What: Stories from the Big 9
Where: WUTC-FM 88.1 or wutc.org
When: 6-10 a.m. weekdays on NPR’s Morning Edition; 4-7 p.m. weekdays on NPR’s All Things Considered
In honor of Black History Month, Stories from The Big 9, a series of student-produced podcasts about M.L. King Boulevard in Chattanooga, begins airing today on WUTC-FM.
Another new episode airs on Thursday, and new episodes continue each Tuesday and Thursday in February from the on-campus National Public Radio (NPR) outlet. The podcasts can be heard during NPR’s Morning Edition from 6-10 a.m. and All Things Considered from 4-7 p.m.
Stories from the Big 9 is multi-character audio storytelling on local history. The series is the first to both tell stories about the historic MLK Boulevard and to be the work of students at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
From the early 20th century into the 1970s, the street, known then as East Ninth Street, was a hub of Chattanooga’s black community. It was home to many black-owned businesses, including the Martin Hotel, which housed iconic performers including Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne and Nat “King” Cole.
Stars such as Bessie Smith and others played its nightclubs. Ray Charles, Billie Holiday, James Brown, Count Basie, Muddy Waters and B.B. King were known to visit the street after finishing concerts at venues elsewhere in Chattanooga.
It was renamed M.L. King Boulevard in 1981 to honor the slain civil rights leader.
Stories from The Big 9 is produced and edited by Will Davis, outreach manager for WUTC-FM, student interns Jackson Ver Mulm and Harper Beeland and UTC students in Davis’ podcasting class. While learning how to produce stories through podcasting, the students also learned about and preserved some of the city’s legacy, Davis said.
Excerpts of the podcasts debuted at a standing-room-only listening party in the Bessie Smith Cultural Center on MLK Boulevard. Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke attended the event, which featured students talking about what they learned from telling stories about the historic corridor and its important role in Chattanooga’s past, present and future.
“It’s important that we keep the spirit and history of the Big Nine alive,” Berke said. “This is a great chance for young people to tell old stories.”
James McKissic, chief operating officer at the Urban League of Chattanooga, said getting younger generations invested in the evolving story of MLK Boulevard keeps its history alive.
“These podcasts turned out amazing,” McKissic said. “I am so grateful to the students and their professor for focusing on such an important piece of Chattanooga’s history.”
In learning how to produce stories through podcasting, Davis said the students also learned about and preserved some of the city’s legacy.
“My students had just 10 weeks to find and research their stories, interview their subjects, and produce final versions of their podcast episodes,” Davis said. “We heard important stories and made new friends. This project is a great example of learning through experience.”
In addition to airing on WUTC-FM on Tuesdays and Thursdays in February, archived versions will be available at www.wutc.org and, soon, on iTunes and Google Play.