Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Little historical research has been done on the role that radio stations in the northern United States played in spreading information related to the Civil Rights Movement. Owned and operated by Chess Records label owners Leonard and Phil Chess, the Chicago radio station WVON 1450 AM, "The Voice of the Negro," was one of the most popular African American radio stations in the country during the 1960s. This dissertation explores how WVON served not only as a lucrative marketing outlet for the label's music and for the national rhythm and blues and soul music industry, but also as a driving media force that provoked collective thought and action among Chicago's African American community during the 1960s and early 1970s.

This dissertation begins with an exploration of the reasons for the station's creation, such as the First and Second Great Migrations and Chicago's African American musical recording industry. Beginning in 1963, WVON broadcasted racially conscious music, featured charismatic disc jockeys that identified with the composition of Chicago's African American community and encouraged a pro-Civil Rights agenda, and provided journalistic offerings that discussed and featured prominent Civil Rights agendas and leaders. As a result of these actions, WVON became a rallying point for black Chicagoans locally during the Chicago Freedom Movement and was a key outlet in informing them about and securing their support for the larger Civil Rights Movement.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.