One Radio Station's Role in the History of the Civil Rights and Peace Movements



Photo Courtesy of the Jacob Stelman Collection, Athenaeum of Philadelphia


Original telegram from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Harry Belafonte requesting WDAS General Manager Bob Klein's presence at an urgent meeting in New York. Klein told his children it was a small gathering of key allies from all over the country and Dr. King's plans for the future direction of the Movement were discussed in detail as well as the impact protesting against the Viet Nam War was having on the Civil Rights Movement. 
 You'll notice the date of the meeting is March 27,  1968 ...

This letter makes reference to the fact that WDAS produced the radio program, 
Martin Luther King Speaks for SCLC and was the first station in the country to put it on the air. Very quickly, the program was heard nationwide as scores of radio stations across the U-S also made it part of their regular programming schedules.

In  GALLERY II , there are rare pictures of Dr. King's time in Philadelphia, Pa.  


Newspaper ad highlighting the 1962 accomplishments of WDAS News, noting they were the ONLY station to 'sweep' the Associated Press Awards and one of only two stations in the country to win a Valley Forge Freedom's Foundation Medal for editorial excellence.


The Philadelphia Daily News, Inquirer and Los Angeles  Herald -Dispatch clips below are courtesy of Scholar Paul Lee. The two from the Philadelphia papers detail some of the more dangerous moment-to-moment aspects of life as a trailblazer, the life-threatening risks taken by the bona fide members of the avant garde. 

    Los Angeles Herald Dispatch 
       January 25, 1962.

Popular Black newspaper of the day. The picture here of Malcolm X in
WDAS News Director Joe Rainey's office is not very good.
It's an exception to the rule.
In this case, the caption's worth a thousand words.

                             Clips courtesy  Paul Lee  - Director of Best Efforts, Inc. 
                  (BEI), a professional research and consulting service specializing in  the                       recovery, preservation and promotion of global Black history and  culture                                                                      


    The Philadelphia Daily News
   December 30, 1964



The Philadelphia Inquirer
December 30, 1964


 More on this dramatic and fateful night can be seen in GALLERY  I. There too, Lee provided a striking photo of Malcolm X and the heavily armed squad of Philadelphia Police sharpshooters standing guard outside WDAS in the flashbulb-streaked, dark blue winter's night. 


The advocacy, the WDAS demands for racial equality, their charisma and therefore power to make it happen, all made the station a target for many rotten people from the Klan to other thugs and gangsters of all colors. The federal government was not exactly on the side of the angels either... There were bomb threats, personal threats. The station's security detail was on constant 'alert'. The WDAS Editorial Director was Jim Klash. His daughter, Bea was a teenager in high school when an award winning WDAS News program threatened her father's life and changed hers temporarily.

[Letter from Bea Klash-Jefffries, March 20, 2008.]

" The 'Help a Junkie Bust a Pusher' campaign was a daring one. When the importing of both marijuana and heroin were a major project for the MOB and was flooding the streets of Philadelphia, poisoning our young people and WDAS wanted to put a stop to it...

Well, after the launch of the campaign, Daddy was coming home and was attacked by some hoodlums, beaten up and they broke his arm. This occurred just a half block from our home on 15th street. Daddy never took the same route home, he used public transportation, talked to the public, garnered some of his editorial ideas, and the "goons" were waiting for him when he cut through Webster Street. Bob Klein and Max Leon realized this was a very serious matter and notified the police.

We had already received threatening calls at our home and after the attack, police protection was provided. A patrol car was stationed outside our home. I was a teenager and suddenly not allowed to answer the phone, can't answer the doorbell. If I went to the front door, I was told by the police officers, in no uncertain terms, to go back indoors. Driven by the police to and from school. Wasn't taken in by the front doors of West Philadelphia High School but, through the entrance of the delivery trucks. At the end of the school day was escorted out the same way. Had to lie down on the back seat until we were about ten blocks from the school. That was really a very scary time for everyone involved with this campaign. Bomb threats were leveled at the station as well. Lives were threatened. But, as always the stalwart, brave and committed people- Max Leon, Bob Klein and Jim Klash and others would stay the course. "


                                    Congressional Record Nov. 5, 1981    Column 3 continued....


"However difficult the moment, however  frustrating the hour,

it will not be long, because 'Truth crushed to earth will rise again.' "

                                                                                                     --Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr                                                                                                                                       Montgomery, Alabama 1965 

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