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Roz Abrams

Broadcast journalist Roslyn Maria “Roz” Abrams was born on September 7, 1948 in Lansing, Michigan. She received her B.S. degree in sociology from Western Michigan University, and her M.S. degree in speech from the University of Michigan.

Abrams worked first as a reporter for WJIM in Lansing, Michigan, and then as an anchor and reporter for WSB-AM radio from 1975 to 1978. She went on to work as a news reporter/anchor at WXIA-TV in Atlanta, Georgia from 1978 to 1982, at CNN from 1982 to 1983, and at KRON-TV in San Francisco, California from 1983 to 1986. In 1986, Abrams joined WABC-TV in New York City, first as weekend anchor and general assignment reporter, and later as co-anchor of Eyewitness News at 5 p.m. She was the first African American female journalist to join WABC-TV, and the second anchorwoman of color in the New York City television market. While there, Abrams covered a number of major stories and events, including the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001; the blackout of 2003; the end of apartheid in South Africa; and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. She left WABC-TV in 2003; and, in 2004, was hired by New York City’s WCBS-TV as the co-anchor of CBS2 News at 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. Abrams left WCBS-TV in 2006 and retired from journalism in 2010.

Abrams was the first African American vice president of the Atlanta Press Club. She has served on the editorial advisory board of “Making Waves,” a quarterly publication of American Women in Radio and Television. Abrams served as an advisory board member for the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, where she also funds a scholarship program. In addition, she has served on the board of Women in Film and the New York City Police Athletic League, and as co-chair of New York Reads Together and CAUSE-NY.

Abrams received a New York Association of Black Journalists Award for the special "The Sounds of Harlem," and received the Ed Bradley Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. She won a local Emmy in 2004 and a Gracie Award in 2006. She was also awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters from the New York Institute of Technology, and has been named a news legend by the Friars Club. In 2013, Abrams received the Elinor Guggenheimer Lifetime Achievement Award from New York Women’s Agenda.

Abrams resides in Westchester County, New York. She has two grown daughters, Denise and Melissa, and four grandchildren.

Roz Abrams was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 17, 2014.

Accession Number

A2014.044

Sex

Female

Interview Date

3/17/2014

Last Name

Abrams

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Middle Name

Maria

Schools

Main Street Elementary School

West Junior High School

J.W. Sexton High School

Western Michigan University

University of Michigan

Search Occupation Category
Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Weekends

First Name

Roslyn

Birth City, State, Country

Lansing

HM ID

ABR02

Speakers Bureau Preferred Audience

Teens and Seniors

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

No

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Michigan

Favorite Vacation Destination

Martha's Vineyard

Favorite Quote

It Takes A Giant To Bend.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Interview Description
Birth Date

9/7/1948

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Steak, Chicken, Hamburgers, and French Fries.

Short Description

Broadcast journalist Roz Abrams (1948 - ) was a pioneer in broadcast journalism and served as a news anchor for WABC-TV and WCBS-TV in New York City.

Employment

WJIM TV

WLTA FM Radio

WSB Radio

KRON TV

WXIA TV

WABC TV

WCBS TV

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Roz Abrams' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Roz Abrams lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Roz Abrams talks about her mother, Esther Caldwell Abrams

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Roz Abrams describes her paternal family history

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Roz Abrams talks about her two siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Roz Abrams describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Roz Abrams talks about the impact of her parents' divorce on her

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Roz Abrams describes the sights, sounds, and smells of her childhood in Lansing, Michigan

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Roz Abrams talks about her parents' divorce and their support for her

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Roz Abrams describes her religious upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Roz Abrams recalls being disciplined as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Roz Abrams remembers her grade school years

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Roz Abrams talks about going to therapy after her parents' divorce

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Roz Abrams talks about her father's photography and her mother's ambition for her children

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Roz Abrams shares her memories of family gatherings during the holidays

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Roz Abrams describes her childhood neighborhood and her mother's determination to expose her to cultural activities

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Roz Abrams talks about growing up with a prettier older sister

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Roz Abrams describes her admission to Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Roz Abrams talks about her experience at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Roz Abrams talks about her graduate studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Roz Abrams describes her entry into journalism at WJIM TV in Lansing, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Roz Abrams describes her career as a broadcast journalist in Atlanta, Georgia during the 1970s

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Roz Abrams talks about groundbreaking African American journalists including HistoryMakers Jocelyn Dorsey, Monica Kaufman, Xernona Clayton, and Belva Davis

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Roz Abrams describes her husband, Kenneth Showers, pt.1

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Roz Abrams describes her husband, Kenneth Showers, pt.2

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Roz Abrams describes her experience at CNN in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Roz Abrams recalls black anchors in Atlanta, Georgia and the decline of African Americans on air

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Roz Abrams talks about reporting and mistakes on air

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Roz Abrams talks about lessons she learned from her mentor at CNN, Bob Cain

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Roz Abrams talks about Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Roz Abrams describes her move from CNN to KRON TV in San Francisco, California

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Roz Abrams talks about working with agents

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Roz Abrams talks about the early days of the AIDS epidemic in the United States

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Roz Abrams describes how she attracted viewers in San Francisco, California

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Roz Abrams talks about her colleagues at KRON TV including HistoryMaker Belva Davis

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Roz Abrams talks about her decision to leave KRON TV for WABC TV in New York

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Roz Abrams talks about her adopted daughters, Denise and Melissa

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Roz Abrams recalls her acquaintances in the Bay Area

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Roz Abrams talks about juggling home life while working as an anchor in New York City, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Roz Abrams describes working at WABC TV with Oprah Winfrey, Melba Tolliver, Roger Grimsby, Bill Beutel

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Roz Abrams talks about her priorities as an anchor

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Roz Abrams talks about her early years, her co-anchors, and the news director at WABC TV

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Roz Abrams talks about learning to fulfill beauty standards as an anchorwoman

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Roz Abrams talks about Roger Grimsby and her mentor, Chickie Bucco

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Roz Abrams recalls memorable stories from her news career, pt.1

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Roz Abrams recalls memorable stories from her news career, pt.2

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Roz Abrams talks about her least favorite assignments and her weekly magazine show "New York Views"

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Roz Abrams recalls the consequences of asking a gotcha question during HistoryMaker David Dinkins' mayoral debate

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Roz Abrams talks about HistoryMaker David Dinkins' mayoral term

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Roz Abrams talks about the Northeast blackout of 2003 and New York City's communities

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Roz Abrams remembers her father, Herbert Abrams

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Roz Abrams talks about her father and his attempts to trace the family genealogy

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Roz Abrams talks about leaving WABC TV for WCBS TV

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Roz Abrams describes her activities after leaving her news career

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Roz Abrams talks about the end of her marriage to Kenneth Showers

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Roz Abrams talks about retired life

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Roz Abrams talks about her hopes for the future

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Roz Abrams reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Roz Abrams talks about how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 12 - Roz Abrams describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Roz Abrams narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$6

DAStory

5$2

DATitle
Roz Abrams recalls memorable stories from her news career, pt.1
Roz Abrams talks about the Northeast blackout of 2003 and New York City's communities
Transcript
So what parts of--so let--let's--I want to understand your--the stories that still stand--stay--you know, stick out with you. You talked about the AIDS crisis and KR--you know, when you were in San Francisco [California]. But what are the news stories in, you know, this long career that you've here? What are the news stories that stick out to you? You talked about the 19--I don't know if you talk about the 1984 convention. You talked about (simultaneous)--$$Eighty-four [1984], when watching a woman [Geraldine Ferraro] be nominated vice president, and nobody knew it was coming, at least I didn't. And I just said, my God, this could happen. A woman--because I'm a feminist. You gotta remember I was covering Gloria Steinem when she was saying you have to have equal pay for equal work, and I took that to heart. And I said when I ever get in the position to be really good, I'm not gonna sit next to somebody who makes hundreds of thousands of dollars more than I do. Now that's easier said than done. And most of the time I would tell my agent don't sell me cheap. You know, I may not get it the first year; I may not--but if we got a four-year contract, I need to be there at the end of the four years just so that I can look at myself in the mirror and say Roz, it's okay. And he goes oh, you are so full of it, but he did it. He did it on my behalf and at my behest. So much of the time because I was a feminist, I was always fighting to get women for sound bites. You gotta remember, back in the '70s [1970s] it was male everything unless you were talking about women's issues. And I would spend so much time in Atlanta [Georgia] trying to find a woman to give me a sound bite because it was critical, it was important, and they were out there. It's just that nobody at that point in time was willing to talk to a woman about MARTA [Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority], because all the people doing MARTA, the top people were men. But there were women in positions of power, and you just had to find them. So the stories were the stories, but I was always looking to bring--if I could, bring women into them, especially if it was a long going four-year, five-year story. I did a whole lot of crime. I have seen a lot of dead bodies, and that--that's stays with you. When you see people who have been--I walked into an apartment--they said Roz, there's something going down on Auburn Avenue, da, da, da, da. I'm in radio. I run in, and there is a woman with a butcher knife through her--and it's so deep in the door that it's holding her up. And they haven't covered her; they haven't taken her down; I was not prepared.$$There--a dam burst at a school called Toccoa Falls. They called me at 4:00 in the morning. They said Roz, get up, go to Toccoa Falls. All we know is that there is a dam that burst. And by the time I got there, the dormitory--it was a very, very small Christian school. The dormitory, which was identified as a dormitory four stories high, the bottom two stories were filled with silt and sand from floor to ceiling. And you knew that in every single one of those rooms there were two roommates who never saw it coming. And I remember it like--they'd, they'd give you details, and luckily I was still in radio. But I can remember as I was giving these radio reports with my hands shaking, because there was death, and it was the death of young people, and there were mothers and fathers who started to arrive, and there was screaming. All of that affects you. It doesn't just roll off. It, it sort of sits somewhere.$$And then you'll be doing an interview on AIDS in San Francisco, and you're talking to a kid from Norway who came to San Francisco as a hippie. And he was sleeping in a field to raise money for the cause of AIDS. And he didn't have the money. There were ten of them sleeping in a field, and a tractor came through, didn't know these kids were sleeping there, ran over all of them, left them all with major spinal cord injuries. And you're talking to this guy and your--and suddenly you just lose it. You just go how could this happen to this kid? And you were talking to him because he said I have no regrets. I'm still raising money for AIDS in my wheelchair.$And then what other news stories in the--in the '90s [1990s] that, that were sort of critical? What other--$$The covering the, the blackout in 2000 [sic, 2003] and whatever.$$Yeah, the blackout.$$That was--that was--that was such a throwback to a time--we're not used to not having power in Manhattan [New York City, New York], no streetlights, no--how do you get home first of all? None of the streetlights were working. You had to drive very slow.$$Talk, talk about what happened and then what--$$Part of the Northeast went out, not us. Part of the Northeast went out so we knew it was coming. We were covering that aspect. We were preparing to do our shows about this swath in the Northeast when we were suddenly plunged into darkness. And even though we have backup generators, it took a very long time to get Channel 7 back on the air, a very--we were hours off the air because it takes so much power. And 9/11 taught us you don't put your microwaves on top of buildings that can be brought down because that can destroy your signal. We were off the air unless you had cable. But we never thought about the basics of electricity, how much electricity it takes to keep a television station running. You have to have enough lights to write by, hundreds of computers on every floor, air conditioning, heating. And we were--we were off the air for a long time. But when we went out to do the stories, there were people sitting out on their stoops just like they used to do in the summer a long time ago when they didn't have air conditioning and they didn't have TV. And people were like dancing in the streets, and they--you're not supposed to take liquor outside of bars, but you know, the police were just doing policing. You could go and, and sit outside and drink a beer and talk to people. We connected. We connected as a city in, in ways that I have never seen before. So on one level it was sweltering. Hospitals were tremendously affected, and the city learned from that. But it was--it was a throwback to a time--I really liked being out talking to people who were on the stoops. And if they had an old person there, like oh, I remember when we used to do this back in the '40s [1940s], oh yeah, da, da, da, before there was television to keep us inside and--it was--it, it was a little frightening because you say if it goes down again, it's bad. But it wasn't for that long a time. And you saw this city, and people with candles, and people talking to each other in a way they didn't before.$$So you really--what you're also describing--well, that's 2001. Prego (ph.) to that--well, what you're also describing is a lot of community that--$$Well, that's how New York is, communities--I mean the, the communities where people live there all their lives, and their parents die, and they stay in their parents' home. It's changing now in Manhattan, and I--it--because there's so much--it costs so much to live in Manhattan now. Harlem [Manhattan, New York City, New York] has, has been gentrified. But when I started here in the mid '80s [1980s], it was--it was nothing but communities with a certain type of people that did things a certain way and traditions, you know, the Jewish communities, the Haitian communities, Harlem, Spanish Harlem. They were like beautiful little worlds, and I was not used to most of these communities. I was prepared for living with a lot of black folk because of Atlanta, but I'd never really been in a large Jewish community. I'd never been to a seder. I--and I was like a sponge. I wanted to learn. I wanted to learn about Haitian foods and Haitian culture. I wanted to learn about Jewish food and the religion. And so this was a great place to be a sponge, and I was.$$You became part of New York, and New York became part of you.$$It did and I am so much better for it. I can't live anywhere else. Can you imagine me going back to Lansing, Michigan? Oh my God, never--that's not an option. I can't even go back and be comfortable in Atlanta [Georgia] anymore.

Brenda Wood

Broadcast journalist Brenda Blackmon Wood was born on September 8, 1955 in Washington, D.C. to Welvin Bray and Bernice Blackmon. Wood graduated from Takoma Academy in Takoma Park, Maryland in 1973. She went on to receive her B.A. degree in speech communication and mass media from Loma Linda University in Southern California in 1977.

Upon graduation in 1977, Wood was hired as a news reporter for WAAY-TV in Huntsville, Alabama. In 1978, she left that market for a brief time to serve as a general assignment reporter at WSM-TV in Nashville, Tennessee. One year later, Wood returned to WAAY-TV as the evening news anchor. In 1980, she moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where she spent eight years as the evening weekday news anchor for WMC-TV. In 1988, Wood was hired as the evening news anchor and reporter at Atlanta, Georgia’s WAGA-TV, where she also hosted the Emmy award-winning news magazine show, Minute by Minute. She then joined WXIA-TV in Atlanta in 1997, where she anchors the 6pm and 11pm weekday newscasts, as well as her signature newscast, The Daily 11 at 7 with Brenda Wood. Wood was also co-producer and host of WXIA-TV’s Emmy award-winning prime time show, Journeys with Brenda Wood, which has received the National Association of Black Journalists’ 1998 award for Community Affairs Programming.

Throughout her career Wood has received numerous honors and awards, including eighteen Emmy awards from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) Southeast Region; six awards from the Atlanta Association of Black Journalists (AABJ); and three awards from the Georgia Association of Broadcasters (GAB). In 2013 she was named Georgia Woman of the Year by the Governor's Office of the Georgia Women's Commission, and received the Legacy Award from the Atlanta Business League. Wood has also been named Who's Who in Atlanta; awarded the NAACP's Phoenix Award for "Best News Anchor," and named "Best Local News Anchor" by Atlanta Magazine in 1998. Wood has also received an award from the Georgia Chapter of Women in Communication, the Gabriel Award of Merit from the National Association of Catholic Churches, and a journalism award from the Georgia Psychological Association, as well as several awards and honors from local civic and community organizations.

Wood is a member of the NATAS, the NABJ, the AABJ, the Atlanta Press Club, and Women in Film. She serves on the boards of Kenny Leon's True Colors Theater Company and Chayil, Inc., a nonprofit that helps domestic abuse victims. In addition, Wood serves on several local advisory boards in the Atlanta area.

Wood lives in Atlanta, Georgia and has two daughters, Kristen and Kandis.

Brenda Wood was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on February 21, 2014.

Accession Number

A2014.072

Sex

Female

Interview Date

2/21/2014

Last Name

Wood

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Middle Name

Blackmon

Schools

Takoma Academy

Loma Linda University

Oakwood Adventist Academy

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Brenda

Birth City, State, Country

Washington

HM ID

WOO11

Favorite Season

Fall

State

District of Columbia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Turks and Caicos

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Interview Description
Birth Date

9/8/1955

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Macaroni, Cheese

Short Description

Broadcast journalist Brenda Wood (1955 - ) has worked as a reporter and news anchor for Atlanta, Georgia’s WAGA-TV and WXIA-TV for over thirty-four years. She has received eighteen Emmy awards, six awards from the Atlanta Association of Black Journalists, and the NAACP's Phoenix Award for "Best News Anchor."

Employment

WAAY TV, Huntsville

WSM TV, Nashville

WMC TV, Memphis

WAGA-TV (Television Station: Atlanta,Ga.)

WXIA-TV, Atlanta

Favorite Color

Teal

Timing Pairs
0,0:7380,128:11808,203:12546,214:13612,227:15252,255:15580,261:25060,353:25368,364:25676,369:26215,378:27139,391:28063,408:30065,474:30373,479:30758,488:31297,499:31913,509:33299,540:34146,556:34916,569:41952,603:43510,621:45314,693:46462,714:46954,721:47446,728:57582,870:59922,954:62340,1018:62964,1027:63588,1047:63978,1053:65304,1086:67644,1144:71170,1149$0,0:2864,26:6305,60:7415,72:8636,86:9524,109:10634,123:18665,270:20000,286:20890,297:22492,316:30372,384:34712,451:35314,475:36776,567:40818,611:42452,644:42796,649:46666,713:47268,734:47698,741:48816,768:56442,818:60290,893:61030,904:62214,934:62510,939:62954,946:71920,1111:74266,1182:77716,1260:78682,1278:83274,1301:83862,1308:88054,1338:88732,1345:89862,1356:93246,1392:93576,1398:94500,1420:94830,1426:95556,1445:96414,1463:97074,1474:101308,1491:101753,1497:102109,1502:102910,1512:109495,1558:116295,1677:120375,1762:120970,1770:121310,1775:130405,1911:137804,1978:140807,2024:141577,2035:146967,2171:147737,2185:148969,2206:156470,2301:156841,2309:157159,2316:157901,2338:158855,2366:159438,2379:167824,2523:168644,2534:170858,2586:181180,2709:181520,2715:182540,2730:182965,2736:185296,2744:192060,2924:199908,3059:206572,3240:213125,3316:217780,3366:218660,3381:221620,3457:223860,3484:226900,3565:233648,3602:234312,3614:243970,3798:244270,3803:245995,3839:246295,3844:254254,3959:254514,3965:254930,3974:255554,3996:255814,4002:258608,4032:263310,4081:263566,4086:263822,4091:264206,4098:269134,4205:274062,4343:274510,4354:275278,4372:275598,4379:275918,4385:279710,4393:280510,4405:281630,4424:282030,4430:287824,4531:291154,4596:299280,4670:299640,4675:306322,4757:306742,4763:314470,4931:314806,4936:319390,4977:321630,5008:326590,5189:327230,5199:329710,5239:331870,5321:334430,5363:344686,5444:344982,5449:345944,5474:346314,5481:352350,5551:353302,5580:356170,5586:356910,5600:357428,5609:365642,5788:366234,5797:366826,5807:367566,5818:367862,5823:377454,5901:381950,5952
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Brenda Wood's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Brenda Wood lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Brenda Wood talks about her biological mother and her adoptive mother

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Brenda Wood talks about her adoptive parents

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Brenda Wood describes the history of musicianship in her maternal family

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Brenda Wood describes her adoptive father's family background and talks about his career as a musician

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Brenda Wood talks about the death of her biological mother in 1960, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Brenda Wood describes her adoptive mother

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Brenda Wood describes growing up in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Brenda Wood talks about the death of her biological mother in 1960, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Brenda Wood explains why her adoptive father, Henry Blackmon, immigrated to the Netherlands

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Brenda Wood recalls her earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Brenda Wood talks about her upbringing as a Seventh Day Adventist and attending Seventh Day Adventist schools throughout her education

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Brenda Wood describes her experience at Smothers Elementary School in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Brenda Wood talks about her experiences at Woodson Junior High School and the Dupont Park Church Seventh Day Adventist School

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Brenda Wood remembers taking piano lessons from her mother

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Brenda Wood remembers watching JC Hayward and Max Robinson on Channel 9 in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Brenda Wood talks about her mother's friendship with singer and actress Joyce Bryant

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Brenda Wood talks about her mother's relationship with singer Roberta Flack

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Brenda Wood talks about wanting to be a Broadway performer

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Brenda Wood describes her experience at Takoma Academy in Takoma Park, Maryland

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Brenda Wood remembers the riots in Washington, D.C. in 1968 after Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated

Tape: 2 Story: 14 - Brenda Wood describes the racial demographics of the student body at Takoma Academy in Takoma Park, Maryland

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Brenda Wood describes how she became interested in speech and communications

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Brenda Wood talks about deciding to attend Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Brenda Wood talks briefly about the Loma Linda University Medical Center's legacy

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Brenda Wood talks about transferring to Loma Linda University and wanting to become an investigative filmmaker

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Brenda Wood remembers being interviewed by WAAY-TV in Huntsville, Alabama

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Brenda Wood talks about joining WAAY-TV in Huntsville, Alabama in 1977

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Brenda Wood explains why she chose not to leave Huntsville, Alabama for Ohio State University

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Brenda Wood talks about receiving an offer to join WSMV-TV in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Brenda Wood talks about her marriage in 1978

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

8$5

DATitle
Brenda Wood remembers watching JC Hayward and Max Robinson on Channel 9 in Washington, D.C.
Brenda Wood remembers being interviewed by WAAY-TV in Huntsville, Alabama
Transcript
So, now, did you pay--considering what you're doing today, did you pay special attention to news people on television?$$No, not really. I do remember, I was--I remember when JC Hayward and Max Robinson arrived at Channel 9 in Washington [D.C.] and loved them, probably, I guess, because I don't know this to be a fact, but we watched Channel 9 all the time. And they were the first blacks that I saw on TV giving the news. So, my mom [Alma Montgomery Blackmon] was very, very proud of that. She loved Max Robinson, you know. They were always in--so I watched them growing up. I can't say, though, that I, you know, that was not--I didn't look--I don't know. You know, I, I admired them greatly, but I don't really recall thinking one day I want to be JC Hayward, you know what I'm saying? Don't--it wasn't that. But I did watch them all the time.$$Okay, so you were keenly aware of them, but you weren't--$$Absolutely.$$--you didn't see them as future, you know--$$No, you know, at the time, I wanted to be a Broadway singer, or you know opera singer. That's kind of where my head was 'cause that's, that'a what I was hearing all the time.$I was--by this time I was engaged. My fiance was slated to graduate in December, and then we were gonna get married. And then I was gonna start the master's fellowship there in Ohio [at Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio]. He was gonna do his residency there. So between June of graduation from undergrad and December I had this free time. So I applied for a job somewhere in Huntsville [Alabama]. And I, you know, I had done a little bit of radio in college at the college radio station, and I had done some internships--$$I was gonna ask you if they had a station there?$$Yeah, they did. It was all automated, so, yeah, I didn't do very much but punch buttons. And I had done some internships in Los Angeles [California] with a couple of independent film companies. So I had a small resume. I'd sent it back home to then Huntsville. And I just, you know, sent it everywhere to radio, TV, newspapers, just, you know, I just needed something to do. And I wanted to do something in communications. And--$$Now, this is in the space between Loma Linda [University, Loma Linda, California] and Ohio State?$$Correct.$$Would have been Ohio State.$$Right, so I sent out my resume like in April. I knew I was gonna be graduating in June, so I had put together a little resume and sent it out before graduation. I got an inquiry before graduation from a couple of newspapers, little local newspapers, couple of radio stations that were interested, and a television station. And my first week back home from, after graduation, I only went to the TV station for the interview, not smart, you know. It's like, "Oh, I don't wanna work at a newspaper. And I don't wanna work at a radio station." I wanted to--and the reason why I wanted to do the TV was because they shot film. And this is 1977. So they're still shooting film. So in my little brain, I'm thinking, well, I wanna do film, and they do film. So I'll (laughter) do film. So I went, I accepted the, the invitation to come and do an interview at the television station there.$$Okay, so you saw yourself as behind the cameras kind of--$$Yeah, yeah, right, but they--and they were, I knew they were looking for a reporter. And I had taken one journalism class. So, you know, I wasn't so much interested--what drew me to the TV station wasn't that I wanted to be a reporter or let me see what reporting is like? It was, I, you know, I don't know. I knew nothing. So, you know, it was like, they shoot film, and I wanna do film. So I'll go to the television station and apply to be a reporter. And it doesn't really connect. But that's what I did. And Adrian Gibson was the news director at the time, and he interviewed me, and I said, really all the wrong things, thinking back on it. You know, I said, I don't wanna be, I'm not interested in being a reporter. You know, have you ever done any reporting? No, taken, you know, have you taken classes? Just one. Yeah, well, what do you see in your future? Well, I wanna be a filmmaker. Do you wanna be a reporter? "No, not really. And by the way, I'm leaving in six months 'cause I'm going to Ohio State to get my master's in filmmaking. And then I'll be gone. Oh, and on top of that, I don't work on Friday nights or Saturdays 'cause I'm Seventh Day Adventist." And this man hired me (laughter). I don't know why. I did a, they put me in front of the camera on the news set in the studio and asked, you know, just said, talk, you know, just talk to the camera. And I did, and I don't even know what I said.$$This is your first time talking, I mean being the talent on a television program.$$(No audible response) 'Cause, you know, we didn't have the--different from today. At, at--neither at Oakwood [College, Huntsville, Alabama] nor at Loma Linda did they have a studio set up, you know, did they have a, you know, a little news operation. They had none of that where I was, none of that. So it really was the first time I'd been in a studio, the first time I'd talked in front of a camera or any of that.$$Okay. So did they build your work around your religion and other--$$Yeah, they did. They gave me a Sunday through Thursday schedule. Fortunately, because they're in Huntsville, they knew of Oakwood's existence. They knew of the Seventh Day Adventist College. So they--and the woman that I was replacing who was also a black female, ironically, left to go to Ohio State University to work on her master's degree. Isn't that just funny how life works. So, you know, and because it was the '70's [1970s], and I filled two quotas, I was black and female, you know, I would, I was, you know, I was a twofer. So they wanted to hire--they had a slot for (laughter) a twofer. They were losing one, a black female. And so they get to hire one. So that probably was more of the motivating factor than anything else (laughter) in hiring me. I was there (laughter). I was a warm body (laughter).$$Now, well, you had the credentials which some, it was like a driver's license in some ways. You have a degree in communications.$$Yeah.$$So they can say, they can justify your hiring by pointing to these degrees.$$Right. It wasn't a degree in journalism.$$I mean in communications.$$That would have been helpful. Well, yeah, it was in communications. You said it right. You know, it was very broad, very generic, yeah.$$All right.$$But I filled the bill.$$Okay, okay, and ever--anyone ever told you that you looked like a television talent?$$No.$$Really, up to that point?$$Oh, no. No, as a matter--$$Interesting.$$--of fact, when I was in college, people would say to me, you know, "What's your major?" "Communications." "Oh, what's that?" You know, that--it's the '70s [1970s]. It was a new major. "What's that?" And my standard answer in explaining what that was, you know, "Well, you know, I wanna go into filmmaking." "Huh?" And then my retort would be, "Well, anything but news."

June Baldwin

Entertainment executive June M. Baldwin graduated from Stanford University with her B.A. degree in psychology. She went on to receive her J.D. degree from Harvard Law School in 1975.

Following graduation, Baldwin served as clerk for the jurist Luther Swygert on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, Illinois. She then moved to Los Angeles and was hired as an executive for NBC, where she was responsible for, among other things, the day-to-day business transactions for The Tonight Show and Carson Productions, the television and motion picture production company founded by the late talk show host, Johnny Carson. At NBC, Baldwin became one of the first African Americans to enter the executive ranks of the entertainment industry. She then worked for Norman Lear, Quincy Jones and Aaron Spelling, where she held the position of head of business affairs at their independent production companies.

Baldwin went on to be hired as vice president of business affairs at United Paramount Network. She also worked in a similar capacity at Columbia TriStar Television from 2000 until 2001. In 2004, Baldwin was hired as director of business and legal affairs at KCET, the nation’s largest independent public television station. Then, in 2010, she was promoted to vice president and general counsel of KCET. Baldwin has negotiated a variety of production deals, and has worked on such critically acclaimed productions as Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State, A Place of Our Own, Los Ninos En Su Casa, Wired Science, and SoCal Connected.  In addition, for seven years she managed business and legal affairs for the PBS late-night talk show Tavis Smiley, and the primetime series Tavis Smiley Reports.

Baldwin has served on numerous boards, including the Hollywood Women's Political Committee, the Hollywood Policy Center, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, the California Women's Law Center, Planned Parenthood, the Archer School for Girls, Women in Film, Women in Film Foundation, Artists For A New South Africa, The Coalition for At-Risk Youth, NBC Credit Union, the Minority Health Institute, and the Black Entertainment and Sports Lawyers Association.

June M. Baldwin was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 18, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.310

Sex

Female

Interview Date

12/20/2013

Last Name

Baldwin

Maker Category
Marital Status

Single

Middle Name

Michelle

Schools

St. Madeline Sophie

Ancilla Domini Academy

Shipley School For Girls

Stanford University

Harvard Law School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

June

Birth City, State, Country

Philadelphia

HM ID

BAL04

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Pennsylvania

Favorite Vacation Destination

Anywhere

Favorite Quote

Everything In Its Time

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Interview Description
Birth Date

10/4/1950

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Vegetables

Short Description

Entertainment executive June Baldwin (1950 - ) became one of the first African Americans to enter the executive ranks of the entertainment industry when she worked for NBC.

Employment

KCET

Columbia Tri Star TV

United Paramount Network

Spelling Television

Quincy Jones/David Salzman Entertainment

NBC

Favorite Color

Blue, Greens

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of June Baldwin's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - June Baldwin lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - June Baldwin describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - June Baldwin talks about her mother's education and profession

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - June Baldwin describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - June Baldwin talks about her father's young adult years

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - June Baldwin describes her parents' personalities

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - June Baldwin talks about her parents' civic activities

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - June Baldwin describes her early household

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - June Baldwin describes her earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - June Baldwin describes the sights and sounds of her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - June Baldwin remembers the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - June Baldwin talks about her early education

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - June Baldwin recalls her decision to attend the Shipley School for Girls in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - June Baldwin describes her early interest in acting

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - June Baldwin remembers race relations at the Shipley School for Girls

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - June Baldwin describes her religious experiences at the Shipley School for Girls

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - June Baldwin talks about the prominent figures who inspired her

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - June Baldwin recalls developing her racial identity during the late 1960s

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - June Baldwin remembers her teachers and guidance counselor at the Shipley School for Girls

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - June Baldwin reflects upon her time at the Shipley School for Girls in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - June Baldwin talks about creating a scholarship at the Shipley School for Girls

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - June Baldwin recalls attending the March on Washington

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - June Baldwin remembers studying psychology at Stanford University in Stanford, California

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - June Baldwin talks about Eldridge Cleaver and Timothy Leary

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - June Baldwin recalls visiting the Black Panther Party in Algeria

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - June Baldwin talks about the Black Power movement at Stanford University

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - June Baldwin recalls her decision to attend Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - June Baldwin remembers her classmates and experiences at Harvard Law School

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - June Baldwin remembers her challenges at Harvard Law School

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - June Baldwin recalls clerking for Judge Luther M. Swygert

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - June Baldwin talks about her early legal career

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - June Baldwin describes her experiences at Morrison and Foerster LLP

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - June Baldwin recalls working for Silverberg, Rosen, Leon and Behr

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - June Baldwin talks about joining Women In Film

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - June Baldwin recalls her entry into the entertainment industry

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - June Baldwin describes her initial experiences at NBC

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - June Baldwin recalls working on 'The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson'

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - June Baldwin remembers the black television executives in the 1980s

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - June Baldwin talks about Michael Jackson's award at the NAACP Image Awards

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - June Baldwin recalls her proudest moments as a television business affairs executive

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - June Baldwin remembers working at Norman Lear's company, Act III Productions

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - June Baldwin talks about working for Quincy Jones Productions, Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - June Baldwin recalls working with Aaron Spelling Productions

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - June Baldwin remembers her music publishing venture with George Butler

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - June Baldwin recalls working at United Paramount Network

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - June Baldwin describes her work at Columbia TriStar Television

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - June Baldwin describes her position at KCET in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - June Baldwin talks about the merger of KCET and Link TV

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - June Baldwin describes the growth and changes at KCETLink

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - June Baldwin talks about her board memberships, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - June Baldwin talks about her board memberships, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - June Baldwin shares her plans for the future

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - June Baldwin reflects upon her career

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - June Baldwin reflects upon her legacy in the entertainment industry

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - June Baldwin talks about her dating life

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - June Baldwin describes her family

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - June Baldwin talks about her international travels

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - June Baldwin describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - June Baldwin narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$3

DAStory

1$6

DATitle
June Baldwin reflects upon her time at the Shipley School for Girls in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania
June Baldwin recalls visiting the Black Panther Party in Algeria
Transcript
Well, tell us the Shipley [Shipley School for Girls; The Shipley School, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania] story.$$So obviously Shipley was a seminal event in my life. And for all of the, the challenges, I developed some wonderful friendships with a few girls there who are lifelong friends, like sisters. And they saw me; they--it didn't matter to them that I came from a different background or that I was black. And so they were my rocks, and we're still very, very close today. Also in 2003, Shipley gave me the distinguished alumna award, which was a huge shock to me because I had not had much contact at all with the school since I left. And I had an opportunity to tell my story, which I had never done. But I wanted them to know that I loved and appreciated the education that I got and that I saw it as a very positive thing. It was very difficult for my mother [Audrey McLaughlin Harris] to decide to send to me to Shipley. That was not something that we did in the black culture. You don't send your daughter off during her adolescent years to be part of a social experiment. And I'd never really realized how much that had weighed on my mother because, of course, that shaped the rest of my life. So they gave me the award, which was very lovely, and they honored and acknowledged my mother. And the school official said, "I don't think I would have had the courage to send my child away like that." And so I was very happy because although it's been my journey it was also my mother's. So fast forward, I ran into a Shipley classmate at Stanford [Stanford University, Stanford, California] whom I hadn't even been friends with at Stanford. Again, when I left Shipley I sort of didn't wanna have anything to do with Shipley. Fast forward, I run into this classmate, and she's a, a writer for The New York Times and she said, "I ha- it's great to see you. I have an idea and I'm wondering if you'd be interested." And the idea was to create a school sca- a class scholarship for an underprivileged girl of color. And she wondered if I thought that was a good idea, and if I would work with her on it. And I said oh, I think that's a great idea. So last May we went to our forty-fifth reunion, and we proposed this to the class, and that is what we're going to do. And sh- they have said that it was because of knowing me, and it was a time when their lives changed that that inspired her to want to do this scholarship. And so it just was so overwhelming for me to come out of the blue after all these years. Because I think when you make personal sacrifices--I mean I did it willingly and gratefully. I appreciated the opportunity. But at some point when you look at where race relations are today, and you say was it worth it--you know, was it worth it? And so this validates that. It was worth it. I mean, I decided it was worth it, but this is a, a, a really gratifying validation.$Now who was in the Panther [Black Panther Party] entourage, I guess, in Algeria besides Eldridge Cleaver?$$The names of the other people I don't know. I don't remember. What--I was very excited to be there. Eldridge Cleaver was extremely nice to me, very respectful. As I said he wanted to--me to stay on because I spoke French and be a translator. And I think as a result of my Shipley [Shipley School for Girls; The Shipley School, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania] experience and my own sense of identity, I had the big Afro, very much wanting to claim my identity, and wanting to have a quote, unquote revolutionary experience. I was a big supporter of the Panthers. You know, they were doing wonderful work; they were feeding children; they were educating children; they were providing healthcare services. I mean, they were being portrayed as terrorists, but they were doing many wonderful things. And they were just really seeking social justice for a lot of oppression that was going on. And so I wrote my mother [Audrey McLaughlin Harris]. I also was still interested in being the actor, so I had tried out for 'Hair' ['Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical']. There was a--in Marseille [France]. And I was finished with school [Stanford University, Stanford, California], and so I was a quarter ahead of myself because I had gone a year straight through. And I didn't wanna graduate early, so I wanted to stay in Europe for another three months. And I thought I'll try out for this play. Maybe I'll get this role. And then I went to Algeria and was asked to be the translator and it--and at first really wanted to do that. And so I said to him, "Well, you'll have to write my mother." And so he did, and my mother still has the letter in pale blue stationary with the Black Panther insignia that jumps out at you. And he wrote her a very nice letter asking permission for me to stay on for a couple of months and be a translator. And by day three, there used to be--everyone would be upstairs in a room and listening, talking, and the--there were concentric circles and I was in the second circle. And someone got up and went down to do kitchen duty, and I--who was in the first circle--and so I moved up to be in the first circle. And then the person came back, and I wasn't aware the person was going to come back, and so I said, "Oh, I'm sorry I took your seat." And he said, "Oh no, sister, you didn't take my seat; it's the people's seat." And in that moment I realized, hm, everything is communal here, and there weren't--there weren't any women. I wasn't seeing any women. And all of a sudden I realized, hm, I might become communal property (laughter) if I didn't affiliate or associate with someone. And of course that wasn't what I was wanting. You know, I was wanting to have this political experience. And so I decided that I didn't wanna stay, and so I did not. Meanwhile, I would have come--had I gone back--I would have still gone back to France and then come back. In the meantime, my mother got the letter, and she and my brother [William James] were quite horrified. And they admired the Panthers. It's not that they, they didn't, but they didn't want their daughter there in Algeria with--$$Now this is--$$--Eldridge Cleaver.$$I mean 'Soul on Ice' [Eldridge Cleaver] had been published in 1960 [1968]--well, I know I read it in '67 [1967], so it was already out. And he was--he made some remarks about women that weren't really very--$$Misogynistic.$$--encouraging.$$Yes, yes, but that's what I'm saying. That's what was so fascinating, because he was not like that at all with me. He was just this amazing gentleman and intelligent and just lovely, lovely. Now I was only there three days, but that was my experience. And when my mother decided--my brother was, "You tell her to get on a plane and come home." And my mother was like, "No, no, I'm just going to use the truth and, and add something." And so she told me she was going to have to have surgery, and she really would like me to be there for the surgery and so would I mind coming home. I still hadn't heard about the play. And she said, "And if you get in the play, then I'll send you back;" so I went home. And she was having surgery, but it wasn't, you know, as serious as I had thought (laughter), and they just wanted to get me home so. And then I did not get into the play so I did not go back.$$Now did you--did you happen to talk to Timothy Leary?$$No, I did not.$$Or see him even?$$I got a glimpse, but no.$$And was he (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) They, they had him in a room. You know, we were staying at a hotel, and we would come over and be there during the days and the evenings.