Women at Work
At the mike and behind the scenes, Black women have been in Black radio from the start. Roberta Roland was on the air with WJLD in 1944, and WBCO had Willa Lee "Honey" Brown on air in 1951 - 1952, and Lora Gary from 1952, who later switched stations to WJLD. In the late 1970s, Charlotte Mitchell worked the night shift at WJLD, and was known to her listeners as "Miss Love." Their stories, and those of other Black women in the Birmingham Black radio commuity, are shared here. As we add materials to the collection, we hope to add the stories of more women making themselves heard on the Birmingham airwaves.
Roberta Roland was a mainstay of Birmingham Black radio from the early days, starting at WJLD in 1944. She was a program director and gospel promoter, and according to her 1955 obituary, "many radio listeners became familiar with that affectionate voice which closed out every program with 'Good night everyone . . . this is your Roberta Roland'." Born in Chattanooga, she moved to Birmingham as a child, and attended Stillman College in Tuscaloosa AL.
Alma Johnson was the home economist on WJLD in 1958. This promotional flyer was to advertise her abilities to sponsors. It highlights her education at Fisk University, local connections through her father, the Principal at Parker High, and "smooth program and smooth delivery" during her "Luncheon Show" on WJLD.
Alma Johnson married Colin Powell, Secretary of Defense under President George Bush.
Robelia "R.J." Pope began her career in the 1940s, continued at WEDR and eventually had a cooking show in 1954 at WJLD. Here she is in the WJLD studios, with her microphone and cooking tools.