Del Shields { 5 images } Created 4 Feb 2020

Radio host, Dell Shields, WWRL
"Night Call" 1968-69
African American radio host
‘Night Call’ spurred conversations on race in 1960's
The program was hosted by Dell Shields and ran Monday through Friday. The program was released in co-operation with the Television Radio and Film Commission (TRAFCO), National Council of Churches, and the National Catholic Office for Radio and television.Kind of an odd cabal in the production room there for a call in show that in 1969 was taking live calls about the plight of "10 million colonial Mexican American people" in Texas, New Mexico and California. The same program aired an interview with Huey Newton, once leader of the Black Panthers. An issue of Cue Magazine described it in brief. " show gives Negros and whites a chance to communicate with one another on the air. Anyone may take part by phoning "Night Call" collect from anywhere in the country..."It was not Del Shields only attempt at a black-oriented talk program. In 1961, Del actually was the host of the first television talk show hosted by an African American. It debuted on WRCV-TV in Philadelphia and was canceled in just a few weeks. It had been sponsored by a brewery and in Del's own words "It only took 50 letters saying 'Get that nigger off your show or we'll stop drinking your beer' to make the sponsor drop the program..." Previous to that he had worked as a radio disc jockey starting in the late 1950s. His time had included airtime at WLIB and WDAS.

In 1970, he resigned, then was retroactively fired by NATRA in a highly combative departure. He'd been very vocal in fighting for racial equality in broadcasting, something we take for granted today. In 1968 only 8 radio stations were owned by African Americans, and three of them belonged to James Brown. As Del put it "We are not begging the record companies for anything, but they will have to make us a part of it if they wish to stay in business." In response to his hot buttered rhetoric, the FCC investigated the organization. After their parting both NATRA and Del Shields fell from the public eye. Del went to work for Bill Cosby in 1970. NATRA lasted about another 5 years.
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