A man’s achievements, to be rightly estimated, must be compared with the era in which he lives. The opportunities that were exploited, and the barriers that were surmounted to accomplish a body of works, is the scale upon which human abilities are measured; the era must be surveyed in order to determine how much to ascribe to original powers and how much to casual or adventitious help. After all, Christopher Columbus’ voyage becomes a great accomplishment only when the era is used as a backdrop.
Tony Brown is a man that belongs to an era and must be judged and analyzed within the context of that era. To mention that Tony Brown is a man that has a documentary show which is viewed nationally is, by itself, no special feat. The action is incomplete unless certain key elements of the era are provided.
The era is the 1960’s. The state of the age is politically liberal, socially guilty, economically prosperous and racially polarized. The politico, socio, and economic tendencies favored the Civil Rights struggle of Black America. Black America spoke out and demanded, White America listened and gave. Tony Brown became part of the black struggle. The broadcasting industry, Tony Brown’s chosen target, had no effectual black executive producer. The prevailing sentiments cracked ajar the door of the broadcasting suite and Tony Brown stepped in. Thus was born, Black Journal, [the first documentary styled program to chronicle the achievements of Blacks, hosted and produced by a Black man]. Black Journal was an achievement for Tony Brown, Black people in general and for the era as a whole. The program was not White America telling Black America about itself but black on black.
For seven years Black Journal thrived on PBS — a fair success. In those seven years the moods and the tendencies of the country have changed. One era ended and another surfaced. The state of the age became politically conservative, socially narcissistic, economically depressed and racially stagnant. Tony Brown had to change with the new age. The show was moved from PBS to commercial television; the tone of the show also has changed. The difference of culture between black and white is played down while the sameness of the cultures is played up.
Racial acceptance has become the more pronounced theme of the program [now called the Tony Brown Journal on WNBC TV]. The program may be called a facilitator of communication. To Tony Brown, the betterment of race relations depend on the dissemination of truthful information. White America has to be educated to understand that the black legacy is excellence, not the historical nuisance many seem to think it is. And Black America has to be educated to know that — they must pay for all they get.
The price of racial acceptance, for which Black America along with Tony Brown fought, is perhaps considering Black America as a group requiring no special treatments by white America, i.e., special economic and legislative measures; and/or perhaps the price is Black America assuming the responsibility for solving its own problems.
The new era dictates, to Tony Brown and to the Tony Brown Journal that the continuation of the fight for racial acceptance must move into the political and economical arena; the rhetoric of the streets are no longer effective. Though the much heralded racial rapprochement happened only on a small and limited scale, Tony Brown is still pushing for his vision of how America should look at Black America. ‘‘Black people are just like white people, most of us are average, a few geniuses, with a liberal sprinkling of fools.”