Organ Interlude; Amos 'n' Andy

6:00-6:15 PM

First, we hear some organ music due to the staion's technical problems. Then, the history of blackface in mass culture continues as a white comedy duo introduces listeners to life at the Fresh Air Taxi Company. In this brief skit, they discuss the 1928 presidential election.

The famously popular series Amos and Andy was created by Charles Correll and Freeman Gosden. Correll and Gosden worked as "harmony boys" at the Chicago Tribune's WGN radio station playing the ukelele and piano, singing, and performing bit pieces of comedy. When Ben McKenna, the executive in charge of broadcasting at WGN, decided to create a new kind of radio show based on a type of "colored comedy" derived from the tradition of blackface minstrelsy, Correll and Gosden were recruited to portray two African-American characters known as Sam and Henry.

The Sam and Henry program debuted on January 12, 1926, and charted the experience of the title characters as they relocated from Alabama to the city. After WGN refused to syndicate the program, Correll and Gosden went to work at WMAQ and the show was retitled Amos and Andy. The Amos and Andy show debuted on March 19, 1928. LIke the Sam and Henry show, Amos and Andy captured the typical experience of African-Americans during the period of the Great Migration. Amos and Andy, however, came from Atlanta, not Alabama. Written entirely by Correll and Gosden, the storylines borrowed heavily from the tradition of blackface humor and the white actors mimicked southern dialect to chronicle the daily misfortunes of the protagonists and to make fun of their ineptitude.

Set in Harlem, Amos and Andy centered around the Kingfish, George Stevens, head of the Mystic Knights of the Sea Lodge, and his faulty money-making schemes. As a gullible victim, Andy (by far the simplest member of the Mystic Knights) repeatedly fell prey to the Kingfish's designs. The more philosophical character of Amos, a cab driver, narrated the episodes and provided the essential structure of each episode.

While some African-Americans found the imitation of black culture deeply disturbing, Amos and Andy's popularity was undeniable, and the show was one of the most listened to radio programs in history.

Click here to for an additional audio file.