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February 16, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Dick Clark’s frequent claim that he integrated American Bandstand in the 1950s because “it was the right thing to do” is being challenged in a new book by a Scripps College professor. In The Nicest Kids in Town: American Bandstand, Rock ‘n’ Roll, and the Struggle for Civil Rights in 1950s Philadelphia, Matt Delmont, an assistant professor of American studies, writes that evidence and the testimony by civil rights activists show that “black teenagers contested American Bandstand‘s segregation on several occasions, inspired by both the everyday discrimination they faced in Philadelphia and by national civil rights events like the Little Rock school integration crisis. Although they were not able to change the show’s policies, the efforts of these black teens make clear that American Bandstand‘s studio remained a site of struggle over segregation through the early-1960s. Yet, these stories of the black teenagers who made American Bandstand a civil rights issue are erased in Clark’s popular histories of American Bandstand.” Despite Clark’s repeated claims that he integrated the show’s studio audience when he became the host in 1957, “newspaper accounts, video and photographic evidence, and remembrances of people who were excluded from the show” suggest otherwise, Delmont claims. He includes comments from civil rights activists, newspaper columnists, and r&b disc jockeys of the time accusing Clark and American Bandstand of “Jim Crow” policies. For example, Los Angeles deejay Johnny Otis (who died in January) wrote a commentary at the time blasting “the obvious and apparently deliberate discrimination against Negro people on his programs.” Delmont also interviewed Joe Fusco, who, he says, danced on the show every day from 1957 through 1959 and recalled, “.To this day, Dick Clark takes credit for the few times black kids got in there, but he never wanted them in there. And that was very disgusting to me. … No matter how long those kids waited in that line, somehow some way they didn’t get in. … I only saw two black kids that got in and sat in the bleachers, and he [Dick Clark] paid no attention to them.”