DETROIT – For decades, WGPR-TV in Detroit provided a distinct perspective as the first Black-owned TV station in the country.
In February, the station was officially listed on the National Register of Historic Sites. It was a movement spearheaded by Karen Hudson Samuels, who worked as the station’s news director for years.
Local 4 spoke with Samuels on Monday. She died unexpectedly Tuesday night. The 68-year-old helped launch the careers of countless Black journalists. Part of her legacy is ensuring the contributions of WGPR-TV are never forgotten.
Samuels said the station’s founder, Dr. William V. Banks, was a man with a vision. Banks was an activist and entrepreneur.
“He, along with other local broadcasters, were invited to the White House by Nixon to talk about lack of representation,” Samuels said.
Banks, a prominent Detroit attorney and businessman, eventually secured an FCC license. He sold several properties to raise enough money, with which he launched the TV station in 1975.
Channel 62 was the first ever Black-owned and independently operated news organization in the United States. Big City News was its flagship news program.
“When you see yourself, you see the value and the importance of your contributions. That’s what WGPR represented,” Samuels said.
Dozens of Black journalists got their start at that station.
“My mom said to call the station and talk to Karen Hudson or Joe Spencer,” James Jackson said. “It was an extensive interview. I didn’t know how well I did, but I got the job.”
Jackson is a longtime assignment editor at Local 4 and a former WGPR reporter.
“Oh, I wish Banks was here, I’m so proud of that. It was a wonderful acknowledgment,” Samuels said.
WGPR aired its last TV show in 1995, offering a distinctly Black perspective for three decades.
“It needs to be part of the history of journalism as it’s taught. I think that will be the legacy, that people were here in Detroit who had ambition that no one thought could be realized, and they did it,” Samuels said.
Read and watch: More Black History Month coverage