On August 1st, members of the station will air a special broadcast titled “Give Duke His Due” in support of the petition to award the 1965 Pulitzer Prize in music to Duke Ellington, who was selected for the award but denied. WKCR joins a movement started by jazz historian Ted Gioia, whose petition has surpassed 50,000 signatures on Change.org and garnered the support of multiple past recipients of the award.
Ellington would have been the first Black recipient of the award, which is given annually to new works that represent the best in American music, as well as the first jazz musician. After his denial, a Black artist would not be recognized again for over 30 years, when George Walker and Wynton Marsalis received the prize in 1996 and 1997, respectively. The Pulitzer Prize is awarded by Columbia University, the parent institution of WKCR.
WKCR has long prided itself on providing institutional support and recognition for jazz music of many styles and traditions, especially those that are often otherwise overlooked, but the swing and big band traditions from which Ellington emerged have been a particular focus. For decades, the station has observed Ellington’s birthday (or at times birthday week) by pre-empting all of our regular programming to play only his music as a form of giving him the recognition that he deserves.
WKCR’s broadcast will run from 3 am until 10 pm, and will feature selections of Ellington’s music by station DJ’s throughout the day, along with guest interviews and statements in support of Ellington and of the cause. The broadcast will begin with a special archival show from the late Phil Schaap about Ellington’s quest for creative autonomy in his career.
Members of WKCR student leadership have composed an open letter to the Pulitzer Prize committee explaining our support for Ellington’s cause. We have also created a form for alumni, faculty, and members of the jazz community to contribute their written and recorded messages to be included in the broadcast. Both documents have been attached to the press release.
The broadcast will air on WKCR-FM New York at 89.9 FM in the New York metro area and on WKCR HD1. It can also be streamed live through WKCR’s website, wkcr.org.