Twenty-Three Years of “In Black America” to be Restored, Digitized and Archived

May 7, 2019

Hundreds of “In Black America” interviews with newsmakers including, Stokely Carmichael, Yolanda King, Wilhelmina Delco, Maya Angelou, Dick Gregory and Barbara Jordan, will be restored, digitized and made available to the public thanks to a grant from Recordings at Risk, a national re-granting program operated by the Council on Library and Information Resources.

The nationally syndicated show, produced by KUT’s John L. Hanson Jr. and broadcast on 20 stations around the country, has featured weekly interviews with prominent African Americans since the early 1970s. Before 2004, these interviews were recorded and stored on 710 quarter-inch audio reels, which are now deteriorating.

Thanks to the grant, KUT will digitize the collection and add it to its archive, as well as donate copies to the American Archive of Public Broadcasting, a collaboration between the Library of Congress and WGBH to preserve and make historic public media accessible. Additionally, the digitized collection will be available for research at the Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin.

“Very few programs are archived or preserved for posterity. When one does think of preserving them, it’s often too late,” John said. “This was nearly the case for ‘In Black America’ since most of the interviews were recorded on acid tape, which deteriorates and at some point there nothing left to preserve.”

It will take close to a year to clean and salvage the 750 tapes and digitize the hundreds of interviews recorded between 1981 and 2004.

To address the lack of diversity in the media, KUT began producing “In Black America” in 1970. Each week, the show profiles a diverse selection of current and historically significant figures whose stories help illuminate life in Black America.

Guests include well-known and lesser-known civil rights leaders, educators, artists, athletes and writers describing their experiences, achievements and work in chronicling and advancing the quality of African-American life.

John, who took over hosting and producing duties for the show in 1980, says that a good number of interviews feature everyday people doing significant things to provide a snapshot of what African Americans have achieved and gone through in last four or five decades.

“For far too long we’ve had other people tell our stories,” John continued. “So when you have an opportunity to preserve a program produced for and by African Americans, I think that’s significant in and of itself, continued John.

“In Black America” airs at 9:30 p.m. Tuesdays on home station KUT 90.5.