What Was the First African American Radio Station?

Throughout history, radio has played an important role in shaping society and disseminating information. In the United States, the development of radio broadcasting reflected the racial inequalities of the time. However, in the midst of segregation and discrimination, a groundbreaking milestone was reached with the establishment of the first African-American radio station. This article explores the history of WERD, America’s first black-owned radio station, its historical significance, and its impact on the African American community.

The Birth of WERD

In 1949, Atlanta University professor Jesse B. Blayton, Sr. purchased WERD, making it the first African American-owned radio station in the United States. With call letters symbolizing the phrase “We’re Ready Every Day,” WERD quickly became a powerful platform for Atlanta’s African American community to voice their concerns, share information and promote cultural expression.

A voice for the community

WERD served as a vital source of news and entertainment for the African-American population during an era of racial segregation known as the Jim Crow Era. The station broadcast a variety of programming, including music, talk shows, and religious sermons. It amplified the voices of civil rights leaders such as the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., who used WERD to broadcast his Sunday sermons and announce civil rights marches to rally support within the community.

Promoting African-American artists

One of WERD’s most notable contributions was its role in promoting African American artists who faced discrimination and limited opportunities in the mainstream media. The station provided a platform for black jazz and blues performers, giving them exposure and recognition they often could not find elsewhere. WERD’s commitment to showcasing African American talent helped pave the way for future generations of black artists.

The Evolution of WERD

Over the years, WERD faced challenges and underwent changes. The building that housed the station later became a hair salon in the 1980s and ’90s. However, the historical significance of the WERD was not forgotten. In 2004, hairdresser Ricci de Forest, unaware of the station’s legacy, signed a lease for the space and eventually discovered its rich history and connection to African-American culture and civil rights.

Preserving history

Recognizing the importance of preserving WERD’s legacy, de Forest transformed the space into a museum dedicated to the radio station. Today, the building on historic Auburn Avenue stands as a testament to the station’s impact and serves as a venue for Atlanta artists to perform, keeping the spirit of WERD alive.


WERD holds a significant place in American history as the first African American-owned radio station. Born during a time of segregation, it served as a powerful medium for communication, empowerment, and cultural expression within the African American community. The station’s impact in promoting black artists and amplifying the voices of civil rights leaders cannot be understated. WERD stands as a symbol of resilience and the power of media to effect social change. Its story continues to inspire and remind us of the importance of diverse voices in the media landscape.


What was the first African American radio station?

WERD was the first radio station owned and programmed by African Americans. The station was established in Atlanta, Georgia on October 3, 1949, broadcasting on 860 AM (now used by WAEC).

What is the oldest African American radio station?

In 1949, station WDIA in Memphis, Tennessee, became the first to employ an all-Black on-air announcing staff. Later that year WERD in Atlanta began broadcasting as the first Black-owned radio station.

Who was the first African American on the radio?

Jack L. Cooper

Jack L. Cooper
Born Jack Leroy CooperSeptember 18, 1888 Memphis, Tennessee, United States
Died January 12, 1970 (aged 81) Chicago, Illinois, US
Occupation Radio presenter, broadcasting executive, vaudeville promoter and performer
Known for First African-American DJ and innovator in US radio


What was the first radio station?


November 2, 1920
Under the call sign KDKA, Pittsburgh’s Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company transmitted the first scheduled broadcast on Nov. 2, 1920.

What is the name of the largest black owned radio corporation?

Urban One, Inc.

It is the largest African-American-owned broadcasting company in the United States, operating 55 radio stations and majority-owning the syndicator Reach Media, as well as its digital arm Interactive One, and the cable network TV One. Urban One, Inc. Radio One, Inc.

What is Texas black radio station?

KHVN (970 AM) is a radio station licensed to Fort Worth, Texas, and serving the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, owned and operated by iHeartMedia, Inc. It airs an African American targeted all-news radio format, simulcast with co-owned KKGM 1630 AM, affilates of the national Black Information Network. iHeartMedia, Inc.

What are the black radio stations in Houston?

R&B Radio Stations from Houston, United States

  • KBXX 97.9 The Box (US Only)
  • KMJQ Majic 102.1 FM.
  • Slow Jams Radio.
  • BMB Soul Radio 365.
  • Powerhitz.com – Jamz.
  • The SOULVYBE Radio.
  • KSSR Southern Soul Radio.

What is the black radio station in San Antonio Texas?

KBBT-FM 98.5
KBBT (98.5 FM) “The Beat” is Blazing Hip Hop & R&B broadcasting at 97,000 watts.

What radio station is R&B in Houston?

KTSU The Heart and Soul of Houston – KTSU Radio 90.9FM.

What is Texas hip hop radio stations?

Hip Hop Radio Stations from Texas, United States

  • KKDA K104 FM.
  • TRAP RADIO TRAP.radio.
  • All Underground Hip Hop Radio.
  • KBXX 97.9 The Box (US Only)
  • KMJQ Majic 102.1 FM.
  • KBFB 97.9 The Beat.
  • KMYO Latino Mix 95.1 FM.
  • KBBT The Beat 98.5 (US Only)

What’s the black radio station in Austin Texas?

102.3 THE BEAT – 102.3 The Beat Austin’s #1 for Hip Hop & Throwbacks.

What are the R&B stations in Dallas Texas?

KRNB Smooth R&B 105.7 FM live. KRNB, also known as Smooth R&B 105.7, is an urban adult contemporary radio station that broadcasts to the Dallas and Fort Worth Metroplexes using the frequency 105.7 FM. It is also available globally via online live streaming.