On Oct. 3, 1949, the nation’s first radio station owned by an African-American was founded right here in Atlanta. WERD became a mouthpiece for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and a rallying point for the civil rights movement.
In fact, the building that housed it was the same one King used as his office for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). It’s the Prince Hall Mason building on Sweet Auburn Avenue. In a historical twist, the structure also once housed a Madame CJ Walker Beauty Shoppe. She was a pioneer in shaping the beauty industry of African-American women.
These days, Ricci de Forest keeps alive the building’s history by broadcasting an online version of WERD. He’s a hair stylist who still cuts hair in the historic salon, which he has made it into the Madame CJ Walker Museum. In 2015, de Forest spoke with WABE about his preservation efforts.