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Amos 'n Andy

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

I don't mean to disparage Moses and Joshua. One parted the Red Sea and the other brought the walls of Jericho down, but they had divine help. Meet a Rock Islander who single-handedly brought the entire United States to a standstill.Charles Correll was a bricklayer who moved to Rock Island in 1914 to practice his trade. During the winters, he played piano at the Majestic Theater, and sang baritone in a home talent group called the Metropolitan Minstrels.

Entertainment soon proved more satisfying than bricklaying. In 1926 Correll formed a singing team with Freeman Gosden to do minstrel shows. In 1928, the two accepted an offer from the Chicago Daily News to do a daily fifteen-minute minstrel show for radio. Thus was born Amos 'n Andy, with Correll playing Andy and Freeman Gosden playing Amos.

Correll and Gosden literally did bring the United States to a stop. From 1928 until the show switched to television, most Americans stopped whatever they were doing at 7 p.m. to listen in on the colorful lives of Amos ‘n Andy, and friends such as the Kingfish, head of the Mystic Knights of the Sea. Movie houses were forced to install radio receivers in their lobbies and suspend the film so that patrons could listen. In Atlantic City, merchants lured patrons back to empty stored by installing loud speakers at intersections. Herbert Hoover invited them to the White House.

For many Americans, it was more than a program. When Amos and his wife Ruby asked for suggestions for the name of their first child, they received 2,400,000 letters. When Ruby (the character, not the actress) became ill, 65,000 people wrote in to wish her a speedy recovery, and when her illness worsened, 18,000 people wrote to say they would boycott the show if Ruby died.

Amos ‘n Andy survived only a short time on television in the early ‘50s before a growing sensitivity to racial stereotypes forced it off the air and overshadowed Charles Correll's accomplishments. Amos ‘n Andy was the first program to prove that a series devoted to minorities treated in a sympathetic manner could be popular on American radio.

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois.