In Honor or Black History Month: Hear Historic Leaders Address Significant Issues
Historic audio discovered in the Methodist archives is giving voice to prominent denominational and national leaders, for the benefit of current and future generations.
When the Methodist Church first created Night Call in 1965, the show was the first national call-in radio program in America. The church restarted the program in 1968 because of the turmoil of the Civil Right struggle, the ongoing war in Vietnam, and turbulence in American society. This one-hour radio program, heard on scores of radio stations across the country, was live, five nights a week, giving the nation a way to hold civil discussion, listening to varying points of view, and learning how others thought and felt.
According to Rev. Mike Hickcox, who formerly worked in United Methodist Communications and as a commercial radio anchor and news director, Del Shields and callers from across the country talked with Dick Gregory, Roy Innis, Jesse Jackson, and A. D. King. The program benefited from the presence of Chester Lewis, Ralph McGill, Nina Simone, and Andrew Young. These, and others in the Civil Rights struggle of the 60s, took the opportunity to discuss the issues and their solutions with Shields and the listeners across the country.
“The greatest figures of the Civil Rights era were those who spoke and wrote the words that explained, that exhorted, that pleaded, that prayed,” Mike shares. “The UMC’s courageous and creative radio program preserved those voices, and Sound Theology is helping with digital restoration of those old audio tapes to make the prophetic voices heard again. Ralph Abernathy, Muhammad Ali, James Baldwin, and Julian Bond can be heard anytime on SoundTheology.org, the website that makes these programs available to all.”
Listeners can also hear the contemporaneous thoughts of Stokely Carmichael, Shirley Chisholm, Eldridge Cleaver, and Ruby Dee – thanks to that radio program that United Methodist Communications created and ran in 1968-69.
In addition, SoundTheology.org carries 21 interviews conducted by Pamela Crosby at a 2004 reunion of persons who were part of the Central Jurisdiction of The Methodist Church. These United Methodists grew up in the separate, Black annual conferences of the church that had been established in 1939 and continued until 1968. Among those interviewed are Gilbert Caldwell, James Feree, Joseph Lowery, Mai Gray, Leontine Kelly, Walter McKelvey, Forrest Stith, and Barbara Ricks Thompson. They brought their experiences and leadership from the old Central Jurisdiction into The United Methodist Church.
Mike shares that one engaging program features five faculty members of Methodist Theological School in Ohio, telling a class in 1964 of their trip to Jackson Mississippi – attempting and failing to integrate a Methodist Church on Easter morning. “This was a significant event in the movement toward the integration of Methodist churches nationally,” he says.
There are more than 1,025 audio programs available on the website – speeches, lectures, sermons, interviews, and radio programs from the Methodist Church, and from many other faith traditions. Mike began the collection 10 years ago, when he was on staff at United Methodist Communications. It began in collaboration with the United Methodist Commission on Archives and History, and he continued the project when he left the staff in 2010. New programs from the United Methodist archives are added every month. Eventually, the entire audio collection and the website will be turned over to the stewardship of GCAH to preserve into the future, to continue making the programs available to listeners on the internet, and to keep their voices alive for future generations.