Making Philadelphia safe for "wFIL-adelphia": Television, housing, and defensive localism in postwar Philadelphia

Matt Delmont

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


This article examines television and housing as sites of struggle over segregation in postwar Philadelphia. WFIL-TV, which was part of Walter Annenberg's media empire, broadcast to a four state region it called "WFIL-adelphia," and emphasized the station's ability to help advertisers reach millions of these regional consumers in parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. At the same time, however, the racial tensions around WFIL's West Philadelphia studio threatened to scare off advertisers. Just steps from the station's front door, for example, black families seeking to move into West Philadelphia faced organized resistance from white homeowners associations. Scared of offending local and regional viewers and advertisers, WFIL implemented racial discriminatory admissions policies in its most popular show, the teenage dance program Bandstand (which became American Bandstand). I argue that, in working to maintain segregated spaces, both WFIL-TV and white homeowners associations practiced overlapping and reinforcing versions of defensive localism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)89-113
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Urban History
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • African American
  • Philadelphia
  • race
  • television
  • youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Urban Studies


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