Wings Over Jordan and American Radio: 1937-1947

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mass Communication and Journalism

First Advisor

Arthur J. Kaul

Advisor Department

Mass Communication and Journalism


A pioneering radio program titled "Wings Over Jordan" which aired on the Columbia Broadcasting System from January 9, 1938, until November 1947, was documented and analyzed in this study. The method used was historical-critical with data concerning broadcast messages subjected to qualitative content analysis. Approximately 93 percent of the network carried "Wings Over Jordan" in 1940, a program which never had commercial sponsorship and won a Peabody Award for 1940. No previous scholarly study of this African-American radio program exists, although a 1979 dissertation analyzed the choral style of the choir known as "Wings Over Jordan." Principal research questions addressed by this study include the history and origin of the broadcast; the historical context out of which it grew; characteristics of 1940s American domestic and overseas radio; and the broadcast's dominant messages. Over 20 affiliates, other than the choir's home station, WGAR-AM Cleveland, originated the program, as the choir toured. An agency of the United States Government used broadcasts of this program during World War II. This included recordings by Voice of America personnel of the choir's music from 1942 until 1946 and domestic radio use of the "Wings Over Jordan" program to reach African-American listeners across the nation with messages concerning the war effort. Commercial recordings by the choir are listed in an appendix.