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Celebrating The Queen of Radio

She’s one of the most influential Black broadcasters of all time. Let’s celebrate Martha Jean ‘The Queen’ Steinberg. 

martha jean the queen wdia

 

Her first radio job was in 1954 at the famous WDIA in Memphis, Tennessee. She entered a contest to win an on air position at the station and won.

wdia memphis

Winning this contest made her one of the first female radio DJs on the air in the United States. During this time, she was also given the name “The Queen” by a co-worker and would use that name for her entire career. 

martha jean the queen radio

 

After moving to Detroit, Michigan in 1963, she spent time working at WCHB before moving on to WJLB. 

 

On July 23, 1967, riots broke out in Detroit. Martha Jean convinced management at WJLB to cancel their regularly scheduled programming and let her broadcast instead. She went on the air for 48 hours straight and called for people to calm down and stop rioting. This has been said to be a factor for preventing the riot from being worse. 

martha jean the queen

 

Also during her time at WJLB, she led the on-air staff to protest the fact that the station had no Black employees behind the scenes. 

martha jean 'the queen' radio

 

The 80s came along and WJLB flipped from AM to FM which meant the entire on air staff was wiped out but of course that didn't stop The Queen from blessing the airwaves. 

 

By 1982, Martha Jean decided it was time to purchase her own station. She bought WMZK-AM and changed the call letters to WQBH (some say it stood for Queens Broadcast Here) and started playing gospel music. 

 

She worked at WQBH until her death in 2000. 

 

Here's a video of some of her on air work courtesy of Fred Simmons on YouTube

 

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