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Civil Rights, Racism, Discrimination, and Prejudice in Old Time Radio

Radio not only recorded the progress of equality as it was happening, but it was a tool for bringing progress about.

19 old time radio show recordings
(total playtime 8 hours, 56 min)
available in the following formats:

1 MP3 CD
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10 Audio CDs


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Play a sample episode from March 15, 1947:

"Lest We Forget: One Small Voice"



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About this Old Time Radio Show

Text on OTRCAT.com ©2001-2017 OTRCAT INC All Rights Reserved. Reproduction is prohibited.

The great American Experiment in Democracy can be seen as a demonstration of the rise and importance of Civil Rights. The Founding Fathers saw their new nation as a place where all men had the inalienable rights to "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness", and designed a form of government which would do as little as possible to keep individuals from exercising those rights.

As noble as those sentiments seem, there were and always will be factors which do keep people from exercising those rights, notably ignorance, poverty, and intolerance. One of the great contradictions of the age was that many of the figures who were doing the most to create an environment where Liberty could grow were also deeply involved with the "peculiar institution" of Slavery. The peculiar institution is based on the notion that a certain race or class of people is inherently better and deserves greater privilege to the point of "owning" lesser peoples. This notion is, of course, absolutely contrary to the foundations of the American Experiment.

The original Thirteen Colonies nearly failed to unite because attitudes toward the peculiar institution, our bloodiest conflict, the War between the States was fought over it. America has a long way to go in the struggle for Civil Rights, but there can be no denying that considerable progress has been made. Radio not only recorded that progress as it was happening, it was a tool for bringing that progress about.

  • Today, an entertainer who makes a joke based on race can expect swift, even career-threatening condemnation. During the period of Radio's Golden Age, such humor was not only tolerated, it was almost expected. The examples of racial jokes in this collection from The Judy Canova Show and he was far from being mean spirited. In fact, some of the jokes on It's Time to Smile are pulled by African American actress Hattie McDaniels.
  • The fight for Civil Rights in America predates even the Revolutionary War. The signing of the Mayflower Compact on the deck of the ship which brought the Pilgrims to the New World is considered the first Human Rights Charter in North America. The story of the Compact is related in the radio play "The Stepping Stones" on Cavalcade of America. The script is presented again on American Portraits.
  • One of the most insidious relics of the "peculiar institution" is the institutionalized practice of segregation. After the Civil War and the abolishment of slavery, so-called "Jim Crow" laws were enacted mandating a strict separation of the White and African-American races. Not only were the races not allowed to mix, but the facilities provided for the African American population were vastly inferior to those used by Whites. Although Washington DC is the nation's capital, since it is located on the border of Virginia and Maryland it is very much a Southern city and "Jim Crow" was a constant presence. Destination Freedom did an expose of segregation practices in the capital city and the reaction of foreign dignitaries who work and visit there.
  • New World A' Comin' was produced by New York's Citywide Citizens Committee On Harlem. During Harlem Week in 1944, the program featured "Life in a Black Ghetto", exposing the indifferent attitudes of white merchants in Harlem, unfair housing practices, the predatory practices of pawnshop operators (the only place where Harlem residents can turn for credit) and other injustices. In another episode, "The Story of Negro Nurses" profiles the brave contributions of a woman who almost decided not to join because of the Army's discriminatory policies.
  • On Lest We Forget The American Dream, Helen Hayes plays a teacher who puts her career on the line to fight prejudice when she confronts a wealthy father who accidentally inculcates his son with a hateful attitude. In the episode "One Small Voice", Paul Lukas plays an immigrant grocer who leads a boycott against Dunn's Bread, the largest bakery in town which he discovers practices discriminatory hiring practices.  
  • One of the most controversial figures in Old Time Radio was Father Joseph Coughlin. The Canadian Catholic priest emigrated to Detroit in 1923 where he became one of the first to discover the power of radio to spread a religious message. Coughlin's earliest broadcasts were mostly catechistic but soon began to reflect the Father's political views. Coughlin saw the international spread of Communism as a threat to religion and the American way of life, but he also staunchly believed that Communism was being controlled by a coalition of "atheistic Jews". In Coughlin's view, these same "atheistic Jews" were responsible for the evils of capitalism which ultimately caused the economic collapse that led to the Great Depression. When Franklin Roosevelt first ran for the Presidency, Coughlin was an ardent supporter, going so far as to describe Roosevelt's New Deal as "God's Deal". As the administration's economic reforms continued, Coughlin came to view Roosevelt as a "tool of Wall Street" and further condemned any involvement in foreign wars. This attitude was eventually seen as being pro-Nazi (Coughlin was also a Holocaust denier) which resulted in the priest losing his popular support and radio audience, although he continued to spread his message of anti-Communism and anti-Semitism.
  • A shameful example of intolerance was the displacement of the Native North American peoples during the settlement of the West. That story is related through allegory on the X Minus One episode "The Martian Death March". The story loosely reflects the flight of the Nez Perce under Chief Joseph from the reservation where they were interred after their lands in Northeast Oregon were stolen nearly to the Canadian border and freedom.
  • One of the most recognizable symbols of "The American Way" was the Man of Steel, so it is not surprising that Superman was also a warrior in the war against racial intolerance. In a story arc not included in this collection, "The Clan of the Fiery Cross", Superman goes against a representation of the Ku Klux Klan (the story is credited as helping to bring down the Klan). Mutual allowed anti-discrimination public service announcements on The Adventures of Superman, and another story arc in 1946, veterans are being denied State jobs in Metropolis because of their racial and religious affiliations.
  • See also: People Take the LeadDestination Freedom, Racist Music, Former Slave Interviews, A New World A-Coming, and Minstrel Shows.

Text on OTRCAT.com ©2001-2017 OTRCAT INC All Rights Reserved. Reproduction is prohibited.

These classic recordings are available in the following formats:
  • MP3 CDs are delivered by mail. These archival quality MP3 CDs are playable in your computer and many MP3 player devices.



    19 recordings on 1 MP3 CD for just $5.00
    total playtime 8 hours, 56 min
    Add MP3 Collection to Cart

    Click here to see disc contents


      19 shows - total playtime 8 hours 56 minutes
      1. American Portraits 1951 510807 5 Stepping Stones.mp3
      2. Americas Town Hall Meeting Air 480323 President Civil Rights.mp3
      3. Cavalcade Of America 501121 Stepping Stones.mp3
      4. Destination Freedom 490828 059 Segregation Incorporated.mp3
      5. Father Coughlin 381211 Persecution And Communism.mp3
      6. Its Time To Smile 410402 027 Oscar Levant.mp3
      7. Jean Shepherd 630829 Describes MLK As Brilliant.mp3
      8. Judy Canova 430907 Getting Mineral Water For Pig Lover Boy.mp3
      9. Judy Canova 431012 Jailed Breaking Into Cary Grants House.mp3
      10. Lest We Forget American Dream 470000 01 Face To Face.mp3
      11. Lest We Forget American Dream 470000 07 One Small Voice.mp3
      12. Meet Press 600417 Martin Luther King Jr. Civil Rights Leader.mp3
      13. New World Coming 440521 12 Story Of James Pearson.mp3
      14. New World Coming 440604 14 Life In Ghetto.mp3
      15. New World Coming 450422 44 Story Of Negro Nurses.mp3
      16. Pabst 450103 Rochester.mp3
      17. Taos 460903 1369 George Latimer Crooked Political Boss Pt 01.mp3
      18. Taos 480512 1743 Ghost Brigade Pt 07.mp3
      19. X Minus One 561114 Martian Death March Remake.mp3
  • MP3 downloads are available instantly after purchase!



    19 recordings on 1 MP3 Collection Download for just $5.00
    total playtime 8 hours, 56 min
    Add MP3 Collection to Cart

    Click here to see disc contents


      19 shows - total playtime 8 hours 56 minutes
      1. American Portraits 1951 510807 5 Stepping Stones.mp3
      2. Americas Town Hall Meeting Air 480323 President Civil Rights.mp3
      3. Cavalcade Of America 501121 Stepping Stones.mp3
      4. Destination Freedom 490828 059 Segregation Incorporated.mp3
      5. Father Coughlin 381211 Persecution And Communism.mp3
      6. Its Time To Smile 410402 027 Oscar Levant.mp3
      7. Jean Shepherd 630829 Describes MLK As Brilliant.mp3
      8. Judy Canova 430907 Getting Mineral Water For Pig Lover Boy.mp3
      9. Judy Canova 431012 Jailed Breaking Into Cary Grants House.mp3
      10. Lest We Forget American Dream 470000 01 Face To Face.mp3
      11. Lest We Forget American Dream 470000 07 One Small Voice.mp3
      12. Meet Press 600417 Martin Luther King Jr. Civil Rights Leader.mp3
      13. New World Coming 440521 12 Story Of James Pearson.mp3
      14. New World Coming 440604 14 Life In Ghetto.mp3
      15. New World Coming 450422 44 Story Of Negro Nurses.mp3
      16. Pabst 450103 Rochester.mp3
      17. Taos 460903 1369 George Latimer Crooked Political Boss Pt 01.mp3
      18. Taos 480512 1743 Ghost Brigade Pt 07.mp3
      19. X Minus One 561114 Martian Death March Remake.mp3
  • Standard Audio CDs are delivered by mail on archival quality media with up to 60 minutes on each CD and play in all CD players



    19 recordings on 10 Audio CDs
    total playtime 8 hours, 56 min

    Disc A001

    1. Father Coughlin 381211 Persecution And Communism

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Disc A002

    1. Its Time To Smile 410402 027 Oscar Levant
    2. Judy Canova 430907 Getting Mineral Water For Pig Lover Boy

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Disc A003

    1. Judy Canova 431012 Jailed Breaking Into Cary Grants House
    2. New World Coming 440521 12 Story Of James Pearson

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Disc A004

    1. New World Coming 440604 14 Life In Ghetto
    2. Pabst 450103 Rochester

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Disc A005

    1. New World Coming 450422 44 Story Of Negro Nurses
    2. Taos 460903 1369 George Latimer Crooked Political Boss Pt 01
    3. Lest We Forget American Dream 470000 01 Face To Face
    4. Lest We Forget American Dream 470000 07 One Small Voice

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Disc A006

    1. Americas Town Hall Meeting Air 480323 President Civil Rights

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Disc A007

    1. Taos 480512 1743 Ghost Brigade Pt 07
    2. Destination Freedom 490828 059 Segregation Incorporated

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Disc A008

    1. Cavalcade Of America 501121 Stepping Stones
    2. American Portraits 1951 510807 5 Stepping Stones

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Disc A009

    1. X Minus One 561114 Martian Death March Remake
    2. Meet Press 600417 Martin Luther King Jr. Civil Rights Leader

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Disc A010

    1. Jean Shepherd 630829 Describes MLK As Brilliant

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00