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February 27, 2016

First Ever Black-Owned Radio Station (Long Before Radio One!)

Black-owned radio station

There is a little brick building in downtown Atlanta that has an impressive history behind it. It was the first ever black-owned radio station. The station was founded in 1949 by Atlanta University Professor Jesse B. Blayton Sr.

A hit with Atlanta's black community

The radio station, W.E.R.D. was a hit with Atlanta's black community. It broadcast from sunrise to sunset, and it's broadcasts included messages from Martin Luther King Jr. Word has it that Dr. King's office , the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, was located in the next office within the same building. Whenever King wanted to broadcast a message, he would tap the ceiling of his office with a broomstick to let the W.E.R.D. DJ know when he needed to make an announcement.

Also located within the building was one of only two “Madam C.J. Walker” hair salons in the country. Madam C.J. Walker built an African-American beauty products company that made her a millionaire.

History preserved

Today, the building is a museum for both the Madam C.J. Walker salon and W.E.R.D. radio station. It houses a vintage record collection from W.E.R.D., including albums by Billie Holiday, Miles Davis and Count Basie. The museum is non-profit, and it is supported by donations and a handful of volunteers. Visitors fill the museum on Wednesday nights to hear the music of R&B singers and two local rappers. Many visitors are not aware of the building's rich history until they actually see it for themselves.


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