For 50 Years ‘In Black America’ Has Devoted Radio Space To Experiences Other Media Ignored

“It’s been a labor of love. All I’m trying to do is to bring a voice to the voiceless. And, you know, what we do is significant and that significance should be recognized.”

By Joy Diaz & Laura RiceSeptember 28, 2020 1:50 pm, , , , ,

The nationally-syndicated “In Black America” is the longest-running space for Black voices on public radio. The show is based at KUT 90.5 in Austin. John L. Hanson, Jr. is the longtime host.

“’In Black America’ wouldn’t necessarily be necessary, to coin a phrase, if major media addressed the African American experience in a positive and consistent way – which it doesn’t. So that’s why the program is necessary, because people get a skewed understanding of what life is like for African Americans in this country.”

Hanson says one of the changes he made as host was to try to make the program more reflective of its name.

“In the beginning, the program was basically UT-based,” Hanson said. “Most of the guests were either lecturers on campus or they came to campus to give lectures. So was really ‘In Black Austin’ instead of ‘In Black America.’”

He remembers his very first interview for the program was with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s eldest daughter, Yolanda King. Other memorable interviews include Charley Pride, Tony Brown, Barbara Jordan, The Commodores, Julius Erving, Jessie Hill, and Rev. Jesse Jackson.

“And I could just go on and on and on and on,” Hanson said.

He also said the program served as an outlet for many lesser-known voices who didn’t otherwise find much space in media.


Hanson in 2008.

Though Hanson and technical director David Alvarez work on the show without any other production help, Hanson says even that small commitment has been more than many other outlets have given Black voices.

“A lot of stations, in my opinion, were, you know, short sighted in not actually having a program and, if they did, it didn’t last that long because of budget restraints, you know, when it comes time to cut the budget, ‘well we can cut the African American program and we can kind of incorporate it into another program.’ Yeah, you can, but then you shouldn’t,” Hanson said.

As the United States has been undergoing a renewed reckoning over racism since the police killing of George Floyd, Hanson says his show hasn’t changed.

“I don’t do anything different,” Hanson said. “What has changed to a certain extent is that the focus has become more intense. These type of incidents have been going on, you know, for decades.”

“In Black America” airs on 12 stations across the country and is available as a podcast.

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