African American First: First Black-owned Radio Station – WERD-AM in Atlanta, GA

 

Jesse B. Blayton, Sr., was a pioneer African American radio station entrepreneur.  Blayton founded WERD-AM in Atlanta, Georgia on October 3, 1949 making him the first African American to own and operate a radio station in the United States. He was born in Fallis, OK, on December 6, 1879 and died on September 7, 1977 in Atlanta.  He was known as the “Dean of Negro Accountants.” He worked as a bank president and a college professor before purchasing WERD. In 1955, he was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame. He made history in 1949 when he bought the 1,000 watt Atlanta radio station for $50,000. He changed the radio format and directed it toward the African American audience. WERD was a pioneer in programming what he called “Negro appeal” music, playing early versions of rhythm and blues music that could not be found elsewhere on the air. Although WDIA, established in Memphis, TN in 1948, played music oriented for a black audience, WERD was the ONLY black-owned station to do so at that time. By 1954, there were approximately 200 black-oriented stations but fewer than a dozen were black-owned.  He hired his son, Jesse Blayton, Jr., as the station’s first Program Director.  ~ www.blackpast.org


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