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Prof. Boerner's Explorations

Thoughts and Essays that explore the world of Technology, Computers, Photography, History and Family.


Tag: Freeman Gosden (“Amos”)

Edited by Gerald Boerner



JerryPhoto_thumb2_thumbWe look back on a series of events that meant much to our country from the 1920s to the 1950s. A major event was the introduction of the radio into homes of America. Prior to the mid-1920s, entertainment meant either going to the local movie theater, go to a live theater (generally in the larger towns), or bringing out the record player and the recording cylinders; flat, 78 rpm records and their players were just starting to appear at this time. Radio broke onto the scene with its music and comedy which changed the “face” The American home.

Amos and Andy on Louella Parsons Show

I remember fondly the console radios at both of my grandmothers’ houses. These were not fancy stereo radios, or even hi-fidelity; they were basic units in the beginning just like the initial TVs of the late 1940s had small screens and were relatively primitive by today’s standards. In the mid-1920s, the radio units were simple and the content available was relatively meager as well. Most of this content was recorded music, live bands (on weekends), and some early comedy shows. And, of course, there was radio news. If you lived in or near a major city you were in luck since you would be able to receive a strong radio signal from your local station. If you lived farther away, you may be able to receive a signal in appropriate weather, but often times you were just plane out of luck.

Thus, some radio stations were given permission to boost their signal strength and became one of the few “clear channel” stations. One such station in Chicago was WMAQ(AM). Why was this important? Because the farmers of the extended area needed to hear the weather broadcast to know when they needed to protect their fields and/or livestock. These stations became the center of a network of stations associated with one of the national networks, such as the National Broadcasting Corporation. These stations and networks also became the home of some of the emerging radio situation comedies, like Amos ‘n’ Andy, Fibber McGee and Molly, Burns and Allen, and others.

In this environment, two broadcasters from North Carolina, Charles Correll and Freeman Gosden. These two had developed a comedy show for WGN (Chicago) called “Sam and Henry”. When a difference of opinion developed between WGN management and the two broadcasters, the latter left WGN for WMAQ to develop a new program: “Amos ‘n’ Andy”. This sitcom featured the interaction of two black men from the south and a small group of their friends, mainly males. Correll and Gosden assumed the roles of all characters and adopted stereotyped characters who spoke with a stereotyped speech pattern. On radio, it wasn’t apparent that two white men were providing the voices of two black men living in Chicago.

However, when the series was adapted for television, a whole new scenario arose. White actors in black face would not pass muster. The stereotyping and hypocrisy became apparent and demanded change. In fact, the NAACP arose to demand that black actors be employed. The also demanded a change in the demeaning portrayal of blacks. Check out these two videos available online for more information on this confrontation…

Racial Stereotyping (Part 1 of 2), Television: Inside & Out…  (7:55)

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Racial Stereotyping (Part 2 of 2), Television: Inside & Out…  (6:56)

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But now let’s get started on our exploration of Amos ‘n’ Andy and some of the history of the development of this pioneering comedy series on the radio in the mid-1920s… GLB

These Introductory Comments are copyrighted:
Copyright©2012 — Gerald Boerner — All Rights Reserved

[ 4680 Words ]


Quotations Related to Radio:

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“Gossip is the Devil’s radio.”
— George Harrison

“If it weren’t for Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of television, we’d still be eating frozen radio dinners.”
— Johnny Carson

“Radio is a bag of mediocrity where little men with carbon minds wallow in sluice of their own making.”
— Fred Allen

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Edited by Gerald Boerner


Introductory Comments:

JerryPhoto_thumb2_thumb_thumbToday we make note of a number of significant events in the entertainment as well as the expected political arenas. This day, in 1773, witnessed the establishment of this country’s first museum in South Carolina. It also witnessed the establishment of a record label that Berry Gordy, Jr. would eventually turn into the iconic Rhythm and Blues record label — Motown Records — in 1959. In 1971 we all settled into our easy chairs to watch the barrier-breaking TV show, “All in the Family.” Who can forget Archie Bunker, the racist, and his son-in-law Meathead, the ex-Hippie. This show addressed issues such as abortion, race relations, and homophobia during its run on TV.


But probably the most significant entertainment breakthrough was the transition of the radio comedy icon, Amos ‘n’ Andy, to the new media of television. Why was this so significant? Because the iconic radio program broadcast on WGN in Chicago starting in 1926 was, in a real sense, a fraud. How so? It purported to represent the misadventures of a small group of African American men who moved to the Windy City from the Deep South. This show portrayed these African Americans as using “simplified” English and shuffled in the manner expected by the white stereotype of the Black man (“boy”). This perpetuation of the negative stereotype did a disservice to this group of Americans. But far worse, I think, was that the main characters were not portrayed by African Americans, but by white, ex-vaudeville actors. With the transition to the television screen, real African American actors had to be hired at a time when few were employed in the industry for jobs above that of janitor. Thus, this television version of the Amos ‘n’ Andy Show created a new opportunity about ten years before the main Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

Other events of today were more varied. In 1969 we saw Joe Namath and his New York Jet teammates defeated the Baltimore Colts to win the first “official” Super Bowl football game. It also saw President George H.W. Bush receive congressional approval to send U.S. troops into Kuwait against Saddam Hussein’s troops from this independent country under United Nations Sanctioned “Operation Desert Storm” during the first Gulf War. This was more justified due to the multi-national coalition involved plus the limited goals — the expulsion of Iraqi troops from Kuwait. A decade later, George W. Bush went into the second Gulf War with no such coalition and much broader goals — the removal of Saddam Hussein and his Bath party from control of Iraq. An interesting question for history is which goal was “right”.


To finish on a more positive note, this day saw the creation of the Rocky Mountain National Park by a legislative act in 1915. This park was created at a time when our country was about to go to war and development and mining interests were pressuring the government for permission to “rape” this scenic area of the Rocky Mountains. Would we still be able to enjoy these features almost a hundred years later if it had not been for this National Park designation? Time will tell, but it is unlikely. Mining interests and land developers do not respect the land when they enter a new region. Think about our redevelopment laws for a moment; empty land is considered “blighted” and a prime candidate for redevelopment! It sort of reminds me of the song lyrics that go somewhat like Joni Mitchell’s song of “Big Yellow Taxi” that say “they took all the trees and put in a parking lot”. Think about it.

It is interesting to think about land use in this country compared to that in Europe. In this country, a fifty-year-old building is considered old and expendable. They tear it down to build a newer, probably less aesthetic one. In Europe, such a building would be considered to be young and allowed to mature and age. Think about it. Would we want to tear down one or more of the château along the Loire River in France to put up a modern high-rise hotel. Catastrophe! Or should we tear down the medieval cathedrals at Notre Dame or Chartres in France, Mont Saint Michele in Brittany, the Dom in Cologne, or St. Peter’s in Rome so we can build a modern, mega-church with multi-media projections and dramatic performances? I think that would be a fast way to commit suicide! Think about it.

But now we need to get on with the overview of the events of this day… GLB

These Introductory Comments are copyrighted:
Copyright©2012 — Gerald Boerner — All Rights Reserved

[ 1361 Words ]


Quotations Related to Radio:

[ ]


“I love sports. Whenever I can, I always watch the Detroit Tigers on the radio.”
— Gerald R. Ford

“It was amazing to me that, all of a sudden, I was hearing my music on the radio and coming out of cars.”
— Lenny Kravitz

“I wrote a lot of stuff quickly: pages and pages of notes that seemed pretty incoherent at first. Most of it was taken from the radio because -suddenly being a parent- I’d be confronted by the radio giving a news report every hour of the day.”
— Thom Yorke

“The orchestration of press, radio and television to create a continuous, lasting and total environment renders the influence of propaganda virtually unnoticed precisely because it creates a constant environment.”
— Jacques Ellul

“People say New Yorkers can’t get along. Not true. I saw two New Yorkers, complete strangers, sharing a cab. One guy took the tires and the radio; the other guy took the engine.”
— David Letterman

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