As Told From the Archives: KERA on the AAPB

We are excited to announce the addition of materials from KERA to the AAPB! A community-supported public media organization based in Dallas, Texas, KERA has operated since 1960, serving North Texas with programming that reflects the spirit and diversity of the region it serves. Content created by KERA often focused on underrepresented communities often neglected by mainstream media, including people of color, immigrants, artists, and activists. We are excited to make these historic files available on the AAPB, as they provide rare glimpses into communities that were not well documented at the time, and give scholars a fuller picture of the historical forces that shaped the evolution of both North Texas and the United States as a whole.

Thanks to a grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources’ Recordings at Risk grant program, the digitized collection is now available in the AAPB as part of an effort to preserve KERA’s most at-risk productions from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Originally held in closet space at KERA and the Dallas Public Library, the contents of these 2-inch quadruplex and 1-inch Type C magnetic tapes are now preserved at the Library of Congress and are available to scholars, journalists, and lifelong learners. The digitized materials hold many underrepresented voices of the past and provide a unique insight into North Texas history, arts, and culture.

Productions available online include “Swank in the Arts,” a weekly in-depth arts program running from 1978 to 1979.  The half-hour program was hosted by Patsy Swank, and award-winning arts and culture print and television journalist, who interviewed notable artists of the day, including pianist Lili Kraus, actor Anthony Hopkins, photographer Richard Avedon, sculptor Octavio Medellin, and costume designer Edith Head

Also available is “West of the Imagination”, an award-winning six-part documentary from 1986 about the American West seen through the eyes of artists, photographers and filmmakers. Originally aired nationally on PBS in connection to the Texas Sesquicentennial, the series traced the evolution of the myth of the West through works including the wild riders of Frederic Remington, the oil paintings of Native American expressionist painter Fritz Scholder and haunting cow skulls of Georgia O’Keeffe.

Other programs from KERA include “Black, White and Blue”, a 1.5-hour documentary about racial tensions between the African-American community and the Dallas Police Department in 1993. The special traces the history of the friction and presents voices from government leaders and community members about police-citizen relations; “Kindred Spirits: Contemporary African-American Artists”, a 30-minute documentary produced by KERA and aired nationwide in 1992, including interviews with artists such as Maya Angelou, John Biggers, Charles Searles and Lois Mailou Jones as they discussed their work and spiritual bond with their African ancestors; and “Starting Over in America”, KERA’s 1986 documentary about a wave of immigrants to the U.S. from Southeast Asia and their battles to reunite their scattered families and rebuild their lives in America.

Other collection highlights include the program “Feel It In My Bones”, a 1993 documentary about the destruction of the Freedman’s Cemetery and African Burial Ground in Dallas, the excavation and relocation of the remains buried there, and the ways that a new generation is attempting to remember and honor those buried there; and “Tornado Alert”, about how tornadoes form and what folks can do to stay safe

Many thanks again to CLIR for their generous support of this project!

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