WTBS "The Ghetto" promo

The first MIT student broadcasting station was originally signed on in 1946 as WMIT, becoming WTBS 88.1 FM in 1961. After seeing a need in radio for the Boston black community, Black Students' Union members created a show called The Ghetto in 1969-70.

The soul-music radio program was run by black MIT students and gained popularity in the Cambridge/Boston area. Show creators Waayl Ahmad Salih ’72, SM/EAA ‘73 (aero-astro major and future physician) and James “JC” Clark ’76, SM '81 (electrical engineering major and current president of South Carolina State University) named The Ghetto radio show after Donny Hathaway’s 1970 song. Their faculty advisor was longtime MIT electrical-engineering professor Amar Bose ‘51, founder of the Bose company.

In 1979, the call letters were sold to Ted Turner, and the station's call sign finally changed to WMBR (Walker Memorial Basement Radio). Today WMBR continues to be all-volunteer and funded by listener donations and MIT funds. WMBR received a 2013 MLK Leadership Award on its 50th anniversary for diverse, community-based programming.


Videoclip by MIT Black History Project
Images courtesy of MIT Museum
Audio courtesy of WMBR

Timeline: 1970s
School: School of Engineering
Department: Aeronautics and AstronauticsElectrical Engineering and Computer ScienceManagement
Career: Arts & HumanitiesCommunity
Object: Video
Collection: Activism, Faculty, Integration and Differentiation 1969-1994, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mentorship, Music, Pop Culture, Students, W. Ahmad Salih, WGBH/WTBS