Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Philo Hutcheson - Chair

Second Advisor

Richard Lakes

Third Advisor

Marybeth Gasman

Fourth Advisor

Joyce King


The social and political role of Black college presidents in the 1930s and 1940s via annual radio addresses is a relevant example of how the medium of the day was used as an apparatus for individual and institutional agency. The nationalist agenda of the United States federal government indirectly led to the opportunity for Black college leadership to address the rhetoric of democracy, patriotism, and unified citizenship. The research focuses on the social positioning of the radio addresses as well as their role in the advancement of Black Americans. The primary question that informs the research is whether the 1930s and 1940s was a period of rising consciousness for Black America. The aim of this study is to examine the significance of radio during the pre- to post-war era, its parallel use by the United States federal government and historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and the interrelationship between education, politics, and society. The use of social history allows historical evidence to be viewed from the lens of identifying social trends. The social trends of the period examined include the analysis of economics, politics, and education. An additional benefit of using social history is the way in which it examines the masses and how they help shape history in conjunction with the leaders of a given period of examination. The research method also entails an in-depth analysis of 14 annual radio addresses delivered by three Black college presidents in the South during the 1930s and 1940s: Mordecai W. Johnson, James E. Shepard, and Benjamin E. Mays. Common themes found among radio addresses include morality and ethical behavior; economic, political, and social equality; access and inclusion in a democratic society; and a collective commitment to a just society. Black education as a form of racial uplift unveiled the meaning of access and the collective advancement of the race. Agreeing to deliver the radio addresses as a part of government-sponsored programming resulted in an inter-racial alliance between Black college leadership and the federal government. To this end, Black college leadership operationalized their access and education to benefit the needs of their race.