Our History

WPFW is the fifth station of the Pacifica Radio Network, founded in 1949 by maverick broadcaster and pacifist Lewis Hill.  Our sister stations are in New York (WBAI), Houston (KPFT), Los Angeles (KPFK), and Berkeley (KPFA).  The Pacifica Network also boasts almost 200 affiliates.
WPFW began in 1977, in a very modest facility-a single room, divided into four segments. One section served as the on-air studio, the others were the administrative office, newsroom, and a place for volunteers to prepare their programs. Some 40 years later, support from WPFW listeners has enabled the station to have modern facilities, with separate studios for broadcast, pre-production, a dedicated talk studio, and a live music performance studio, in addition to office space.
From the beginning, WPFW has been the voice for progressive news, public affairs, ad music programming in the Washington metropolitan area. On the dial at 89.3FM, and streaming at wpfwfm.org, WPFW continues to challenge the norm in public media, passionately serving the underserved and the marginalized in our community.
For 40 years, WPFW remains free of corporate underwriting and influence, beholden only to our listeners.  Through volunteerism, WPFW provides members of our community the opportunity to learn broadcasting and to gain a better understanding of the global community in which we live.
Since its inception, volunteerism has been at the core of all that is WPFW. Von Martin, a volunteer programmer who hosts Caribbeana, was the first voice to sign the station on the air 40 years ago, beginning that first broadcast with Duke Ellington's "Take the ‘A' Train”.  WPFW has been the Jazz and Justice station ever since.  Our volunteers come from varied cultures, ethnicities, gender, religions, and sexual orientation.  They come to WPFW and remain because of their love of the station, its listeners, and the craft of broadcasting.