The Council on Library and Information Resources has awarded a grant of $330,000 to digitize, preserve, and make publicly accessible previously unavailable archives of the Peabody Award winning radio station WRVR. Public Radio as a Tool for Cultural Engagement in New York in the 60s and early 70s: Digitizing the Broadcasts of WRVR-FM Public Radio is a joint project between The Riverside Church in the City of New York and the American Archive of Public Broadcasting, a collaboration between the Library of Congress and the WGBH Educational Foundation.
The collection includes culturally significant non-commercial programming, including interviews, speeches, and musical interpretations on matters such as civil rights, war, and fine arts, from laypersons to famed scholars, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Pete Seeger.
In addition to featuring progressive religious and philosophical discussions with Riverside clergy, theologians, and scholars, such as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., WRVR programming included culturally significant topics, speakers, and performances, such as Langston Hughes’ “Jericho-Jim Crow” directed by Alvin Ailey, and interviews and readings by Robert Frost, John Ashbery, and Allen Ginsberg. The station also featured the program “Just Jazz with Ed Beach,” which collection currently resides at the Library of Congress.
These recordings will be made publicly available at the American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB).
Sample recordings include:
“1. Back to School in Birmingham; Birmingham: Testament of Nonviolence, Part 4 [1 of 2].” May 1963 Riverside Radio, WRVR
Rev. Robert Polk (Riverside Church) interviews teenagers recently released from jail for participating in the 1963 Children’s Crusade in Birmingham. Over 1800 children, some as young as six years old, peacefully protested and were met with fire hoses and police dogs.
“2. The American People; What is Patriotism, Part 1 [1 of 2].” 1964 Riverside Radio, WRVR
Interviews with various Americans exploring attitudes about patriotism in the middle part of the twentieth century through discussing flag waving, nationalism vs. patriotism, and critically thinking about one’s country.3. Arthur Miller. Statement for World Theater Day, March 27, 1963 Riverside Radio, WRVR, Riverside Archives (The Riverside Church)
Arthur Miller remarks on theater’s ability to speak universal truths and understanding in art, and how this particular art form, above many others, informs society’s response to war, politics, freedoms, and all matters of the human condition across nations and cultures.
“4. Listen! William Sloane Coffin Jr.: Conscience” Interview on WRVR, March 31, 1968 Riverside Radio, WRVR. Riverside Archives (The Riverside Church)
William Sloane Coffin Jr., chaplain at Yale University (later Riverside Senior Minister, 1977-1987), discusses his indictment for conspiracy to encourage draft evasion and the politics of the Vietnam War; peace activism, civil rights and Dr. King’s Poor People’s Campaign, and how Dr. Coffin’s privilege informs his work as a clergyperson, activist, and American.