Broadcast from Havana, Cuba, but intended for audiences in the United States, Radio Free Dixie was the work of the civil rights leader Robert F. Williams. Airing from 1962 until 1966, the program carefully used music, news, and commentary to convey a militant message of armed self-defense and a critique of American imperialism and racism. While most scholars have focused on William’s spoken commentaries, this article aims to reconsider the role of music on Radio Free Dixie. By examining playlists transcribed and identified from archival broadcasts held at the Bentley Historical Library of the University of Michigan, the article explores three themes. 1) The playlists draw attention to the care with which the music for Radio Free Dixie was selected and how phonograph records were acquired while in Cuba. 2) When viewed through the lens of parrēsia, or what Michel Foucault theorizes as the act of “truth-telling,” the playlists facilitate an argument about how music and speech co-constitute Radio Free Dixie’s parrēsiastic subject by isolating particular moments in the broadcasts where the truth-telling occurs at the intersection of music and speech. 3) Consideration of special episodes given wholly over to music allows for an examination of musical genres employed on Radio Free Dixie and their degrees of overt and coded utterance. Finally, the article considers what it might mean to make militancy audible.
The Radio Free Dixie Playlists
Brian Kane is an Associate Professor of Music and Affiliate Faculty in Film and Media Studies at Yale University. He is the author of Sound Unseen: Acousmatic Sound in Theory and Practice (2014) and the forthcoming Hearing Double: Jazz, Ontology, Auditory Culture.
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Brian Kane; The Radio Free Dixie Playlists. Resonance 1 December 2020; 1 (4): 344–370. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/res.2020.1.4.344
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