On Oct. 2, 2021, Washington D.C.’s WOL-AM 1450 radio station celebrated its 42nd birthday.
Radio personality and media mogul Cathy Hughes helped found Radio One in 1979. The company purchased its D.C.-based flagship radio station in 1980, and remarkably, the feat is what officially helped launch Urban One’s successful trajectory as it stands today.
Hughes went through a number of trials before securing WOL-AM 1450, most of which were sexist and racist bias. As a tenacious and driven Black businesswoman, the mogul put up her own money to buy WOL-AM 1450 along with the help of 10 investors and a Black-owned venture capital fund called Syncom. Yet and still, when those funds weren’t enough to actually help Hughes start operating out of the station, she reached out to 32 banks for loans and was declined by all 32 loan officers — all of whom were male. On her 33rd try, a Puerto Rican female loan officer agreed to help fund Hughes’s dream of what Radio One could be and what it could build.
In 1986, WOL-AM 1450 started broadcasting The Cathy Hughes Morning Show. As a pioneering news/talk format that shed light on topics relevant to the Black community — and one that prioritized the Black perspective — Hughes hosted the show for over a decade and became known for her motto, “Information is Power.” Thanks to the show’s success that first year, Radio One purchased its first FM station, WMMJ, in its hometown of D.C. in 1987.
After expanding in the years that followed and slowly becoming the number one news source for the urban market, Radio One became a publicly traded company in 1999. It acquired radio stations in hubs across the country from Atlanta, Baltimore, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Raleigh and Richmond — and grown its reach exponentially by launching TV One, acquiring Reach Media, producing various online platforms and more.
In 2017, the company was rebirthed and renamed Urban One, giving us the company we have today. In its own right, Radio One still stands as a source of audible content for listeners across the country and as a division of Urban One that remains strong.
Last year, Hughes was recognized by both the United States House of Representatives and the Senate for her contributions over the last 40 decades. In a commemorative statement, Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD.) noted:
“Urban One, headquartered in Montgomery County, MD, is America’s largest broadcast company primarily focused on African-American consumers. Over the last four decades, it has elevated and celebrated African American voices while telling stories from their perspective.”
In honor of another year of the company’s collaborative success and its roots in D.C., with Radio One, Hughes recently posted on social media: “Thank you GOD for 42 years of blessings and we pray for 42 more.”
Sharing photos of herself and some depicting how far things have come, she added, “This was then and this is now! Happy anniversary WOL News Talk 1450.”
Urban One’s digital division, iOne Digital, acquired MADAMENOIRE in 2017. As a milestone, the former’s birthday speaks to the commitment and longevity within the Black community that MN aims to have for Black women.
Happy Birthday to our collective Urban One family.