To celebrate Black History Month, the New York Public Radio Archives has pulled together some of the department's leading preservation work concerning African-American history.
In 1961, a radio reporter named Eleanor Fischer spoke to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for a CBC called Project 62. As far as we know, these unedited interviews have never been presented in their entirety until now.
WNYC presents a rare interview with Malcolm X conducted by reporter Eleanor Fischer in 1961 when Malcolm X was still an active spokesman for Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam.
It's always exciting when we turn up an important long lost recording. In this case, the unlabeled flip side of one of Mayor La Guardia's talks had half-a-show that's not been heard for 67 years. Hailing from February 14th, 1944, we hear two friends get together to share some music with each other and WNYC's listeners. And what better venue than the station's annual American Music Festival, eleven days of studio performances and concerts around the city dedicated to home-grown music and talent? Talent indeed. Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Leadbelly, a renowned folksinger and bluesman, performed with pioneering folklorist Alan Lomax.
Focused, uncompromising, and yet essentially pragmatic, Whitney Young, executive director of the National Urban League, answers questions at this 1966 meeting of the Overseas Press Club.
As eloquent in her speech as she is in her song, the contralto Marian Anderson addresses the issues of prejudice and segregation head-on in this 1957 Books and Authors Luncheon appearance.
"America is being forced to face itself," James Farmer proclaims in this 1963 Overseas Press Club appearance, before discussing the upcoming march on Washington and the historical roots of the civil rights struggle.
Walter White, head of the NAACP, ponders race and foreign relations at the Great Hall of Cooper Union, in New York City, in this 1949 recording.
It was the Great Depression. Nine young black men were hoboing, riding a freight train to Memphis, Tennessee in search of work, but their ride was cut short. At Scottsboro, Alabama the police hauled them off the train: the young men, ages 13 to 21, were accused of raping two white women who were on the train. For black men in the 1930s in the Deep South, such a charge could be fatal. Like so many others who had died by trial or lynching, the Scottsboro Boys (as they came to be called) were falsely accused, a fact that meant almost nothing. In March, 1931 eight of them were sentenced to death, while the fate of the ninth, 13-year-old Roy Wright, hovered dangerously close to life in prison before ending in a mistrial.
In the early hours of February 24, 1949, on the Greek island of Rhodes, Dr. Ralph J. Bunche emerged from the Egyptian-Israeli talks to announce the signing of a General Armistice Agreement.
Overcoming a life of hardship, Samuel Davis Jr. became a major performer in Las Vegas and a member of the legendary Rat Pack. In a quiet, moving tone, Davis, author of the just-published Yes I Can, speaks at a Books and Authors Luncheon in 1965.
Jackie Robinson and Dr. Sterling Wade Brown, representing the National Conference of Christians and Jews, answer questions about the fight for civil rights in this 1968 interview.
Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt interviews her friend Mary McLeod Bethune in a 1949 radio broadcast in support of 'interracial understanding.'
On March 12, 1945, when Governor Thomas E. Dewey signed in to law the Ives-Quinn Anti-Discrimination Bill, New York became the first state to enact legislation curtailing the practice of discriminating against job applicants and employees on the basis of race, religion, or creed.
The largest court in the United States Tennis Association's complex in Flushing Meadows, where the US Open has taken place since 1977, is named after Arthur Ashe, one of tennis's great ambassadors. Today we give you a chance to listen to the late Ashe, in a 1987 installment of WNYC's broadcast of Voices at the New York Public Library, where he spoke about his upcoming book on racism in sports.
Hall-of-famer Monte Irvin talks about his time in baseball during a round table discussion led by host Walter James Miller.
Marcus Garvey, the promoter of Pan-Africanism and black pride, had a vision of economic independence for his people. Those who followed him were called Garveyites. He was the founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, (UNIA) the single largest black organization ever. In the 1920s and 30s, the UNIA had an estimated six million followers around the world.
Amiri Baraka died January 9th after weeks of failing health. He was 79. A playwright, poet, critic and activist, Baraka was one of the most prominent and controversial African American voices in the world of American letters. Speaking at the Overseas Press Club ( and airing on WNYC) in 1965 following the release of his Obie award-winning play The Dutchman, Baraka presented himself as a no-nonsense artist who was not about to compromise his message for anyone. The talk catches Baraka (still known as Leroi Jones) at the height of his radical voice in the 1960s and is critical because it was delivered just four days before the assassination of Malcolm X.
The writer and activist LeRoi Jones (who would later be known as Amiri Baraka) speaks here on February 17, 1965, four days before the assassination of Malcolm X, an event that catapulted him from a charismatic Greenwich Village maverick into a radicalized black nationalist in Harlem.
In June 1990, Nelson Mandela visited New York City. It was his first visit to the United States after being released from prison. At the end of a ticker-tape parade up Broadway's Canyon of Heroes, he stood on the steps of City Hall and gave this speech.
In 1951, jazz superstar Hazel Scott boldly spoke against Jim Crow. At least a decade before Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, the former "Darling of Café Society" talked about her own hopes of a future with "all racial prejudice eliminated."
In this selection from a February 18, 1950 WNYC broadcast, trumpet player Miles Davis and tenor saxophonist Stan Getz perform "Conception" live from the famous Birdland nightclub. Davis' arrangement for this number would later appear on his seminal "Birth of the Cool" album under the title "Deception," a nod to the song's composer George Shearing who recorded it a year earlier.