NYU Black Renaissance Noire Winter 2014 - Page 138

The “Electronic Stimulus for a Black Revolution”: Black Journal and the 1960s Public television 136 In 1968 symbols of black American militancy circulated frequently in mass culture. That year James Brown’s black power anthem, ‘Say it Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud’ was a hit record on soul radio, Eldridge Cleaver’s defiant memoir Soul on Ice reached the New York Times bestseller list, boxer Muhammad Ali was featured on the cover of Esquire magazine as a martyr for his refusal to be inducted in the U.S. Army, and athletes Tommy Smith and John Carlos pumped their fists in the air at the Mexico City Olympic Games as the world watched on television. These cultural forms signaled the rising influence of Black Power as a political and aesthetic movement, and the increasing importance of black Americans as media consumers. The mass media were a key battleground in the black freedom struggle and activists demanded changes in how blackness was represented. Just months after the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., a group of African Americans gained access to a prized channel of mass communication — the fledgling public broadcasting network. They launched Black Journal, a public affairs television program, to directly confront these issues. By JANE RHODES, PhD