in Arno Pro by Tseng Information Systems, Inc.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Heitner, Devorah, 1975– Black power TV / Devorah Heitner. pages cm Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-8223-5409-3 (cloth : alk. paper) ISBN 978-0-8223-5424-6 (pbk. : alk. paper) 1. African Americans in television broadcasting— United States—History—20th century. 2. African Americans on television—History—20th century. 3. Public-access television—United States—History— 20th century. 4. Black power—United States— History—20th century. I. Title. PN1992.8.A34H45 2013







Reverberations of the King Assassination 1


Welcome to Inside Bedford- Stuyvesant, Your Community Program! Visualizing Black Brooklyn, 1968–1971 24


Say Brother and Boston’s New Principles of Blackness 53


No Thanks for Tokenism:


Telling Stories from a Black Nation, Black Journal , 1968–1970 83


That New Black Magic: Black Arts and Women’s Liberation on Soul!123

conclusion 153


Notes 159


Bibliography 171

Index 185


This book owes its life to an ambitious and inspiring cohort of media makers and activists who pioneered this genre. Many of the producers, artists, journalists and technicians who created the television shows ex- amined in this volume spent many hours with me, recollecting this forma- tive moment in their careers. I wish to extend heartfelt thanks to everyone whom I interviewed, but especially to Madeline Anderson, Kay Bourne, Elombe Brath, Hazel Bright, Angela Fontanez, Kent Garrett, Nikki Gio - vanni, Jewelle Gomez, Louise Greaves, William Greaves, Charles Hobson, Anna Horsford, Stan Lathan, James Lowry, Kit Lukas, Ernestine Middle - ton, Al Perlmutter, Lou Potter, Bobby Shepard, Jim Tilmon, Marian Etoille Watson, and Eric Werner. I also wish to express my gratitude to St. Clair Bourne and to Wali Siddiq (formerly Lou House), both of whom passed away after I had the privilege of interviewing them and thus never got to see this work completed. Meeting and getting to know the work of all of these groundbreaking and inspiring media makers was without a doubt the most rewarding part of writing this book. The initial research for this book was funded by a Mellon Humanities Center Travel Grant from Northwestern University as well as a Humanities Center Graduate Affiliate Award. I am also grateful for fellowships from the Northwestern University Graduate School: both a Research Fellow- ship and a Graduate Research Grant. The University of South Carolina’s Institute for Southern Studies funded a research trip to South Carolina. The American Association of University Women American Fellowship provided much-needed support during the initial write- up year. I am grateful to students in my Civil Rights and Media, Race/Media/ Culture, and Black Cinema courses for insights on the problems and pos- sibilities of African American media representations. In the past two years, five accomplished students, Riley Hutchinson, Maya Imhoff, Kate

Schreiber, Amy Slay, and Jenny Steege, helped me with some of the final, vital tasks in readying this book for publication. Shayla Thiel Stern’s graduate students at the University of Minnesota offered astute and thoughtful responses to the manuscript, and folks who attended my talk at the University of Chicago’s race workshop provided great feedback on chapter 3. Germaine Haleguoua, at Velvet Light Trap, offered excellent comments on a small slice of what became chapter 1, and readers at Television and New Media helpfully reviewed what became a por- tion of chapter 2. Contributing to Watching while Black offered an exciting chance to collaborate with Beretta Smith- Shomade and to address aspects of Black Journal that did not find their way into this work. Numerous archivists and librarians pointed me to resources, gave me excellent advice, and attempted to help me obtain funding for my work. I wish to especially recognize Ruta Abolins, at the Peabody Archives; Karen King, at the Maryland Public Broadcasting Archives; and Leah Weisse and Mary Ide, at the wg BH archives; as well as Michael Kerbel, at the Yale University Film Study Center. At the Yale Film Study Center, the emerg- ing scholar Hannah Zeavin provided expert assistance with obtaining film stills, and I am very grateful to Michael Kerbel, William Greaves, and the Yale Film Study Center for allowing me to use those stills here. Archi- vists at the New Jersey City University Library; the Moorland- Spingarn Library, at Howard University; the moving picture archive at the Library of Congress; the Museum of TV and Radio, in New York City; the ucl A film and TV archives; the Ford Foundation Archives; and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture helped me locate and access video and documents from the history of Black public- affairs television. Camille Billops welcomed me into the Hatch- Billops collection, a treasure trove of artist interviews and other materials. Tracy Capers, at the Bedford- Stuyvesant Development Corporation, went above and beyond the usual mission of her position to help me locate the letters and other materials I consulted for the Inside Bedford- Stuyvesant chapter. My friend Laura Wolf- Powers offered critical insights and research leads on Brooklyn and urban planning. A brilliant and ambitious cadre of scholars offered mentorship, re - sources, and advice along the way, and I wish to express my gratitude to these individuals. While this project is very much transformed since its original version, I continue to be very grateful to Jim Schwoch, who was enthusiastic from the moment we first discussed this project. Jim’s gen- erosity as an adviser, his encyclopedic knowledge, and his understanding

of the stages of the research process have been crucial resources for my development as a scholar. Martha Biondi is a passionate advocate for her students and for emerging scholarship in this field. She introduced me to the scholarship on the Black Power era and to Inside Bedford- Stuyvesant , which started me down the path to this book. She has been tremendously supportive of this project and I have benefited from her mentorship as well as her example as a scholar and activist. Mimi White’s thinking and writing on television, and her thoughts on this work, have been enormously in- fluential. Her wisdom and generosity helped me survive graduate school. Jacqueline Stewart’s connections between lived and scholarly community, her brilliant writing on Black cinema, and her commitment to the archi- val practice have been a tremendous inspiration. Her support and friend- ship has meant so much to me as I’ve moved from being a media maker in the wonderful Women in the Director’s Chair days to media scholar and professor. I am grateful for feedback on various chapters and sections in progress from the Social History workshop and the American Culture workshop at the University of Chicago, as well as the African American History dissertation group at Northwestern University. Other faculty at Northwestern were exceptionally supportive and have offered mentor - ship at crucial times. I especially want to thank Jennifer Devere Brody and Darlene Clark Hine. At DePaul University, Jacqui Lazu, Amor Kohli, Darrell Moore, and Sandra Jackson offered insights on this work, and op - portunities to share it. My generous and sharp friends Liz Duffrin, Ryan Lopez, and Cory Stevens were kind enough to read drafts and offer com- ments at various points in this book’s development. As the book neared completion, comments from individuals who attended talks at the Uni- versity of Minnesota and University of Chicago’s Race Center were espe - cially helpful. My work has been supported and sustained by a rich scholarly com- munity in and beyond Chicago. Progressive scholars and fellow travelers have offered advice on this work, the research process, and scholarly life. I am grateful to Aniko Bodroghkozy, Steve Charbonneau, Steven Clas - sen, Mary Gray, Jennifer Fuller, Bambi Haggins, Moira Hinderer, Michael Kramer, Daniel Makagon, Josh Malitsky, Vicky Mayer, John McMurria, Quinn Miller, Amy Abugo Ongiri, Laurie Ouellette, Yeidy Rivero, Ahmad Sadri, Beretta Smith- Shomade, Shayla Thiel- Stern, Jennifer Tilton, Amy Tyson, Gayle Wald, and Michele White. Three anonymous readers for Duke University Press offered astute and generous readings of this book. I am immensely grateful for their sage advice and detailed comments. Ken

Wissoker and Jade Brooks, at Duke University Press, have been both in- sightful and supportive throughout the process. Thanks to my whole Chicago circle for making my life here so sweet and helping me to stay focused on the bigger picture. Thanks especially to Gilit Abraham, Emilie Amrein, Lori Baptista, Frida Furman, Tracy Kostenbader, Sarah Levine, Nadia Oehlsen, and Lara Oppenheimer. These women have sustained me with their friendship through thick and thin. Amy Ahlstrom, Katie Flynn, Moira Hinderer, Cecilia Lucas, Sara Schnadt, Catherine Sky, Chloe Smolarski, and Jen Tilton are my girls on the coasts, and these righteous women also have my undying loyalty. The art, activ- ism, and scholarship that these women create give me hope for the world. On a minimal research budget, I know I could not have written this book without the hospitality of a number of friends and extended family members who housed me on the road, bought me meals, picked me up from airports, and otherwise contributed to both my survival and sanity on the road. My father Howard and stepmother Lois were especially gen- erous with both schlepping and hospitality while I was in the New York metropolitan area. Rebecca Bachman, Lynea Diaz Hagen, Federico Hew- son, Todd Krichmar, Lori Macintosh, Joe Milutis, Roman and Mae Mars, Naomi Schrag, and Laura and Josh Wolf- Powers all contributed to my life in general and on the road in various ways. Thank you! I am grateful to my family for so many things. My patient and funny father, Howard Heitner, has been supportive since forever. My mother, Cindy Heitner, never knew I would take this path, but my determination to see it through was certainly inspired by her tenacity and strength. My sister Sarah’s sense of humor about all that our family has been through and her faith in me are gifts that I am deeply grateful for. My father’s wife Lois, and her sons Glenn and Seth have added so much to my life in re - cent years. My cousin Ethan Heitner’s art and activism always challenges me to do my work and live right, and his love and support have been more helpful than he knows. My cousin Jessica Shternshus’s supportive encour- agement is much appreciated. My partner Dan Weissmann became part of my life as I was sowing the seeds for this project. His incredible family soon followed. Dan’s mother, Lenore Weissmann, a fellow PhD, has been exceedingly encouraging, always ready to celebrate the next achievement with champagne, and to proofread over chocolate. I wish to offer my deep - est thanks to Dan, who knows a thing or two about activism and media. He also is very knowledgeable about commitment, love, laughter, and the sweat of a long project. His exacting journalist’s ear for story kept my chap-

ters crisp and his consistent faith in me, excitement about this work, and sense of humor boosted my spirits as I completed this project. Our son, Harold, who joined our family during the book- writing years, has also been a source of inspiration and motivation as his faith in the world re - minds me why I was so passionate about social justice in the first place.

r e V er B eraTions    o F The k ing  a ssassinaTion


“Everyone was expecting a truly violent racial outburst,” recalled Ver- non Jarrett, a prominent African American journalist working in Chicago, thinking back to April 4, 1968, the day Martin Luther King Jr. was assassi- nated. Indeed, racial unrest had been steadily mounting throughout the de- cade, and the previous three years had been marked by uprisings in Watts, in 1965, and Newark and Detroit, in 1967. Even as racial discord increased and King’s positions on the war in Vietnam and other issues became more controversial, for many Blacks and whites he continued to be a preemi- nent national symbol of the hope for racial harmony. High-profile assassi- nations, controversy over the Vietnam War, and a tremendous divide be - tween races had left the country riven, and many Americans apprehensive about the future. Many feared that the possibility for racial consensus was irrevocably lost after King’s murder. Across the urban United States, local government officials and white business and property owners alike feared another, even larger uprising by African American residents; Washington, D.C., Newark, and many other cities erupted with riots when King’s death was announced. Local television stations around the country offered ex- tensive footage of King’s funeral. The funeral broadcast on wl S - Chicago attracted a large- enough audience that the station decided to initiate a Black television program, For Blacks Only. Of course, the assassination and funeral were major news stories, but my research points to the telling im- plication that another goal of the significant airtime given to the funeral was to induce African Americans to stay in their homes, in front of their

television sets, as fears of riots mounted. Many cities did experience in- tense violence; in Chicago alone, eleven were killed and hundreds injured. Events parallel to those in Chicago catalyzed into existence television pro - grams focusing on local, Black public affairs in cities across the United States. Ironically, a major genre of Black critical expression emerged, in part from these too- little, too- late attempts at containment. For Blacks Only ’s genesis in the wake of the King assassination illustrates how this crisis and the increasing visibility of long- standing racial tensions opened up a new space for Black television representation. In Chicago, wl S sought out an African American host for the new show, which im- mediately marked it as different from the rest of television fare. How - ever, because of overwhelming racism within the industry, very few Afri- can Americans worked in television. The station instead looked to radio, which offered a slightly larger pool of Black talent in its ranks, and hired the local radio personality Holmes “Daddy- O” Daylie as the host. The sta- tion offered Daylie a program focused on Black issues. Daylie accepted the station’s proposal on the condition that he would have a Black pro - ducer. He suggested the influential print journalist Vernon Jarrett for the producer position, and Jarrett enthusiastically joined the project. Coming from years at the Chicago Daily Defender as well as the Chicago Tribune , Jar- rett brought with him a deep knowledge of Chicago’s African American community and a strong connection to a tradition of advocacy journal- ism. The station’s acceptance of Daylie’s demand shows how the social un- rest of the period put Black staff members in a powerful position. Instead of meekly accepting what they were offered, staff members at many new Black programs immediately negotiated for editorial control, making these new television programs into influential sources for Black points of view.

Black Public- Affairs Television:

Televising Black Public Spheres

Jarrett and Daylie shaped For Blacks Only into a program that injected criti- cal Black perspectives into an overwhelmingly white televisual context, creating a Black public sphere in an unlikely space. For Blacks Only and similar programs employed what the communication scholar Catherine Squires has called a “counterpublic strategy” of engaging “wider publics,” in this case any Chicago resident with a television and counterhegemonic ideas.1 According to Squires, a marginalized public could employ enclave, satellite, or counterpublic strategies, depending on external pressures and

available resources—a marginalized public may need to employ an en- clave strategy of “hiding counterhegemonic ideas and strategies in order to survive or avoid sanctions, while internally producing lively debate and planning.” 2 Under more flexible circumstances, a group might employ a counterpublic strategy of debating with wider publics through legal means, media critiques, or protest techniques. A third strategy, that of a satellite public, “seeks separation from other publics for reasons other than op - pressive relations but is involved in wider public discourses occasionally.” 3 Black public- affairs programs were a hybrid of enclave and counterpublic strategies. Programs like For Blacks Only spoke to Black audiences with in- sider references, intentionally addressing African Americans in ways that others were unlikely to understand, about issues that most whites knew little about. While the widespread distribution of the program precluded the possibility of what Squires terms an “enclave strategy” of speaking exclusively to Black audiences to avoid repression and reprisal, the pro - gram employed code switching in order to gain some of the advantages of an enclave strategy, in a widely accessible public medium. Yet their pri- mary strategy was a counterpublic strategy—while For Blacks Only ’s title and content emphasized their focus on Black audiences, the program was distributed in a medium that by 1968 entered almost every home, giving whites and other audiences a window into African American perspectives. By privileging Black audiences and letting other viewers work to keep up, For Blacks Only reversed television’s tendency to address white audi- ences to the exclusion of others. Defining a space as “for Blacks only” in the overwhelmingly white hierarchy of television turned the tables from the Jim Crow legacy of “whites only” public facilities and declared a tri- umphant separation by choice: a Black space. For Blacks Only covered both hard news and cultural news, consistently offering alternative perspectives on issues such as police brutality, gangs, Black student activism, school desegregation, and price gouging, as well as featuring artists, writers, and musical performances.4 While a handful of “specials” on Black history and culture had aired on both commercial and public television earlier in the decade, they had avoided controversial topics like police brutality that be - came central issues on programs like For Blacks Only. Around the country, other station managers almost simultaneously re - sponded to the same events that catalyzed For Blacks Only, by hiring a small but unprecedented number of African Americans to start similar programs. Black public- affairs programs emerged in large cities, such as San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Milwaukee, Atlanta, Hous-

ton, and Detroit, as well as in smaller cities, such as Syracuse, New York; Omaha, Nebraska; and Columbia, South Carolina. These programs had bold names that anchored them to local and national communities and to Black liberation movements. Black culture and politics were documented and racism sharply critiqued on New York’s Inside Bedford- Stuyvesant, Posi- tively Black , and Like It Is ; Boston’s Say Brother; Los Angeles’s From the Inside Out ; Pittsburgh’s Black Chronicle ; Philadelphia’s New Mood, New Breed ; Detroit’s Colored People’s Time and Profiles in Black ; San Francisco’s Vibrations for a New People and Black Dignity; Cincinnati’s Right On! ; Omaha’s Kaleidoscope ; South Carolina’s For the People ; and Atlanta’s Ebony Journal , as well as on national programs such as Black Journal and Soul! Black Power tv tells the story of the emergence of these programs and considers their intervention in both Black liberation history and television history, through case studies of four very different Black public- affairs pro- grams: the local shows Say Brother and Inside Bedford- Stuyvesant, and the national shows Soul! and Black Journal . In this book I examine the content, aesthetics, and production culture of these four programs, and I critique each program’s distinct approach, while considering the collective inten- tions and impact of this emerging genre. These programs created a space for publicizing internal debate in Black communities, negotiating between a lively mix of strategies proposed by Black leaders during the Black Power era, from about 1965 through the early 1970s, including armed revolution, electoral participation, economic self-help, cultural nationalism, com- munity policing, affirmative action, collective agriculture, separatism, and other strategies. Programs like Black Journal , Soul!, Inside Bedford- Stuyvesant, and Say Brother made these multiple strategies for Black libera- tion visible and comprehensible to an ever- widening audience, both Black and non- Black. By offering documentaries on figures in Black history, and by exploring Black culture and art, these shows claimed that history and culture are constitutive of Black humanity and achievement. By televising performances, Black public- affairs programs also made avant- garde arts performances from the Black Arts Movement available to a wide range of viewers, many of whom would not otherwise have access to this type of art. Programs like Say Brother, Black Journal , Inside Bedford- Stuyvesant, and Soul! offered a sharp contrast to mainstream television programming, which marginalized, maligned, or ignored African American communi- ties and pathologized Black cultures and Black families, answering the de - sires African American spectators felt for a chance to see themselves and their communities represented on television. Extending their impact still

further, these programs served as a training ground for a new generation of African American producers, journalists, and technicians that has con- tinued to redefine the industry long after the majority of Black public- affairs programs have ceased production. The aesthetic of these new programs represented a striking deviation from television that audiences were familiar with, highlighting the shift to a more politicized Black aesthetic. The set design immediately commu- nicated to viewers that these programs framed their stories from a Black perspective, as conventional news had not. Consider, for example, the striking image of Lou House, the host of Black Journal , the first national Black public- affairs program, making a Black Power salute and greeting the viewer in Swahili, on a red, black, and green set with images of Black com- munities projected in black and white behind him. Through both hosts and guests, these shows inserted new Black aesthetics and fashion into an over- whelmingly white television landscape. While the few African Americans on news and entertainment television in the 1960s had conventional self- presentations, the afros, dashikis, and jewelry of hosts and guests on Black public- affairs TV redefined acceptable TV fashion. Julia, from the NB c sit- com of the same name, certainly did not have an afro, and the newscaster Melba Tolliver was almost fired from her news- reporting job for wearing an afro, though overwhelming viewer support swayed the station in her favor. In this era, the personal image was political and the “politicization of hair” and bodies and clothing became an important site to assert Black identity and pride.5 Elombe Brath, a fifty- year veteran of Black media, de - scribes the psychic transformation of this era: “The whole Black thing just exploded—the state structure was very resentful of Black people daring to say that ‘black is beautiful,’ we’re not going to try to imitate white people anymore. They took it as an offense.” 6 Embodying the “new Black aes- thetic” came to signify a kind of currency on these programs.7

Challenging Jim Crow TV

Television was ripe for change. Most African Americans, and even some whites in the TV industry, echoed Jarrett’s sentiment that “something needed to be done about television, which was so Jim Crow it wasn’t even funny.” 8 The Kerner Commission, assigned to investigate the causes of the uprisings of the mid-1960s, focused a significant portion of its critique on the exclusion from U.S. media of African American perspectives on the “civil disorders.” The report argued that the media had exacerbated the

riots by sensationalizing them and ignoring their root causes. The report made headlines all over the country, many quoting the line “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.” 9 The paperback version of the report sold over two million copies. Few African Americans were surprised by the report’s findings. “The Kerner report actually dramatized what we had been saying about these two soci- eties,” said Elombe Brath.10 It addressed the kinds of issues that would become central to programs like For Blacks Only and Detroit’s Colored People’s Time, such as police brutality, housing discrimination, inadequate access to jobs and housing, and persistent school segregation. The Kerner report criticized media outlets for sending poorly prepared reporters into riots and castigated television stations and newspapers for reporting and writing “from the standpoint of a white man’s world,” ignoring the “slights and indignities that are part of a Negro’s daily life”—a perspective that might have helped viewers outside Black communities to contextualize the uprisings.11 Despite the report’s recommendations that newspapers and broadcasters hire Black journalists, most media organizations continued on as they had before, doing little to recruit, train, or promote people of color—indeed, African Americans were actively excluded from many media professions. But a few media outlets began to provide token Black media representation in response to the report’s criticism of media organi- zations. The pressure of years of uprisings and the wave of fear and remorse following King’s assassination finally prompted some media executives to return to the findings of the Kerner report and begin to act on some of its recommendations. Today, while images of African Americans on television are still too in- frequent and too often stereotyped, it can be difficult to remember how absent African Americans were from the screen and how keenly that void created a hunger for more and better representation. African Americans were so absent that in the late 1950s Jet Magazine began to publish list- ings of every African American appearance on TV . On the relatively rare occasions that Blacks appeared onscreen, African American families and friends gathered around their sets to partake in the pleasures of represen- tation. The increasing visibility of the civil rights movement influenced programs like Julia (1968–71) and I Spy (1965–68), which tried to dem- onstrate the liberal intentions of their producers by featuring Black pro - tagonists. These programs emphasized African American equality and es- chewed the stereotypes that were the hallmark of earlier shows like Amos ’n’ Andy. This program, evolved from a radio show by the same name, was

performed by white actors using “negro dialect” and trafficked in stereo - types inherited from minstrel shows. Both the radio broadcast and later the television program had been targeted for protest by the NAAc P , and the television show stopped production in 1953 (though it was syndicated until 1966). Despite the progress represented by including Black char - acters, the prime- time entertainment images of African Americans that emerged in the late 1960s promoted a fantasy of unrealized social gains. While Julia and I Spy showed accomplished, middle- class Black charac - ters and avoided stereotypes, they also minimized racism at a time when the United States was at a boiling point of racial tension. By turning a dial, viewers could move from violent racial uprisings to a world where Black characters encountered no discrimination. Indeed, programs like Julia offered white viewers the attractive illusion that America’s race problems had been solved. Established public- affairs television programs of the 1960s, such as NB c ’s Meet the Press (1947 to present) did not pretend the race problem had been solved, yet their emphasis on government officials as the pre - dominant source for perspectives on race and other social issues predis- posed them to hegemonic points of view. Programs such as AB c ’s Issues and Answers (1960–81) and Meet the Press defined the genre of public af- fairs by featuring journalists’ interviewing carefully selected policy-makers and analysts, mostly government officials. This emphasis on the expertise of people in power meant an overwhelming exclusion of Black points of view from mainstream public- affairs broadcasting. Civil rights leaders such as Bayard Rustin and Martin Luther King Jr. were occasionally fea- tured, but neither Black Power–oriented leaders nor ordinary Black citi- zens were featured. One exception to the exclusion of more radical Black perspectives was a 1966 episode of Meet the Press that featured Stokely Car- michael, along with Roy Wilkins, Martin Luther King Jr., and other civil rights leaders who held differing points of view about the aims and tactics of the movement.12 While the questions from the hosts seemed designed to provoke disagreements between these men, they refused to engage in a public showdown. Instead, they held an in- depth discussion of a range of Black liberation strategies. This kind of coverage was exceptional; con- troversial figures like Carmichael rarely got to speak on television, and when they did, they were often edited down to incendiary sound bites cal- culated to frighten white viewers.13 In contrast to programs like Face the Nation and Meet the Press, or public TV ’s national public- affairs program, net Journal , Black public- affairs programs consciously rethought main-

stream television’s tendency to insist that expertise emanates solely from those in power. Though Wilkins, King, and Carmichael could engage on Meet the Press, on most American print and broadcast media the turn to Black Power strategies in the mid- 1960s was accompanied by a decline in sympathetic coverage of Black political organizing and community activism. During the height of the African American civil rights movement (1945–65), move - ment leaders and activists utilized media to advance the cause of Black lib- eration. Movement strategists like Bayard Rustin and Dr. King were savvy in their deployment of mass media. In return, journalists and news organi- zations understood that the movement created compelling TV . This mutu- ally beneficial relationship raised the profile of the movement while boost- ing the popularity of television news. Because of this mutual relationship, the spectacular aspects of the Black liberation movements of the twentieth century dominate our popular consciousness: sit- ins, activist confronta- tions with police, and the large marches. In the Black Power years (roughly 1965–74), activists used new strategies to continue to harness the power of the spectacular, but the Black Power movement’s tactics and narratives did not appeal to white identification. Instead, white audiences responded with fear to images of Black Power, as viscerally as some had responded with outrage to televised images of families being attacked by dogs and fire hoses. The performative aspects of the Black Panther Party harnessed media attention, but usually not sympathetic coverage or reception. In Framing the Black Panthers, the author Jane Rhodes argues that the Black Panthers exploited the press, while Michael Staub, a scholar of American culture, argues that the press- induced “moral panic” about the Panthers was part of what forced so many of them underground, weakening their efficacy.14 For Black Power activists who sought societal transformation from the grassroots to the government, notoriety, fame, and visibility was both a strength and vulnerability. Black public- affairs television reframed the work of the Black Panthers and other radical Black activists, offering some of the first in- depth and sympathetic television coverage they re - ceived. While the insensitive and surface- oriented news media coverage of inner- city life was criticized by the Kerner Commission, the riots them- selves offered television stations a significant but troubling motivation to challenge the television industry’s overwhelmingly white composition. During periods of intense upheaval, urban stations hastily hired a few Black journalists to provide firsthand riot coverage. Stations sent them,

with little or no training, into Black communities to document events that white journalists were afraid to cover. One such journalist, originally as- signed to report on rioting in Newark, New Jersey, in 1967, was Gil Noble. Noble later became the host and producer of Like It Is, one of the longest- running Black public- affairs programs, on New York City’s Channel 7, an AB c affiliate, which ran continuously until Noble was incapacitated by a stroke in 2011. Noble’s story demonstrates how the uprisings in this era had an unintended effect of fostering the first small cohort of African Ameri- can journalists in television, and how politicizing it was to commence a media career under such war- like conditions.15

Talking Back to Television: Media Activism in the Civil Rights Years and Beyond

A climate of media activism brought about institutional and financial sup - port that was crucial to facilitating the transformation of Black public- affairs television from the token window dressing it was to the substan- tive challenge to the status quo that it quickly became. As scholars such as Steven Classen, Kathryn Montgomery, Chon Noriega, Heather Hender- shot, and Aniko Bodroghkozy have noted, the 1960s and 1970s were an un- precedented era for television activism.16 Their detailed accounts of these struggles help us understand the power of pressure groups and the mix of regulatory and social pressures put to bear on the television industry. For example, Noriega recounts how Chicano activists collaborated to get the racist caricature Frito Bandito banished from television, and how they agitated for new kinds of Chicano representations in both entertainment and news television. Most of all, these scholars show us in great detail that the public space opened by television in this era was a resource that many groups felt was worth fighting for. An emerging sense that representation was a right, not a privilege, structured media activism in this era, and one liberal fcc commissioner even encouraged citizens to take ownership of the airwaves with the hand- book How to Talk Back to Your Television Set .17 In the previous decade, activists involved in civil rights struggles agitated for regulatory and fis- cal structural change in television. While broadcast regulation, especially the so- called fairness doctrine, theoretically obligated television stations to represent diverse social and political perspectives, the reality was that, except for a few exceptional cases, stations were never penalized for their routine exclusions of Black people and perspectives. The “fairness doc -

trine” was a media communication policy that required opposing views to be aired when controversial subjects were covered. Introduced by the fcc in 1949, the doctrine was never consistently enforced, but it was used both by broadcast activists and others to support demands that media cover dif- ferent perspectives. In 1987, in a wave of other serious erosions of media regulation, the doctrine was eliminated. Despite the fairness doctrine, in the Black Power era, as before, Black voices were marginalized, if they were included at all, even on public- affairs broadcasting. Black media activists coupled demands for access to the airwaves with critiques of entrenched racism and the racist exclusion of Black media workers. Television regu- lation itself was secondary to activism in creating and sustaining these programs, though staff members at Black public- affairs programs assidu- ously cultivated their relationships with the more sympathetic and pro - gressive regulators, such as the first African American fcc commissioner, Benjamin Hooks. A few southern stations, especially the pro- segregation wl BT , in Jack- son, Mississippi, were notorious for “blacking out” national civil rights coverage in the 1950s. The activists clandestinely documented these exclu- sions and the “technical difficulties” that would interrupt national news coverage of the movement, and activists documented other tactics em- ployed to keep the airwaves white. Activists in Mississippi labored clan- destinely under threat of violence. Indeed, the civil rights activist Medgar Evers was killed shortly after his first and only local television appearance, indicating the high stakes of visibility.18 Despite this targeting of activists, and the loss within their first license- challenge case, the activists pressed on, and wl BT finally lost its license in a higher court. The wl BT case em- powered other media activists to challenge broadcast licenses, a threat sta- tions took seriously despite its infrequent realization. Activists’ response to the censorship of programs such as Black Journal culminated with Ala- bama e TV losing its broadcast license. While these cases were exceptional, and few stations were actually cen- sured to this degree, the fact that both a commercial and an educational station lost their licenses because of racist programming policies sent a powerful message to other stations. While the riots, the Kerner Commis- sion’s report, and the King assassination were the catalysts for the prolif- eration of TV programs with a Black perspective, television activism pres- sured stations to continue to expand the Black public- affairs programming that had begun in the summer after King’s assassination. Groups like Black Efforts for Soul in Television (B e ST ) trained citizen groups around the

country on tactics for pressuring their local stations.19 Yet, even with asser- tive citizens pressuring stations, victories such as Alabama e TV and wl BT were exceptional. The ownership structure of television made speaking with a Black voice in the medium more challenging than it was in the Black press, where African Americans had greater control of the means of pro- duction. Along with the fears produced by the riots, broadcast activism kept some Black programs on the air longer than they would otherwise have survived. Activism by the staff members of new programs was also central to keeping the programs on the air while keeping censorship at bay. The contradictions between the desire to contain Black bodies and the desire to air Black voices became very apparent as these programs pre - miered, grew, and found eager audiences. These contradictions betrayed broadcasters’ ambivalence toward television’s role in ameliorating racial inequality and social discord. On one hand, television seemed to offer a perfect, nonviolent outlet for Black discontent, and even provided a way to contain Black audiences by keeping them at home. But coupled with the attraction local officials and station managers had toward giving Blacks a place to let off steam without rioting, television producers and executives were also fiercely protective of the public influence that television wielded. Reflecting this ambivalence, they offered minimal resources to these new programs and chose to air them at off- peak times, when fewer viewers would see them. Despite a “positive investment” in the whiteness of tele - vision, by 1968, social pressure was so great that these “safety valves” for Black expression seemed necessary.20

Black Power Televised

Speaking at a conference on media and cities, in May 1968, one month after the King assassination, the historian Lerone Bennett declared that “divided publics and divided communities” were “a fundamental fact of life and of communications in America.” This implied, he argued, “that white- oriented media cannot solve the race problem in America” because they were “part of the race problem: they reflect the interests, values, and aspirations of white people.” 21 The message that the media was transmit- ting, Bennett said, was “that white is right.” “Let us begin there,” he con- cluded, “and let us realize that the black rebellion is a rejection of that message and of media institutions which project that message.” 22 Bennett describes a psychic and political transformation in African American re - lationships to mass culture, a rejection of mainstream culture for having

done so little to integrate Black people or Black perspectives. Despite the legal victories of the civil rights movement, white supremacist thinking continued to dominate mass culture, from prime- time entertainment to news programming. The phrase “Black Power” meant different things to different individu- als and organizations. For some, it meant political power through militant struggle and potentially through armed conflict; for others, it meant re - organizing and separatist politics. Others engaged the electoral system, leading to the election of a wave of Black mayors in U.S. cities during the 1970s, to new, Black elected officials in Washington, and to a presidential run for Shirley Chisholm. Charles Hamilton and Kwame Ture wrote in their manifesto, Black Power: The Politics of Liberation , that they were call- ing for a “new consciousness among black people,” which they defined as a “sense of peoplehood: pride, rather than shame, in Blackness and in an attitude of brotherly communal responsibility among all black people for one another.” 23 Black Power also fostered new cultural and aesthetic asser- tions. James Smethurst, a scholar of African American literature, argues that rather than seeing Black arts as the “cultural wing of Black Power,” one could see Black Power as “the political wing of Black arts.” 24 Inclu- sively defining Black Power as the aim of all the groups that struggled for Black self- determination, Smethurst identifies culture as a central facet of the Black liberation struggle in this period. Embodying and promoting the cultural and political expression of Black Power centrally occupied programs like Soul! and Say Brother. Sensitive to the controversial nature of the phrase, stations generally avoided using “Black Power” to promote new Black programs, yet hosts like Don Warden, of Vibrations for a New People , and guests whose names were closely associated with the Black Power movement—such as Julius Lester, author of Look Out Whitey, Black Power’s Gonna Get Your Mama , and Kathleen Cleaver, of the Black Panther Party—spoke on many of the Black public- affairs shows. In addition to offering a space to advance new Black Power ideologies, Black public- affairs programs also offered a space for articulating rhetorical self- defense against discourses and theories culled from “ghetto ethnogra- phy,” which were influential in academic and policy discourse of the time. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s infamous report The Negro Family: The Case for National Action (1965) blamed many of the challenges Black people ex- perienced on controlling Black mothers and absent Black fathers, instead of on pervasive racism.25 Designations such as the “culture of poverty” thesis had a significant influence over policy-making in this era, affecting

approaches to media funding and media regulation.26 Defending them- selves against the racist and sexist Moynihan report, Black feminists such as Angela Davis defended Black women from the “illegitimacy, crime and delinquency” that the report implied.27 Black public- affairs programs like Inside Bedford- Stuyvesant frequently showed alternatives to the Black family imagined by Moynihan, by featuring well- behaved children, bright and ambitious teenagers, caring parents, and beautiful public spaces. On Soul! Black women and men challenged the insult to their families and mental health directly in interviews, poems, and songs. Simply having a Black host on a public- affairs program was transforma- tive, both for the station to mark the program as Black and for audiences and guests who found this to be an important intervention. Discussing how guests spoke more openly with a Black interviewer than they would or could with a white interviewer, Jim Tilmon, host of Chicago’s Our People , describes the way Black activists felt comfortable on his show and per- formed differently than they did on mainstream television: “Many such people have never been interviewed by a Black man on the air before. You can end up with a totally different conversation than they usually give. I

know because I’ve done it—they don’t talk to me the way they’d talk with a white interviewer.” A reviewer from Variety describes an episode in which Tilmon brought on a Black student leader from Northwestern University during a major student uprising there. “Largely portrayed in the local press as some sort of terrorist, the student gave a cool and insightful statement of what he thought the relationship between the school and the black stu-

dents should

be. . . .

It’s the sort of dialog too often lacking on the sub -

ject.” 28 The article shows how the leader’s role was repositioned by Our

People, which did not edit Black guests and situations down to incendiary sound bites, as so often happened on mainstream news in that era.

Picturing a Black World, Authorizing Black Expertise

Productions like New York’s Inside Bedford- Stuyvesant and Boston’s Say Brother may have originated from a desire to contain Black discontent, but they were reenvisioned by their African American producers—often through intense struggles with station managers or white executive pro- ducers—as venues for expressing Black critique of mainstream discourse, disseminating Black culture, and modeling Black empowerment. These programs rhetorically and visually constructed their own visions of local African American communities, bringing unprecedented visibility to com-

munities such as Bedford- Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. These local programs highlighted the specificity and achievements of each community, and while they shared characteristics, each show’s philosophical, pedagogical, and aesthetic direction was influenced by its location and the individuals who created it. At the national level, Black Journal and Soul! allowed for the imagin- ing of a Black nation and a distinctly African American consciousness. National Black programs represented and facilitated different aspects of what the historian Adam Green calls “a Black world,” produced by “collec - tive interest—and politics.” 29 Green argues that national Black magazines like Ebony built the psychic idea of the Black world, reinforcing the idea that Black national media coalesced the Black nation, challenging Afri- can Americans to move past regional affiliations to consider themselves part of a Black nation. Expanding on the notion of imagined communities, advanced by the social theorist Benedict Anderson, Green theorizes that in the case of Black media, collective interests of that community can be recognized and actualized when the community is successfully imagined. Furthermore, electronic media have some advantages over print media in nurturing a sense of community, because of the sense of shared time and space they imply. In addition to the Black press, a long history of Afri- can American participation in and activism around access to radio was an important precursor to television programs like Black Journal and For Blacks Only.30 Black- themed radio programming, such as Chicago’s Desti- nation Freedom, inserted an assertive Black view into the airwaves during the “Double V for Victory” campaign during the Second World War, when civil rights leaders called for victory against fascism abroad and victory against racism at home. In the 1960s and 1970s African American activists and leaders were far from monolithic in their ideological approaches and tactics. Television shows such as Say Brother and Black Journal remind us that there was a serious effort to engage across the Black political spectrum. As the poet

Nikki Giovanni said of the diversity of Black political and artistic voices that were invited to appear on Soul! : “It also allowed the opposite to come in. So you had everybody. You had Roger Wilkins on the show. People that you would disagree with fundamentally. That’s not the point. The point is

that you are a service

vehicle. . . .

You bring all voices in.” 31 For example,

Louis Farrakhan and a gay television host bantered on Soul! , and older

civil rights leaders engaged with younger activists on Say Brother. These

television programs created both local and national “Black public squares” on the air. Speaking from a present- day context, staff members recall with some nostalgia how societal upheaval brought about a cultural moment in which Black authority was urgently sought after and in which Black staff mem- bers could speak their minds. Recalling their experiences at Black Journal and Say Brother, staff members recount that white colleagues at their pro-

ducing organizations seemed a bit frightened of them. “I think at some

level there was a sense that

these people can get militant if you will—

. . . not violent but militant,” recollected Angela Fontanez of her time at Black Journal .32 Stan Lathan, a veteran of numerous Black programs, recalled his time at Boston’s Say Brother: “We had absolute freedom for the first year; I think there was a tolerance that came about because at that time we were able to say ‘You don’t get it because you’re not Black.’ These supposedly ultraliberal broadcasters allowed us to do our thing.” 33 The workplace culture of these programs and stations profoundly shaped the content and impact of each program. For a generation of Afri- can American media workers, the lived experience of being Black and the cultural literacy in Black history and culture that they possessed became sought- after expertise. Black media workers were able to mobilize this cultural literacy at a time when it was suddenly valued. Stations valued Black phenotypes for riot coverage; they valued Black ontological and cultural authority for Black public- affairs programs. White colleagues at the producing organizations were sometimes intimidated, but they knew that African Americans were, after all, experts on Black perspectives and tended to give them a wide berth. This redefinition of expertise typifies the genre of Black public- affairs television, and differentiates it from programs like Meet the Press.

Funding Black Power TV

The funding climate of the late sixties explains how institutional resources coalesced to foster, for a time, a climate in which Black media makers could use the medium of television to circulate ideas that were critical of white corporate and political organizations, including the broadcast in- dustry itself. Programs like Black Journal , ibs , Say Brother, and Soul! were funded directly and indirectly by foundations and corporations. The Ford Foundation was especially involved in directly and indirectly funding the

television programs explored in this book, as well as many others. The project of televising Black perspectives united the two central priorities for the Ford Foundation in this era: civil rights and public television.34 From 1968 to 1974, under the direction of the outspoken McGeorge Bundy, the Ford Foundation spent $32 million on public television stations. Accord- ing to Bundy’s biographer, “Public television was Bundy’s creation.” 35 In fact, Bundy maintained that civil rights and public television were his two largest priorities. Defending his decision to work with Black nationalist and militant groups, Bundy said during the riots in 1967 that “the Ford Foundation [would] work with Negro leaders of good will and peaceful purpose without any anguished measurement of their position on the issue of a separated power of blackness as against the continuing claim to inte - gration,” a controversial position that set Bundy apart from most other whites in powerful philanthropic positions.36 The Ford Foundation was also a key funder of the urban- restoration corporations—nonprofit urban- development organizations that provided a myriad of services in central cities. While these corporations were criti- cized by some African Americans for their role in urban renewal, which dis- placed many African Americans, they also funded numerous initiatives in collaboration with Black community activists and Black business owners. The first restoration corporation, established in Bedford- Stuyvesant, be - came the sponsor of the television show Inside Bedford- Stuyvesant , which was intended to showcase the work of the restoration corporation— a savvy effort at public relations for the Ford Foundation, initially sug - gested by a restoration- corporation board member who owned a large ad- vertising firm. While the program transcended this initial intention, the flow of funding that created both the restoration corporation and its tele - vision program demonstrates how Black public- affairs TV was a kind of apex of the Ford Foundation’s (that is, Bundy’s) priorities. The question of whether to take “white money” from foundations was complex for Black organizations. In her critique White Money/Black Power, Noliwe Rooks points to some of the hazards and compromises that arose when African American Studies departments and Black activist groups accepted funds from foundations like the Ford Foundation, which, in addition to play- ing a key role in seeding African American Studies departments, played a significant role in the early years of public television.37 Ford funds were essential to the emergence and survival of shows like Black Journal and Soul! and their local counterparts. Staff members’ ambivalence about this situation, and their awareness of the vulnerability it caused, is reflected,

especially on Black Journal , in self- reflexive documentary segments that interrogate Black roles in powerful, white- dominated institutions. These new Black television programs had what the media scholar Chon Noriega calls a “highly contingent practice within the nation state.” 38 Despite this contingency, staff members could and did choose to bite the hand that fed them, by challenging station hegemony, criticizing corporate funders and government officials, and generally inserting a Black rebellion into the belly of white media. This book considers Black public- affairs programs as an intervention in television representation and a site for contesting the very meanings and logics of both race and television apparatus. Arguing that television has a central place in our understanding of the meaning of race in America, the author Herman Gray conceives of television as “a dense site or a place of struggle over the symbolic meanings and uses of Blackness in the produc - tion of the nation that admittedly gives television a central role in cultural politics.” 39 Building on recent scholarship about Black television represen- tations that focuses on specific texts, this book engages the intersections of texts, performances, production politics, and reception.40 This work con- siders how a diverse array of Black public- affairs programs intervened in both the history of television and in the project of rearticulating racial for- mations that occurred in the Black Power era.

Locating Hidden Archives: Erased Tapes, Oral Histories

The history of Black public- affairs television highlights how regulatory, activist, and textual histories are inextricably linked. No single book could represent the entire spectrum of the dozens of Black public- affairs pro - grams from this era. The case studies of the four diverse programs included in this book illuminate the range of politics, production values, and aes- thetics that these programs enacted. To address this multifaceted history, my research included scripts, press releases, photos, oral histories, news media articles written about the programs, and of course the content of the programs themselves. To begin my investigation, I searched local tele - vision listings and identified Black programs through their often unmis- takable titles, locating tapes of these programs in public archives and per- sonal collections. As a media scholar interested in the visual language of television as well as the shows’ historical and labor contexts, I had to focus on programs that I could view myself. Analyzing a number of episodes of each program opened opportunities to consider the genre’s aesthetics and

to analyze the program’s changes over time. Unfortunately, because tele - vision stations viewed videotape as a renewable resource, episodes were often taped over rather than saved: most programs are archived sparsely or not at all, and even those archives that do survive are frequently in - complete. Some programs are available in archives today only because of unlikely rescues, like the discovery of many episodes of Inside Bedford- Stuyvesant by the program’s producers, twenty-five years after the program was canceled. Say Brother, produced by wg BH Boston, is a well- archived program, but a few highly controversial episodes have disappeared. Detroit’s Colored People’s Time is archived, but only later episodes survive. My decision to investigate Soul!, Black Journal , Inside Bedford- Stuyvesant, and Say Brother was based on the archival availability of at least fifteen epi- sodes of each of these programs from the late 1960s and early 1970s. The possibility of examining other programs from this time period, in this kind of depth, simply did not exist, though there are some rich archives from the 1980s of Colored People’s Time , for example.41 My insights about the genre as whole also draw from viewing and reading about other programs:

Like It Is, For the People, Our People, For Blacks Only, Colored People’s Time, Positively Black , and Black Perspective on the News. Examining local as well as national programs recuperates neglected Black audiences from invisibility and complicates the notion of Black viewers as a “minority,” since African American viewers made up signifi- cant portions of viewing audiences in many cities. Black viewers were often totally ignored by traditional ratings measures and marginalized by commercial television’s dependence on ratings systems that offered little incentive to appeal to specific groups. Local Black viewers’ immense re - sponse to Black public- affairs programs offered measurable evidence that Black audiences were far from complacent. Many were very invested in a transformed public image and the possibilities of speaking of Black art and Black liberation in the public space of television. Thus, for Black audi- ences, local television was of vital importance. Black viewers could and did march down to wg BH in Boston. They wrote to local programs with their suggestions and appeared on the programs themselves. This kind of access to producing organizations made it possible for Black views to have an im- pact on a medium that could seem very inaccessible to the home viewer. I found that locating media makers who worked on these programs was straightforward, as many are still working in the industry. Many were eager to share stories of an extremely rewarding and exciting time, despite the challenges they faced as pioneers in a medium that had been almost totally

closed to, and hostile toward, African Americans. Each of the producers explained details about the production process, including topic selection, hiring, and so forth, that would have been impossible to discern from studying the television programs alone. These discussions illuminated the behind- the- scenes struggles that shaped the broadcast content of the programs. In addition to interviewing African American staff members, a veritable who’s who of twentieth- century Black media artists, includ- ing St. Clair Bourne, Madeline Anderson, William Greaves, Charles Hob- son, Dighton Spooner, and Stan Lathan, I spoke with white producers like Christopher Lukas and Al Perlmutter. Jewelle Gomez, now a well- known writer and activist for gay and lesbian rights, spoke to me about her par- ticipation as a staff member in the early years of Say Brother, when she was eighteen to twenty years old, a part of her history that is not often noted. Jim Lowry is a prominent business leader and consultant, but had not frequently been interviewed about his work on Inside Bedford- Stuyvesant. The poet Nikki Giovanni and the actress Anna Horsford shared details of working with Ellis Haizlip on Soul!, details that helped me to understand the program’s internal culture. Some individuals, like Elombe Brath, who advised Gil Noble at Like It Is and continues to work in radio, have worn so many hats in both Black liberation groups and media work that it is dif- ficult to place him in a particular category. Individuals like Marion Watson and Kent Garrett have had long careers in news reporting, after working on these programs. This combination of archival research with oral his - tory facilitates an understanding of the ways activists and media makers attempted to reframe Blackness in America in the years after 1968 by cre - ating a new public forum for addressing racial justice and by rebuilding television from the inside out. Of all of these programs, only Black Journal has received substantial scholarly attention. In her critique of public television, the media scholar Laurie Ouellette situates Black Journal and a few of the local Black pro - grams as part of public television’s contradictory grappling with civil rights in relation to its mission. Questioning the idea of public TV as inherently politically progressive, Ouellette explores the condescension toward Black audiences that predominated on employment- oriented programs like Job Man Caravan , in South Carolina, which proposed a solution to high un- employment in central cities by showcasing employment advertisements for mostly menial positions, interspersed with live musical performances. These condescending programs predated Black public- affairs programs by a matter of months. In Revolution Televised , the author Christine Acham

considers Black Journal in relation to mainstream network news and com- pares it to news programming in general, as well as to a special from 1965 on the Watts riots, which revealed the increasing paranoia and distance network news was expressing toward Black issues.42 Acham also considers how Black Journal relates to the changes to the Black image in entertain- ment television and the emerging Black images coming out of 227, Good Times, and Sanford and Son . The author Tommy Lee Lott sees Black Jour- nal , especially during the tenure of Executive Producer William Greaves, as part of the history of Black experimental documentary film.43 Indeed, Black filmmaking in this period did find important outlets on television, including on Black Journal .44 My own examination of Black Journal builds on all these perspectives: as the show being part of the history of public TV , as part of documentary film history, and as an intervention in Black television of the 1960s and 1970s. Rather than centering on Black Journal , I see the program as one of the better- known examples of a much wider movement.

Case Studies

In chapters 1 and 2, I discuss two local programs that emerged under dif- ferent circumstances. Brooklyn’s Inside Bedford- Stuyvesant had the lowest budget of any show addressed here and is the only program profiled here that aired on a commercial station. Chapter 1 focuses on it and it is the only program in this volume created prior to the King assassination. Inside Bedford- Stuyvesant was initiated by a community- development corpora- tion in the Bedford- Stuyvesant community in Brooklyn, New York, with the dual goal of showcasing the area’s attractive buildings and public spaces and of highlighting both the possibilities and challenges faced by the pre - dominantly Black community. “Welcome to Inside Bedford- Stuyvesant, Your Community Program!” outlines the history of the program, focusing on its unique relationship to the neighborhood. Inside Bedford- Stuyvesant asserted a counternarrative to “ghettoizing discourses” such as the Moyni- han report. On the program, the hosts themselves transform with the times, starting as members of the civil rights generation who have “made it.” As audiences watched Roxie Roker and Jim Lowry try on dashikis and afros, and seem to engage more and more with prevailing moods of Black Power over the course of the broadcast, they too could get accustomed to, and possibly engage with, new ideas in their communities. The program insisted that Bedford- Stuyvesant’s ghettoization was structural and that

the neighborhood was a community where culture was made and families were functional. Of the four programs considered here, this program was the most accessible for community members to appear on, with “regular people” who were not leaders or celebrities on the program every week, along with prominent artists, activists, and community leaders. Chapter 2 examines how wg BH Boston’s Say Brother represented Blackness on local public television, offering new possibilities for Black identity with its emphasis on resistance and cultural innovation, reports on self- defense in the face of police brutality, new approaches to celebrat- ing life- cycle rituals such as marriage, and coverage of Black women’s lib- eration. These performances demonstrated a range of possibilities for the self- determination of individuals and communities at a time when Afri- can Americans were reassessing their relationship with mainstream cul- tural and political practices. Say Brother documented this exploration with close attention, while mainstream media typically sensationalized, de - politicized, misunderstood, or ignored these emerging cultural practices. Say Brother ’s staff members modeled a progressive Black Power pedagogy for African American television viewers. The staff endeavored to portray Black Boston as it was, while striving to claim a revolutionary vision to which members of the community might aspire. Boston’s image as a di- verse and racially progressive community was challenged by the critiques of institutionalized racism keenly leveled by Say Brother ’s staff. This is one instance where a Black public- affairs show was not just catalyzed by a riot but eventually covered one, from a Black perspective. The chapter reviews history of their coverage and the subsequent censure they experienced. The program’s youthful hosts offer a perspective especially in line with Black Power activists, and the context of Boston, with its sense of itself as a racially liberal city, despite the reality of intense segregation, offers an important case study. This program was especially aesthetically daring as compared to many other local programs and had the advantage of coming out of one of the premier local educational stations, which had superior production resources compared to many of the other local public tele - vision stations. While the hosts of Inside Bedford- Stuyvesant were oriented to civil rights and initially focused on a strategy of uplift, Say Brother was hosted by a youthful staff sympathetic to the Black Power movement who seem to have made Black Power the default position of the program. The third and fourth chapters examine the Black world pictured through two national Black television programs, the newsmagazine- style Black Journal and the arts- focused Soul! By demanding Black editorial con-

trol and limiting white commentary on Black issues, Black Journal was able to represent a Black world that spoke to both Black and white viewers. By situating the topics it explored as common to Black people in many re - gions and nations, the program proposed that Black viewers should con- sider themselves part of an emerging Black world wherein Africa and the Black diaspora were vitally relevant. Chapter 3 examines how Black Journal evolved through several impor- tant transitions—the transition from premiering as the first national Black program, while still under white editorial control, to a very public strike by Black staff members, to the program’s emergence as an experimental docu- mentary newsmagazine under the African American filmmaker William Greaves. The program explores how it worked in its early years to imagine a national Black public that would transcend regional differences, while celebrating Black America’s diversity. The chapter explores the program’s focus on Africa and diaspora and the program’s considering of the ground- breaking step of opening a bureau in Ethiopia. While the chapter closes with an analysis of the program’s transition to Tony Brown’s leadership, in 1970, the program’s early years under Brown are addressed in the next chapter. Chapter 4 examines how Soul!, which took a cultural- nationalist per- spective toward Black arts and music, centered artists as experts on the Black condition and Black liberation. Deeply influenced by its host and producer, Ellis Haizlip, as well as several influential friends of the program, notably Nikki Giovanni, Soul! demonstrated the intersections of art and politics, especially Black arts and Black Power. The program’s aesthetic innovations, especially when produced by Stan Lathan, set it apart, both from other, mostly staid- looking PBS programs, and from television in general. Always filmed with an in- studio “live” audience, this program was like a salon for the Black Arts Movement. Soul! unabashedly posited musi- cians, actors, and poets as experts on the state of Black people, of Black liberation, and of the political and aesthetic contribution of new cultural forms to Black identity and to the world at large. In some sense the show transcends the genre of public affairs, but it is nonetheless part of the ex- plosion of Black cultural and political television programs in this era. The program is notable for surprisingly progressive gender politics, given the masculine approach of many Black Power organizations and the public sphere in the late sixties and early seventies. Soul! was a key location of Black feminist artwork and was also very progressive in its approach to dis- cussing sexuality. Soul! became a place to address Black women’s liberation

and to critique the “intersectional disempowerment” of Black women.45 In this chapter, I also compare Black Journal ’s approach to gender issues in 1970, under Tony Brown, with Soul! ’s treatment of gender issues and re - lationships between men and women. In the wake of the King assassination, station managers and program directors at both educational and commercial stations decided to set these new Black television programs in motion almost simultaneously, so that numerous staff members of different programs could honestly tell me that they had been the first Black public- affairs program. As pressures on Black liberation and progressive social movements mounted in the late seventies and the eighties, Black public- affairs programs declined. As Black Journal and Soul! were canceled, local programs were slowly defunded. The era of the proliferation of Black public affairs was over, but some stalwart pro - ducers continue with the genre even today. This book’s conclusion con- siders how these programs redefined what was possible for Black represen- tations in ways that continue to reverberate in television and other media.



Reverberations of the King Assassination

  • 1 Squires, “Black Audiences Past and Present,” 447–49.

  • 2 Catherine Squires nuances previous theories of the Black public sphere by pay- ing attention to the differential uses of strategies and tactics. Squires’s work builds on scholarly critiques of Jürgen Habermas’s iteration of a “public sphere,” which emphasize the formation of “marginalized counterpublics,” such as Nancy Fraser’s concept of “subaltern counterpublics.” Squires, “Rethinking the Black Public Sphere,” 446–68.

  • 3 Ibid.

  • 4 Eventually, Jarrett became the host as well. The station continued to broadcast For Blacks Only until the 1990s, under the name Face to Face with Vernon Jarrett . Vernon Jarrett, telephone interview with author, 2003.

  • 5 Craig, Ain’t I a Beauty Queen? 18.

  • 6 Elombe Brath, interview with author, July 12, 2005.

  • 7 Craig, Ain’t I a Beauty Queen? 73.

  • 8 Vernon Jarrett, interview.

  • 9 Kerner Commission, Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Dis - orders, 326.

  • 10 Elombe Brath, interview with author, August 4, 2005.

    • 11 Kerner Commission, Report , 366.

    • 12 Joseph, Waiting ’til the Midnight Hour, 156.

    • 13 For example, see the kqed - San Francisco news report from February 17, 1968, at the Oakland Auditorium, featuring excerpts from speeches by the Black Power activists H. Rap Brown and Stokely Carmichael.

    • 14 Rhodes, Framing the Panthers ; Staub, “Setting Up the Seventies.”


Steven Classen (Watching Jim Crow), Kathryn Montgomery (Target), Chon Noriega (Shot in America), Heather Hendershot (Saturday Morning Censors), and Aniko Bodroghkozy (Groove Tube) have all considered the impact of tele - vision activism.

  • 17 Nicholas Johnson, How to Talk Back to Your Television Set (Boston: Little, Brown, 1970).

  • 18 Classen, Watching Jim Crow, 3–4.

  • 19 Merrit, “A Historical Critical Study of a Pressure Group in Broadcasting.”

  • 20 Lott, “Documenting Social Issues,” 78; Lipsitz, Rainbow at Midnight , 2.

    • 21 Bennett, The Challenge of Blackness, 205.

    • 22 Ibid.

    • 23 Carmichael and Hamilton, Black Power, 6.

    • 24 Smethurst, The Black Arts Movement , 14.

    • 25 Kelley, Yo’ Mama’s Disfunktional! 21–35.

    • 26 “Culture of poverty” was a phrase coined by the anthropologist Oscar Lewis, in Ethnography La Vida; a Puerto Rican Family in the Culture of Poverty—San Juan

and New York (1966). Lewis believed that the poor were held back by “present time orientation, poor speech patterns, fatalism and resignation, and low aspi- rations” (Kelley, Yo’ Mama’s Disfunktional! 25–27). According to the sociologist Jill Quadagno, this type of research, along with the Moynihan report, which blamed the problems faced by African Americans on the “broken” and “matri- archal” Black family, were used by the U.S. government to argue that the state should be an agent of socialization, and that poor people were unfit for signifi- cant self- determination (Quadagno, The Color of Welfare , 35–36). In addition to addressing the Moynihan report’s significant and lasting influence on U.S. wel- fare policy-making, feminist critics have also critiqued the report’s influence on poets of the Black Arts Movement and some Black nationalists.

  • 27 Bensonsmith, “Jezebels, Matriarchs and Welfare Queens,” 262.

  • 28 Undated Variety clipping from the Peabody archives, but the Northwestern up - rising occurred in April 1968.

  • 29 Green, Selling the Race , 82.

  • 30 Brian Ward’s Radio and the Struggle for Civil Rights in the South demonstrates the complex relationships between civil rights activists, radio station owners, and listeners during the tumult of the civil rights movement. Barbara Savage’s Broadcasting Freedom: Radio, War, and the Politics of Race, 1938–1948 demon- strates that the history of African American involvement in and activism around the medium of radio is integral to twentieth- century Black liberation. More - over, Savage provides historical accounts of two local radio programs by African Americans that addressed political and social issues and criticized racism. These programs, New World a- Comin’ and Destination Freedom , were pioneering pre - cursors to the Black public- affairs television programs that I analyze here.

    • 31 Nikki Giovanni, interview with author, August 4, 2010.

    • 32 Angela Fontanez, interview with author, October 2004.


n otes to Introduct I on


Stan Lathan, telephone interview with author, April 2005.

  • 34 The Ford Foundation is a large, private foundation started in 1936 by Edsel Ford. The foundation funds economic development, human rights, and the arts. The foundation has been very involved with funding educational television and civil rights initiatives.

    • 35 Bird, The Color of Truth , 379.

    • 36 Ibid., 382.

    • 37 In addition to foundations, local utility companies chose to sponsor local pro- grams, while national corporations like Coca- Cola chose to sponsor both local and national Black programs.

    • 38 Noriega, Shot in America , 23.

    • 39 Gray, Watching Race , xiv.

  • 40 Herman Gray considers the Cosby Show, arguing that the popular, long-running situation comedy about a well- to- do Black family is emblematic of how Black- ness figures on network television. Focusing on the intersectionality of race and gender, Beretta Smith- Shomade places the representation of Black women in television on shows like Gimme a Break into a context of visual art, literature, and film, showing the still limited but complex ways that television constitutes race and gender. Christine Acham intervenes in the critical dismissal of situa- tion comedies that celebrate Black working- class life, such as Good Times. Aniko Bodroghkozy and Sasha Torres have begun the important work of interpret- ing how the civil rights movement represented itself on television, and Jennifer Fuller is raising important issues about how the civil rights movement is made the subject of nostalgia and mythologized by more recent films and television programs.

  • 41 Gil Noble, the producer of Like It Is, intuiting the historical significance of the program and recognizing the potential for the station to lose this legacy, ob - tained the rights to his own show. Like It Is is archived at a community college where Noble has taught. While I was working on the book, however, Noble re - moved many episodes from the archive, and the resulting uncertainty of whether episodes would remain available made it difficult to continue working on the program. Like It Is is especially notable for its global reach and Noble’s long and

    • wide- ranging interviews with figures such as Bob Marley and Maurice Bishop.

  • While the show was especially ambitious on global issues, the connection to global and diasporic issues and figures is a thread I picked up on in numerous

    other programs.

    • 42 Acham, Revolution Televised , 26.

    • 43 Lott, “Documenting Social Issues.”

    • 44 Cynthia Young engages all of these discourses in Soul Power: Culture, Radicalism, and the Making of a U.S. Third World Left . Young addresses how film, literature, and art traveled in the radical, diasporic, and interconnected world she terms the “Third World Left.” Cultural producers from this perspective included the Third World Newsreel, which created groundbreaking documentaries on prison

    n otes to Introduct I on


    issues, race rebellion, and gender, and the L.A. rebellion filmmakers, which in- cluded Julie Dash (Daughters of the Dust), Charles Burnett (Killer of Sheep), and Haile Gerima (Bush Mama). The crosscurrents from these makers and artists fed into Black public- affairs TV —sometimes directly—for example, a documentary on the Attica prison uprisings made by Third World Newsreel screened as an episode of Say Brother. Thus Black public- affairs shows made this work acces- sible to many interested viewers who might not have known about Third World Newsreel, or other media made within the context of radical politics and experi- mental aesthetics.

    • 45 Collins, Black Feminist Thought ; Crenshaw, “Whose Story Is It, Anyway?” 406.


    Welcome to Inside Bedford- Stuyvesant

    • 1 After the demise of the program, the community would not see a substantial mass- media representation again until Spike Lee created a cinematic portrait of it in his feature film from 1989, Do the Right Thing.

    • 2 The phrase “long hot summers” became synonymous with the urban uprisings of the 1960s. To get a sense of how this phrase was used in media accounts to de - scribe urban uprisings, see Powledge, “Civil Rights.”

    • 3 The c B cc was a diverse coalition of civic leaders, church leaders, block clubs, and other local leadership. This leadership was especially important because gerrymandering had effectively prevented Bedford- Stuyvesant from having elected Black leadership that was politically empowered to represent the neigh- borhood. The c B cc was active in Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. Its invita- tion to Kennedy should be seen in context: the practice of politicians touring neighborhoods in the 1960s was a way to bring attention to a certain area.

    • 4 “Thomas R. Jones, 93, Judge Who Agitated for Urban Revival,” New York Times, November 1, 2006.

    • 5 Kimberley Johnson, “Community Development Corporations, Participation, and Accountability: The Harlem Urban Development Corporation and the Bedford- Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 594 (July 2004): 16.

    • 6 Ibid.

    • 7 cdc Oral History Project, “Bedford- Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation (BS rc), Brooklyn, NY,” Pratt Center for Community Development, www.prattcenter .net/cdc- bsrc.php. For a fuller account of this history, tracing back to the 1930s, see Wilder, “Vulnerable Places, Undesirable People,” esp. 184–85. For a very criti- cal account of the Poverty Program, which argues that funds associated with the Poverty Program were misused in Brooklyn, see Thabit, How East New York Be - came a Ghetto. Thabit was a planner hired by the Lindsay administration in 1966 to work on urban renewal projects in East New York.

    • 8 Quadagno, The Color of Welfare , 31.

    • 9 Pratt website,

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