Radio in the United States is a forgotten art form. Yet, squeezed historically between the age of the talking film and the ascent of television, radio was once a major medium of news and entertainment, public service and information. Little remains of that era, save nostalgia recordings and old-time-radio programs located here and there on small-wattage FM radio stations.
However, there was much about the golden audio era that was socially and artistically impressive, much that should have transcended the collapse of network radio broadcasting. This was particularly true of the dramatists and their work, the radio play, which on many occasions massaged the emotions and intellect of their audiences. The United States fought a depression and two wars when radio was in its ascendance. And the dramas of writers like Norman Corwin and Arch Oboler and William N. Robson did much to give hope in such troubled times. From the intelligent soap opera that was Sandra Michael's Against the Storm, to Morton Wishengrad's work for The Eternal Light in quest of the meaning of being Jewish in a time of inhuman destruction, radio drama often inspired, challenged, and emboldened its listeners.
Less publicly than these giants of network theatricality—but just as surely as any of them—Richard Durham wrote for Chicago audiences one of the medium's most poignant series. His was only a local program, but its moral message was global. In his series, Destination Freedom, Durham produced radio's most persistent appeal for racial justice.
Durham was African-American, a rare credential for someone allowed to compose social dramas for commercial radio. But for two years in the late 1940s his Destination Freedom presented stirring plays about the enduring struggle of blacks to attain social freedom. Richard Durham and Destination Freedom were unprecedented: Nowhere else in radio history did a single series, written by a single talent over as long a period, project such a strident reminder of liberties denied and rights abused.
This book assembles some of his most memorable scripts. In the process, it is hoped that modern readers will gain insight into a uniquely passionate writer who used the aural medium to articulate themes still timely. It is hoped, too, that this compilation of scripts will remind those who had forgotten, and inform those who never knew, that once there was radio drama and it could inspire—dramatically so.