During Black History Month, we wanted to highlight radio pioneers in the African American community and provide a history of the birth of African-American radio in the U.S.

African-American radio began in Atlantain 1949.  Jesse B. Blayton, Sr. purchased the radio station WERD and housed the station in the same building on Auburn Avenue where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. held the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  WERD also helped launch the career of Jack “The Rapper” Gibson,America’s first Black radio jockey.

In another southern city, Baltimorein the 1950s found WBAL as the voice of the city.  Station jockey Chuck Richards invited Jocko Henderson to be on his radio show.  Within a few months, Jocko was off on his own, hosting radio shows up and down the East Coast, catering to African Americans. He became so popular in the 1970s, that he even hosted his own television show on WNTA and launched the magazine, Philly Talk. Later in his life, he worked to promote his “Get Ready” campaign which aimed to teach children math and history through records.

Similarly, in upstate New York, Frankie Crocker was getting his start in radio as flashy and seductive radio jockey at WUFO.  He then went on to host a show on WBLS in New York City where he coined the phrase “Sock it to me, Mama!” and was known for his suave ways.  He also went on to host shows at the Apollo Theater and became one of the first V.J.’s on VH-1, which eventually earned him a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In 1980, Dewey and Cathy Hughes purchased one of DC’s most popular radio stations, WOL.  Cathy Hughes had already proven success in the radio industry after launching “The Quiet Storm” on WHUR, Howard University’s Radio, as well as WYCB, a gospel station.  A few years later, Cathy Hughes went on to launch one of the most famed Black radio institutions in the United States – Radio One. Radio One is headquarted in Lanham, MD and is the largest broadcasting company targeting African-Americans.  Today, Cathy Hughes is known as the Mother of Urban Radio.

These radio pioneers have help shaped the face of both urban and mainstream radio today which continues the legacy of broadcast quality and service still found across the radio spectrum.

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