P.001. Southern Journalism: Media and the Movement

The Media and the Movement collection includes oral histories with founders and deejays at influential, independent, minority-owned and operated radio stations, and others involved in independent media after the 1960s. Interviews include journalists, producers, activists, and politicians, all discussing facets of this media era and ongoing activist work. Altogether, this collection comprises an aural snapshot of a moment in American history when budding activists were pushing the boundaries of what the legal successes of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s accomplished. These activists explored the legacies of the classical phase of the Civil Rights Movement by using the spoken word, music, art, storytelling, and journalism to continue to redefine the relationship between the powerful and the less powerful. WAFR-Durham, WRFG-Atlanta, and WVSP-Warrenton were three pioneering radio stations established by civil rights and Black Power activists in 1970s South in the wake of both the black freedom struggle, and expansion of federal support for non-commercial media. WAFR, which stood for Wave Africa, was founded in 1971 by African American activists Robert Spruill, Vincent Spruill, Obataiye Akinwole, Ralph Williams, and Donald Baker and became the nation’s first-ever non-commercial community-based, black-operated radio station. In 1973, the community broadcaster WRFG, or Radio Free Georgia, began broadcasting in Atlanta. Although founded by white civil rights and anti-war activists Harlon Joye and Barbara Joye, WRFG became one of the city’s few multiracial radical institutions. It quickly attracted black activists such as Tim Hayes, a founding member of the Atlanta chapter of the Black Panther Party, veterans of the Southern Nonviolent Coordinating Committee such as Fay Bellamy, and Black Arts luminaries such as Ebon Dooley. WVSP was founded in Warrenton in 1976 by Jim and Valeria Lee who, along with early program director Jereann King Johnson, had actively participated in Black Power organizations in the late 1960s and early 1970s. WSVP broadcast developed a multiracial staff. It ran for 10 years and was one of the nation’s premier rural radio stations during its time.

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