Simply said Amos 'n' Andy was the biggest and most popular show in radio history! One show that push the start of radio and made more people buy radios then any other program. History has also made it the most controversial media sensation of all-time!
Created by Freeman Gosden as Amos Jones and Charles Correll as Andy Brown, Amos "n" Andy became the first huge hit of 1930's radio. Gosden and Correll met in vaudeville and created an act and eventually made their ways into the new medium of radio. They created a show for WGN in Chicago called Sam 'n' Henry which featured 2 black characters from Alabama who head to Chicago to find their fortune. The show became very popular and Gosden and Correll want to expand to a national audience but WGN owned the show and bulked at the idea, so they let their contract expire but WGN owned the characters so they moved on and changed the characters names to Amos 'n' Andy. Gosden and Correll did all the writing and the voices of all characters on the show. The show started on radio serialized in the early years and no one missed the show. So popular that movie theaters would stop the movie at 7 pm and play the show to keep audience in the theater. It was said that in the springtime in New York city you walk down the street and every window was open and you could hear the entire show as you walked! Nearly 40 million people listened to every show, that's 1/3 or the US population at the time at it's highest in 1931 it had 53.4 share of the audience! The show would slowly drop through the 1930's and eventually changed it's format and became a 30 minute sitcom in 1941 with the secondary characters like the Kingfish become more prominent then Amos on the show. The show would change and the ratings would grow again. It would continue in this format until 1954 when they changed again to The Amos 'n' Andy Music Hall, which featured a DJ style just featuring the characters in small skits this show would go on until 1960.
The show was part of American culture for over 30 years but it wasn't with out controversy. The fact 2 white men played Black men and for laughs many times with shady values and motives had a lot of people feeling wronged. The characters were easily excepted in 1930's American, Black face or minstrel shows was still very common in vaudeville and country was still very, very segregated. This type of "Negro" comedy was very exceptable but times started to change. With Black men fighting in WW2, Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier and NAACP become a stronger and stronger voice Amos 'n' Andy received a lot of backlash. When the show was translated into a TV show in 1951 the NAACP would sue CBS calling the show "a national disgrace" and "made all black American look like crooks, idiots or cowards". The show was cast with talented Black actors but no longer were the character depictions exceptable and CBS canceled the show; But the characters still lived on radio for 8 more years.
Gosden and Correll challenged the critics and felt that they created individual characters and didn't reflect the whole black race, they knew that a lot of black people listened and loved the show but many did not. As a result both never spoke again the public after the show left the air.
It's hard to pick a side as a lover of OTR it's part of the era and big part of the history of radio. Listening to shows it's still a very funny character driven show but like the era it's from sensitivity to race, religion, national origin or gender was not as politically correct as today. Shows like Amos 'n' Andy, Life with Luigi, Beulah, or even the Japanese and German bashing of 1930's and 1940's kids shows would ever be tolerated in 2015 America. History allows us to learn but we also need to listen and remember.
Here is an episode of the era when it went to full sitcom format. I hope you listen and see what you think...