Josh White: Blues Musician/Civil Rights Activist

Jun 27, 2020

On July 4th, 2020 at 11pm, you'll hear a special re-broadcast of a special I produced in 2019 featuring a conversation between Ron Esposito and Doug Yeager during his visit to Cincinnati in November, 2018. 

Ron Esposito welcomed Doug Yeager into WVXU’s studio to talk about Josh White’s career.  Yeager represents the estate of Josh White and is also Josh White, Jr.’s manager. This one-hour special originally aired on February 9, 2019,  two days before Josh White’s birthday on February 11th (1914). 

Josh White was a musician whose travels took him to major cities like Chicago and New York. Along his journey, White became a confidant of Frank and Eleanor Roosevelt who also became the godparents of his son, Josh White, Jr.  White’s son, Josh White, Jr., is also a folk and blues musician.

White was born in South Carolina in 1914, became a session guitarist at Paramount Records in Chicago, dabbled in Broadway musicals, and performed at the 1941 inauguration of President Franklin Roosevelt.  He was an international star performing with Billie Holiday, Woody Guthrie, and Pete Seeger.

Josh White became a blues performer to a large white and middle-class African American following and was the first African-American to perform in previously segregated venues around the country. Because of his stance on civil rights, White was blacklisted until President John F. Kennedy invited him to be on a television special about civil rights in 1963. As a civil rights activist, Josh White performed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at the March, 1963 March on Washington along with Odetta.