Martha Jean “The Queen” Steinberg, 1969

THE WAY IT WAS
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Photograph courtesy of The Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University

1969Long before she acquired her regal sobriquet, Martha Jean “The Queen” Steinberg was born with the “commoner” name of Martha Jean Jones in Memphis, Tenn., in 1930. It was in that city where, in 1954, she nabbed a job at radio station WDIA. There, a fellow DJ tacked on “The Queen” after her given name. Steinberg — she married Luther Steinberg, whom she later divorced — was among just a handful of women radio hosts at that time. She spun R&B records and offered household tips. In 1963, she came north to Inkster, where she took a job at WCHB. Three years later, she was hired by WJLB, where “The Queen” held court until the early ’80s. At WJLB, Steinberg played music, but she also hosted guests and became an inspirational voice to many. While the riots tore the city asunder in 1967, Steinberg stayed on the air for 48 hours straight, urging people to remain calm and stay off the streets. Later, to foster better relations between the black community and the Detroit Police Department, she hosted a call-in program called Buzz the Fuzz. In 1972, she became an ordained minister and founded a church, “The Home of Love.” A decade later, she and partners started WQBH, a talk and gospel station, which she later bought. Steinberg was inducted into the Black Radio Hall of Fame in 1993 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. She died in 2000.


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