July 9, 2010

High School Students Receive Honors for Documenting the Civil Rights History of WDAS

From the Daily News column "Masterman students go far documenting WDAS' civil-rights impact"

In the 1950's and 60's many Black radio stations across the country were the sounding board for the civil rights struggle, and one in particular was WDAS 1480 AM.

In photo from left to right, radio personality Georgie Woods, Rev. Ralph Abernathy, (CBS 60 Minutes correspondent, then WDAS news reporter) Ed Bradley, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., (WDAS station GM) Bob Klein and (local community activist and councilman) Cecil B. Moore.

"Photo courtesy of the Bob Klein Archives, by special permission to UrbanRadioNation.com, ALL RIGHTS RESRVED -No other use of this photo is authorized without the express written permission of WDASHistory.org/BobKleinArchives "

The students from Philadelphia's Masterman High School created a documentary "WDAS: Broadcasting a Frequency of Change" for a history class assignment. Little did they know what they were getting themselves into. "We figured this station must have been mostly about Jimi Hendrix or Michael Jackson," one student said. "But when we went home and researched we found that it was really into the community, especially during the civil-rights movement."

Their teacher was so impressed with their work that she entered it into a local Nation History Day competition. The documentary has since garnered honors in local, state and national competitions.

Many may view corporately owned radio stations now as nothing more than a entertainment source geared towards a listener specifically tuned into a music, news, sports, or talk station. Of course many "in radio" say all stations serve the community they broadcast to, as required by the FCC.

"Do local radio stations, regardless of format, serve the community?" It's an interesting question to ponder based on the legacy of a WDAS, which includes the social and political change the station was able to bring about.
"We should still be in a struggle to get our airwaves back to what they were," said Wynne Alexander (former news director at the WDAS), who maintains the WDASHistory.org website.

The 1480 AM frequency is now a Spanish music station (WUBA) currently owned by Clear Channel. They also own five other stations in Philadelphia including urban stations 105.3 WDAS FM and (WUSL) Power 99 FM.

Read full article from columnist Elmer Smith, Philadelphia Daily News

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