Formed by W. Leonard Evans Jr. on January 20, 1954, in Chicago, the National Negro Network was a radio network geared towards Blacks. It holds the distinction of being the first Black-owned network in the U.S. At its peak, the network had a home on 45 stations and was poised to reach 12-15 million Blacks, according to Broadcasting magazine.
Like most radio networks of the 1950s, the National Negro Network featured dramas, comedies, and music blocks. Among these were The Life of Anna Lewis which starred Hilda Simms and It’s A Mystery Man with Cab Calloway. One of the more popular shows was The Story of Ruby Valentine with Terry Carter, Ruby Dee, and Juanita Hall. A number of the shows were produced by the team of Calloway and Ethel Waters.
With this line up of popular shows and talent, the National Negro Network aimed to get more programs. Unfortunately, two things halted that and eventually killed the network in tandem. With television become national in the 1950s thanks to cable and CATV. With this came more programs on the few channels that existed at the time and a number of stars and personalities.
To combat this, radio needed money and a Black-owned station really needed money. As expected, most of that capital went to TV which didn’t have the reach of radio but had wider appeal. As a result, the National Negro Network fell before the end of 1954.