It was a radical idea for a church communications agency in the 1960s, but the motivation was just as groundbreaking: getting whites and blacks to talk to each other — over the airwaves — during a period of incredible racial tension in the United States.
The vehicle for that dialogue was “Night Call,” one of the first national radio call-in shows.
The creators were part of the Television, Radio and Film Commission of the Methodist Church, also known as TRAFCO, which eventually would evolve into United Methodist Communications.
Although an earlier version of Night Call aired in 1966-67, the show caught fire when it launched again in June 1968, the tumultuous period after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
“It was launched to create dialogue and to let the steam off and to avoid violence,” remembered Price, the show’s executive producer. “It was a very volatile, scary time.”
Below, you'll find a sampling of episodes from Night Call, and get a sense of how daring a program like this was for its time, as it sought to build understanding and reconciliation through conversation.* These radio shows take any listener back to a time of great challenge, and allows for greater understanding in our current day and time to continue the struggle for racial reconciliation.
“We are trying to bring change in this nation through non-violent channels. Now, if we can not do it through non-violence there are other forces that are going to lead people down a violent path and the nation will be destroyed.” -Ralph Abernathy.
“One of the great tragedies of our our whole struggle in America is we have been separated through superficial plans by complexion, by education, and geographically.” -Jesse Jackson
Encouraging conversations that build understanding and inspire reconciliation.
Church can happen anywhere.
*Excerpted from "Recalling a groundbreaker in church communications" by Linda Bloom.