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The First Black Radio DJ in the US

The Radio Nerd is celebrating Black History Month by showcasing amazing Black broadcasters you need to know. 

Let's talk about the 'undisputed patriarch of Black radio' Jack L. Cooper. 

Jack was born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1888 and at the age of only ten, Jack moved to Cincinnati, Ohio to start working. A few years later he became a teen boxer and semi-pro baseball player. 

He soon realized what exactly he loved to do...perform. He started working on the vaudeville (a comedic theatrical piece combining pantomime, dialogue, dancing, and songs) circuit in the early 1900s as a singer, dancer, writer and producer. 

After moving to Chicago in the 1920s, he slowly started to break into the radio industry by writing and performing comedy sketches on WCAP. 

Finally, in November 1929, Jack was given his very own show (The All-Negro Hour) on WSBC Chicago, making him the first African American to host a show on radio in the United States. 

first black radio dj

The show was successful with listeners and sponsors and continued on the air until 1936. After this, he went back to broadcasting on WCAP where he would play jazz and gospel records live from his own phonograph. 

By 1947, Jack had risen up in the radio industry, now owning his own production company. His content was broadcast on 4 different stations in Chicago and he promoted other Black DJs and actively supported many Black youth organizations. 

Jack retired from broadcasting in 1959 and died at the age of 81 in Chicago in 1970. 

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