Writer-actors Freeman Gosden as Amosand Charles Correll as Andy in 1929 – two minstrel-style white actors playing Black characters Amos n Andy – stereotypically uneducated and living in NY’s Harlem neighborhood from the 1920s on was the most popular program on radio in the 1930s – 40 million mostly white people listened, but persisted despite a 1931 campaign by Robert L. Van, publisher and editor of the pioneer Black-owned Pittsburgh Courier to shut it down as racist. Hundreds of thousands signed on to rid the airwaves of the demeaning show, although, even white liberals and many black folks enjoyed the nightly antics of Amos n Andy, Kingfish, Sapphire and many of the other ongoing characters they encountered. As a kid in the 1940s, I was among them. Some of their work could be very funny. The series ran essentially from 1928 through 1960 on both radio and eventually television, where Black actors stepped in.
Amy Goodman and DemocracyNOW! aired this segment in October of 2011 as part of an interview with Amy’s colleague, Juan Gonzalez, and his co-author, Joe Torres of Free Press, the media reform advocacy group where he remains Senior External Affairs Director. Torres and González co-authored their 2011 book, News for All the People: The Epic Story of Race and the American Media, a history of American media’s portrayal of people of color with special focus on media outlets owned and controlled by people of color, and how they were suppressed—sometimes violently—by mainstream political, corporate and media leaders.
I had the opportunity back in 2011 to record today’s interview with Joe Torres on his way through the Twin Cities as a guest of Main Street Project. The interview never aired here because its quality was not what I considered airworthy at the time. But in looking for a program for today’s TTT in our archive, I listened once again to its content, and, with the hope that you’ll be patient with its echo-y quality – we were in the back room of the Louisiana Café in St. Paul – Joe Torres has much to say about race in the media and media reform.
Again – the Torres-Gonzalez book is News for All the People: The Epic Story of Race and the American Media. Torres advocates in Washington for media policies that serve the public interest and works to builds coalitions to broaden the media reform movement's base. He writes frequently on media and Internet issues and serves on the board of directors of the Center for Media Justice and the National Association of Latino Independent Producers. Earning a degree in communications from the College of Staten Island, Torres was, for a time deputy director of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and a journalist for several years.
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Senior External Affairs Director, Free Press Media Reform