His Innovation Set The Stage For Future Generations

Three different microphones
Via Pixabay
Leslie Taylor-Grover
March 3, 2021

Al Benson started as a preacher in 1920s Mississippi, but that was just the beginning of his ability to touch people’s lives with his words. By the time the Great Depression rolled around, he and his family had left the South – and he’d discovered another, even more powerful profession.

Now a Chicagoan, he traded his Bible for Bebop. Benson became a local radio station DJ, and his show was the only hour of radio our people had on the airwaves. But there was something else.

While other DJs stuck to boring scripts and read to their viewers, Benson defied the norms and spoke the local vernacular – he used the speech of Black people in his community. He wasn’t finished repping Black voices yet, however.

Against radio rules that refused to recognize our businesses, Benson proudly advertised Black businesses and services. And as more Black DJs sought to get on the air, Benson took them under his wing.

He expanded his influence to create a television show, record shops, a nightclub, concert promotion, a home studio and several record labels.

Benson used his platform to transform the way our people experienced radio. Even now, your favorite radio show or podcast uses what he brought to Black entertainment. Like Benson, we must remember that our innovation can pave the way for generations to come.

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