Tianyi Wang is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Section and will join the University of Toronto as an assistant professor in economics starting fall 2022.
In the early 1960s, as the civil rights movement was gaining momentum, Black-oriented radio stations were broadcasting across large swaths of the South. This paper uses newly digitized data to provide the first empirical evidence on the effects of Black radio on the civil rights movement. I find strong evidence that Black radio increased Black political participation and activism in the South during the early 1960s, as measured by Black voter registration and the presence of a local chapter of the civil rights group NAACP. For mechanisms, I find evidence consistent with Black radio increasing the reach of civil rights groups and providing positive role models to African Americans. Moreover, results suggest that exposure to Black radio translated into substantive economic and political gains for the Black community in the form of greater state aid and legislative support for civil rights bills. Much of the effects took place before the enactment of landmark civil rights legislation, highlighting the significance of Black radio to the Black community.