WDIA Was The Black People’s Radio Station

wdia radio station sign
Via Flickr
Leslie Grover-Taylor
May 3, 2024

It was 1982, and Mound Bayou, Mississippi, was all but bankrupt. Reeling from a lawsuit that happened on city property, the city that was built on Black independence was about to die.  With little hope left, the city did the only thing they could do: turn on the radio!

From its first broadcast in 1948, Memphis, Tennessee’s WDIA  was dedicated to serving Black people.  But WDIA was more than just a radio station. It was a powerhouse for the culture.

Memphis at the time was 40 percent Black, yet no stations catered to our people. So when WDIA rebranded itself as a Black station after nearly going bankrupt itself, its popularity skyrocketed far beyond Memphis and right down to struggling Mound Bayou, Mississippi.

At the peak of its popularity in the 1950s, WDIA reached 10% of the Black community nationwide. By 1982, that influence allowed the station to raise enough money to pay Mound Bayou’s bills and keep the Black town on its feet dancing and overcoming debt.

WDIA still exists today. So does Mound Bayou. The station that grew from nothing reminds us that our culture and community is more powerful than debt, poverty, and even miles that separate us. That’s why unity is always music to our ears. Remember that.