Programs from 1960s and 1970s Include Interviews with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Louis Farrakhan, Angela Davis and others
Additional Scholar Exhibit Explores Black Power in Public Media
A collection of episodes from Black Journal, the first nationally televised public affairs program produced for, about, and by Black Americans has been released by The American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB), a collaboration between WGBH and the Library of Congress. Largely unseen since they aired between 1968 and 1977, the 59 episodes have been digitized from archival tape in the Library’s collection and are now available to stream for free online. Topics addressed by the series include the Black Power Movement, Black nationalism, the “Black is beautiful” movement, the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X, the African diaspora, the Black student movement, Pan-Africanism, the media’s representation of Black people and more. Black Journal was produced first by National Educational Television (NET), the precursor to PBS, and later by WNET in New York.
At the time of the 1968 uprisings that followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., NET took the lead in creating and distributing content that engaged with issues pertaining to Black America. As part of its mission to feature Black voices and perspectives, Black Journal presented news segments and documentaries about Black communities and interviews with notable Black figures such as activist and author Angela Davis, minister and Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan and basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Black staff members advocated for Black leadership of the show with a strike, leading to the installment of Black filmmaker William Greaves as producer in place of white executive producer Al Perlmutter. The series received Emmy, Peabody and Russwurm awards for its coverage of timely issues and exploration of what it meant to be Black in America.
“Black Journal represented a sea change in how American public television saw the importance of responding to demands for Black representation in the media,” said Alan Gevinson, Ph.D., AAPB project director at the Library of Congress. “Like so many historic programs that document the Black Freedom Movement at this moment in our history, Black Journal was at risk of being lost to time. We’re proud to make this unique, forward-thinking program led by Black voices available to all in the American Archive of Public Broadcasting.”
Accompanying the Black Journal episodes is a collection of essays that explore the public television programs that put Black issues and Black perspectives at the forefront in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement. Written by Christine Acham, Ph.D, Chair and Professor at University of Hawai’i at Mānoa’s Academy for Creative Media, and Ashley Young, Ph.D candidate in USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, the exhibit, “Televising Black Politics in the Black Power Era: Black Journal and Soul!” chronicles how television became a tool for breaking down stereotypes and for fostering dialogue within Black communities. In addition to delving into the history of Black Journal, the exhibit discusses Soul!, a variety talk show created for and by African Americans that aired between 1968 and 1973 on public television. Soul! featured the era’s most prominent Black political and cultural figures, musicians, writers and poets, including activist Stokely Carmichael, playwright and filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles, musician Curtis Mayfield, poet Nikki Giovanni and actor/director Sidney Poitier.
“When Black Journal and Soul! came to America’s airwaves, it ushered in an era of televised Black pride and agency that was largely unknown to the white public. By making these episodes available once again, and revealing the context in which they were produced, we hope a new generation will be inspired by the creative spirit that brought communities together in understanding,” said Acham. “A big thanks to the AAPB and to WNET for their preservation efforts and resurfacing these historic programs.”
“The preservation of Black Journal for posterity is something that I am proud to have played a part in. These programs, created by Black producers during a time of change for race relations in America, have a lot to teach us as leaders and citizens today,” said Winter Shanck, WNET Lead Archivist. “From spotlight features on Black artists to a deep dive into Black Compton in the 70s, Black Journal reveals how public television led media in opening doors for Black creators.”
About the American Archive of Public Broadcasting
The American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) is a collaboration between the Library of Congress and the WGBH Educational Foundation to coordinate a national effort to preserve at-risk public media before its content is lost to posterity and provide a central web portal for access to the unique programming that public stations have aired over the past 70 years. To date, over 113,000 digital files of television and radio programming contributed by more than 130 public media organizations and archives across the United States have been preserved and made accessible for long-term preservation and access. The entire collection is available on location at the Library of Congress and WGBH, and more than 54,000 files are available online at americanarchive.org.
Library of Congress