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February 2012
University of California Press

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The Nicest Kids in Town

American Bandstand, Rock 'n' Roll, and the Struggle for Civil Rights in 1950s Philadelphia
Matthew F. Delmont

"American Bandstand," one of the most popular television shows ever, broadcast from Philadelphia in the late 1950s, a time when that city had become a battleground for civil rights. Counter to host Dick Clark’s claims that he integrated "American Bandstand," this book reveals how the first national television program directed at teens discriminated against black youth during its early years and how black teens and civil rights advocates protested this discrimination. Matthew F. Delmont brings together major themes in American history — civil rights, rock and roll, television and the emergence of a youth culture — as he tells how white families around "American Bandstand’s" studio mobilized to maintain all-white neighborhoods and how local school officials reinforced segregation long after Brown vs. Board of Education. "The Nicest Kids in Town" powerfully illustrates how national issues and history have their roots in local situations, and how nostalgic representations of the past, like the musical film "Hairspray," based on the "American Bandstand" era, can work as impediments to progress in the present.


Matthew Delmont is a professor of history and the director of the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies at Arizona State University. 

Praise for this book

"Reveals a hidden history of racial segregation on the United States' first television program centered on the teenage population. … Provocative."

Orange County Register

"Well-researched, tightly-written. … Delmont paints an impressively bright, clear, and comprehensive picture of the institutional and structural factors that made segregation what it was in Philadelphia.

History News Network