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Broadcasting Modernism$
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Debra Rae Cohen, Michael Coyle, and Jane Lewty

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780813033495

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813033495.001.0001

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The Voice of America in Richard Wright’s Lawd Today!

The Voice of America in Richard Wright’s Lawd Today!

(p.124) Chapter 7 The Voice of America in Richard Wright’s Lawd Today!
Broadcasting Modernism

Jonah Willihnganz

University Press of Florida

In the late 1930s, nearly everyone owned a radio. The radio helped create mass-market culture and established a new medium of power, a medium of disembodied speech and sound that, for many, seemed godlike and capable of literally hypnotizing the country. Another reason American literature's engagement with radio is important is that it records what many sensed was happening to the human voice. This chapter focuses on how one novel in particular, Richard Wright's Lawd Today!, figures radio in this way. Radio proves a powerful emblem for Wright, giving him a way to express the particular kinds of disempowerment experienced by blacks living in the urban North of the United States. This chapter claims that Lawd Today! makes the experience of radio emblematic of the patterning of cultural power by aligning it with the experiences of fascism and racism in the 1930s.

Keywords:   American radio, urban North, cultural power, racism, fascism, human voice

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