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Black Eagle: Civil rights activist, radio personality Joe Madison dies

Rebecca Barnabi
civil rights act of 1964
(© Jon – stock.adobe.com)

Today’s youth knew him as a radio personality, but older Americans knew him as The Black Eagle, a civil rights activist and pioneer.

Joe Madison, 74, died Jan. 31, 2024, after a long battle with cancer.

He spent years working with the NAACP, with which he led voter mobilization efforts, including “March for Dignity” from Los Angeles to Baltimore and collected thousands of signatures for an anti-apartheid bill.

Madison addressed today’s issues affecting Black communities.

He recently renewed his SiriusXM morning show, Urban View, which had a daily audience of approximately 26 million listeners, for multiple years. He began the show in 2007, according to BET.

Madison did not shy away from 21st Century politics. He played a critical role in 2020 in the passing of the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act. He went on a hunger strike in 2021 to protest Senate Republicans blocking the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

“Voting is essential to maintaining Democracy as food is essential to maintaining life. I don’t think it has to be overstated,” he said several days after the hunger strike began. “I don’t think it’s complicated.”

Madison’s hunger strike ended after 73 days when Senate Democrats did not change rules on the filibuster and pass the voting rights bill.

Born in Dayton, Ohio, he played football for Washington University in St. Louis and, at age 24, became the youngest executive director of the NAACP’s Detroit branch. He later became the NAACP’s National Political Director.

In 2015, Madison said he “became of age and when I viewed myself as a professional activist” was when he led the Detroit branch in the boycott of Fairlane Town Center. The city of Dearborn had passed an ordinance to restrict nonresidents from city parks. Many saw the ordinance as racist. The boycott succeeded in stopping spending in the town during the 1985 holiday season.

“Joe Madison led an incredible, impactful life. He was also an invaluable member of the SiriusXM family and a treasured colleague and friend,” a SiriusXM statement said. “Our hearts go out to his beloved wife, Sherry, along with his entire family, his devoted listeners and the countless people he inspired with his determination to make the world a better place.”

In 2021 during a broadcast, Madison said he was living with prostate cancer, the cancer had spread and he was undergoing treatment. He is survived by his wife, Sharon, four children, five grandchildren and a great-grandchild.

“What I think people need to understand is that this is not about a moment but a movement,” he told BET.com during his hunger strike. “The one thing we have to realize is that all movements require sacrifice. So we have to be prepared, all of us, to make whatever sacrifices we think will get us to where we need to go.”


Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.