The National Negro Network was founded on this day in 1954, becoming the first Black-owned radio network in the United States. Founded by businessman W. Leonard Evans Jr., the NNN failed to catch hold as the needs of the audience changed with the times.
Evans, a University of Illinois graduate and successful advertising executive, saw a void in the rising number of Black-owned stations securing top-level sponsorship. Using his background in advertising, Evans managed to get funding from companies that typically pushed their wares on larger, white-owned stations. It was Evans’ thought that having a racially integrated staff would promote harmony and generate needed revenue.
The network launched with over 40 affiliates up to a height of 45 stations across the country. The time slots were filled with popular soap operas, including The Story of Ruby Valentine, which starred the late actress Ruby Dee among others. Famed musician and band leader Cab Calloway also had a show that appeared on the network.
While Evans had enough foresight to create NNN, he failed to factor in the advent of television. Further, with audience segregation becoming a thing of the past, it became difficult to secure capital needed to run the business. NNN went off the airways in 1955.
Evans found renewed success with his Tuesday magazine, first published in 1965. The publication found the height of its success in the early ’70’s but folded towards the tail end of the decade. Evans, who married Maudelle Evans and raised two sons, passed in 2007.