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Museum honoring nation's first African American-owned TV station to open on MLK Day

Archival photo of WGPR-TV62 programming

In 1975, the nation's first African American-owned and -operated television station opened on East Jefferson Avenue in Detroit. This Martin Luther King, Jr. day on Monday, January 16, the doors of the old WGPR-TV 62 studios will re-open as the William V. Banks Broadcast Museum & Media Center, honoring the station's historic legacy as well as its founder, Dr. William V. Banks.

WGPR-TV 62 was a station of many firsts. In addition to being the first African American-owned and -operated television station in the United States, the station was the first Detroit station to stay on air 24 hours a day, broadcast programming in Arabic, and use Electronic News Gathering equipment.

The station stayed on air from 1975 to 1995, until it was purchased by CBS.

Museum attractions will include interactive video exhibits, memorabilia displays, and archival program footage. Displays of former TV and radio personalities and employees of both WGPR and the city at large will also be present. Additionally, the topic of Black media ownership in general will be explored.

A second phase of development will build a media training center for middle school and high school students.

"We are extremely excited to see this long-awaited project come to fruition," says Joe Spencer, former WGPR program director and current president of the WGPR-TV Historical Society. "WGPR-TV was a trailblazer in many ways, and visitors to the museum will see the amazing ways the station paved the way for minority programming and updated technology, as well as launched the careers of many successful African Americans in the media."

Spencer left the television business following the CBS buyout, turning his focus to his Louisiana Creole Gumbo line of restaurants, as detailed in a recent Model D profile here.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Detroit Historical Society executive director and CEO Robert Bury will be on hand for the grand opening on Monday, January 16, at 9:30 a.m. The museum will remain open to the public following the ceremony.

The William V. Banks Broadcast Museum & Media Center is located at 3146 E. Jefferson Ave. Regular museum hours of operation are every Friday from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Read more articles by MJ Galbraith.

MJ Galbraith is Model D's development news editor. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.
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