The first black-owned and operated television station in the nation, WGPR-TV 62 first signed on the air on September 29, 1975. 39 years later, the WGPR Historical Society has partnered with the Detroit Historical Society to assemble an exhibit at the Community Gallery of the Detroit Historical Museum telling the groundbreaking story of WGPR.
Karen Hudson Samuels was on the staff of WGPR in the early days as a News Director. She explained the importance of honoring the station, “This is very unique piece of history it’s a unique Detroit story it’s a unique national story and that really led us down the path of saying we have to formalize this and why not create a cultural institution.”
Tobi Voigt Detroit Historical Society, Chief Curatorial Officer assisted with the design of the exhibit. “One of the things we always do with our Community Gallery partners is sit down with them and talk about what kind of stories they want to tell, come up with a narrative and then put it together with objects and images,” she said.
Not only will the exhibit showcase some of WGPR’s cutting edge programs of the 70s and 80s it will also tell how the station helped launch some of Detroit’s most talented TV personalities. Amyre Makupson got her big break on WGPR. “I anchored the first newscast and it was either the first or second show of the sign-on. It was “Big City News” with Amyre Porter and Pal D’Que. What I didn’t realize at the time was it is responsible for everything I did afterward,” said Makupson.
The station created an opportunity for African-Americans in front of and behind the cameras. “At that time not only were there no black-owned television stations, but there weren’t a lot of black people working in television,” said Joe Spencer then WGPR Program Director.
“They hired me at WGPR to be a cameraman, but when the day came for them to go on the air they had not hired a director. Someone to direct their ‘Big City Newscast’. And I didn’t have any directing experience. I watched Joe Spencer direct the newscast and I said wow I think I can do that,” said Ken Bryant Jr., now CBS 62/CW50 Producer.
“I actually directed the very first broadcast they put on the air ..,” added Bryant.
At the end of the exhibition’s run at the Detroit Historical Museum in January of 2016, it will be installed as the inaugural opening exhibit of the WGPR Museum at 3146 East Jefferson.
The WGPR-TV Historical Society is hosting a party to benefit the WGPR-TV exhibit Friday, February 21 at the Detroit Historical Museum. Tickets are $60. For more information call 313-461-9652.