Colored People's Time 2

Colored People's Time 2 (October 23, 1968)
Duration: 01:01:01

See other episodes with similar themes and topics

Themes: Musical Roots and Branches | Literature and Language | Sports and Entertainment | Poverty, Progress, and the Rise of African-American Businesses and Professionals |

Guests: Stokely Carmichael, John Conyers, Wild Bill Davis, Harry Edwards, Inkster Community Choir, CLR James, John Lewis, Kent Martin, Hal McKinney, Martha Jean Steinberg, Rosalyn Russell, The Brothers of Soul, Lorenzo Wright, William Watson
Host : Tony Brown, Sandy Lawrence, Reginald Wilson
Producer : Gilbert Maddox, Tony Brown

Summary: This program from the fall of 1968 is interesting for a variety of reasons. It's wide-ranging content mix of news, music, fashion, theater and cultural commentary offers fascinating insight into the concerns and interests of Detroit's African American community of the period. In addition, it provides an enlightening example of local television production style in the late 1960s. Moreover, the program is remarkable for the number of cast and crew members who went on to notable careers in the mass media and academia.

In the fall of 1968, the program that would become Detroit Black Journal and later American Black Journal was in its first season on WTVS, Detroit's Public Television station. It was then known as CPT - which stood for Colored People's Time - an edgy double entendre that took a racial stereotype and turned it back on itself as a claim of empowerment.

Emerging just a year after the devastating riot of 1967 and less than six months after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., CPT combined a militant sense of political awareness with celebration of African American culture. From the opening montage of jump-cut visual images from black America, played over dissonant, fast-paced jazz, the program is punctuated by music. It features jazz performances by Hal McKinney and his quintet and organist Wild Bill Davis, as well as R&B and spiritual music performances by the Brothers of Soul, seen at 00:23:50-29:23, and the Inkster Community Choir.

The political edge of the show emerges in its news coverage. The program presents an extended piece on the controversy recently ignited at the Olympics in Mexico City when African American track stars Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised black-gloved fists as they received their first- and third-place medals in the 200-meter dash. In a commentary at the end of the piece, co-host Tony Brown discusses how black athletes are often under appreciated and misunderstood. The raised fists of Smith and Carlos, he explains were a "traditional symbol of black unity. The press, as usual, did not understand and labeled it the 'Black Power salute.'" For most black athletes, he observes, success on the field still translates into second-class citizenship at home. This segment can be seen from 00:08:45-00:22:17.

Other intriguing show segments include a satirical public service announcement titled "Two Selves" (00:22:19-00:23:47), an audio excerpt from a speech by radical activist Stokely Carmichael (00:31:52-00:34:56), an interview with prominent local community organizer and radio show host Martha Jean "The Queen" Steinberg (00:41:35-00:47:29), and a comic sketch by the CPT Players based on the character Jesse B. Semple created by Langston Hughes.

As interesting as the content of the show is the array of people involved. Brown became a nationally known broadcast journalist and commentator. Another co-host, Reginald Wilson, became president of Wayne County Community College in the early 1970s and eventually became senior scholar emeritus for the American Council on Education. Two of the show's writers Betty DeRamus and George Martin (also known as Bill Black) became prominent journalists, and stage manager Herb Boyd became a noted scholar in African American studies. Hal McKinney was well on his way to international stature in the world of jazz, and though members of his quintet are not individually credited, the combo appears to include at least two other renowned musicians: trumpeter Marcus Belgrave and saxophonist Thomas "Beans" Bowles.