Martha Jean Steinberg
She was born Martha Jean Jones in Memphis, Tennessee. Her first radio job was on Memphis’ WDIA starting in 1954. There, she was one of the first female disc jockeys in the United States, with a program that included the latest R&B hits along with the typical "household hints" programming that was de rigueur at the time for female radio personalities.
In 1963 she moved to Detroit, Michigan, where she was heard on WCHB-AM and then throughout the late 1960s and 1970s on WJLB. On July 23, 1967 Steinberg convinced WJLB to cancel its normal evening programming and she did an on air program calling for people to calm down and stop rioting. It has been suggested that this prevented the 1967 Detroit Riot from being worse than it was. During her time at WJLB, she led the station's on-air staff in protest of the fact that the station at the time had no African-American employees outside of the air staff.
In 1980, WJLB converted from AM to the FM dial (where it remains to this day), and Steinberg's show was dropped in the process. The former WJLB-AM became WMZK with an ethnic format. In 1982, Steinberg purchased WMZK-AM and changed the call letters to WQBH in order to offer more gospel music oriented programming. Steinberg remained on the air at WQBH (1400 on the AM dial) until her death. WQBH is now WDTK.
She is buried in Detroit's Elmwood Cemetery.
- Sidney Fine, Violence in the Model City: The Cavanagh Administration, Race Relations, and the Detroit Riot of 1967 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1989), p. 184
- Detroit African-American History Project
- Paley Center for Media