Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State was WNYC Producer
Barbara Mae Watson (1918-1983) was the first African-American and the first woman to serve as an Assistant Secretary of State. In 1944, she produced I Am Your Next Door Neighbor, a WNYC drama former Station Director Morris Novik described this way in 1945, "The family happened to be a Negro family living in Harlem and the dramas each week dealt with the problems, business, and home life of this typical family unit. The cast included white and Negro actors playing their respective roles and often interchanging roles.Tolerance and prejudice were not the theme of the series, but during the course of normal events it was brought home to the listener that there were certain evils that perhaps he was not aware of previously."
Just prior to the show's premiere in June 1944, The New York Age hailed Watson as the "first Negro radio producer in New York." While Watson was indeed early in the field, she was not the first black radio producer in the city. That distinction may actually belong to WNYC's Clifford Burdette, who hosted and produced the NAACP-sponsored "Those Who Have Made Good," on WNYC in 1941. Nevertheless, the black newspaper reported the drama "would offer up-to-the-minute information on current issues and how they affect the contemporary Negro" and it quoted Watson as saying "the program is designed to present the common man in all of his dignity --frankly, his expressions and attitudes, the role he has played and is playing in the making of the world today." The article also noted that composer Leonard Bernstein was to be a musical consultant for the program.
Source: "Barbara Watson Becomes New York's First Negro Radio Producer Over Station WNYC," New York Age, May 27, 1944, p. 4. (1980 Portrait of Watson by John Whitman, Camera Press, London)