Tribute to Black American culture, art, and history
21 February 2022
Season 10, Episode 02
Program Guide for Destination Freedom
Re-Imagined Radio pays tribute to Black History Month and Destination Freedom, a radio series that dramatized the democratic traditions and cultural contributions of Black Americans, and, in the process, provided foothold for the later civil and human rights movements. We sample from "The Father of the Blues" to highlight W. C. Handy, and "The Trumpet Talks" to highlight Louis Armstrong.
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READ the working script for Destination Freedom.
Minor changes may have been made in production. Voice actors are creative. Otherwise, this is an accurate textual description of what is heard in the broadcast.
Fred Pinkard as W.C. Handy
Other voices included Louise Pruitt, Gladis Williams, Oscar Brown, Jr., George Cugey, Kurt Kliper, Charles Madsen, William Nix, Cliff Norton, Tony Parish, Arthur Peterson, and Les Spears.
Greg Pascal as the singer
Music by Amos Otison, played by Elwin Owen, Bobby Christian, and Claude Shiner
Oscar Brown, Jr. as Louis Armstrong
Tony Parish as the narrator
Other voices included Janice Kingslow, Fred Pinkard, Dean Almquist, and Sid McCoy
Curated, Produced, and Hosted by John Barber
Sound Design and Post Production by Marc Rose of Fuse
Social Media by Regina Carol Social Media Management
Promotional Graphics by Holly Slocum Design
The overarching theme for Re-Imagined Radio in 2022 is "tribute." This episode pays tribute to Black History Month and the ground breaking and lasting legacy of the Destination Freedom (1948-1950), a radio series dramatizing the democratic traditions and cultural contributions of Black Americans. The series was written by Richard Dunham (1917-1984), editor of The Chicago Defender newspaper, and a dramatist with the Writers Project, part of the Works Progress Administration started by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Dunham wrote original dramatizations, each supported by historical research, each seeking to tell the little known stories behind Black Americans and their accomplishments. Working against discriminatory traditions, pervasive distortions, and stereotypes of Blacks in the arts, history, and culture of the United States, Dunham sought to include as much history and candor about the achievements of prominent Black Americans as possible in each Sunday morning half-hour episode of Destination Freedom. Walking a daring line between reform and revolution, Dunham strove to re-educate people about Black American society. His message was empowering, and with his efforts Dunham established the footholds for the later civil and human rights movements. Destination Freedom was twice awarded the Scribes in Excellence Award by the Colorado Association of Black Journalists, and, in 1949, the South Central Association of Chicago recognized Destination Freedom for its contribution to democracy.
Destination Freedom was first broadcast 27 June 1948 by Chicago, Illinois, radio station WMAQ. The broadcast was carried nationwide on the NBC Network. The series, written by Durham and produced by Homer Keck continued for 103 episodes until 13 August 1950. The program focus was changed to Cold War ideas (known as the "Patriotic Format") and the first episode in this new format was broadcast 15 October 1950 and continued until 19 November 1951. Durham wrote none of these episodes and Black American characters were seldom featured. Today, Durham's Destination Freedom is an important radio series for its portrayal of strong and independent Black Americans and for portraying black history in the radio medium. Episodes of Destination Freedom offer compelling narratives, powerful dramatizations, dynamic characters, engaging musical arrangements, all based on historical research and first-rate writing.
Destination Freedom offered thematic episodes about music, art, science, medicine, history, etc. For this tribute we sample from "The Father of the Blues" (Episode 12, 12 September 1948) to consider W.C. handy and "The Trumpet Talks" (Episode 55, 31 July 1949) to consider the Basin Street jazz stylings of Louis Armstrong.
"The Father of the Blues" dramatizes the life of W.C. Handy and his efforts to share the blues as a unique but universal music genre originating from Black Americans but of interest to all the world. About the blues, Blues Lemon, a character in the radio drama, says, "blues is your heart . . . a train callin' ya . . . it's talk turned into music . . . it's music that gets down to the rocky bottom. Sometimes it's a sad song . . . you ain't got the blues, the blues got you. To sing the blues you gotta live the blues. You won't get it from no teacher. You get it from people, any people. Turn their talking into music."
"The Trumpet Talks" is based on the early life of Louis Armstrong and how he introduced a unique trumpet styling to New Orleans jazz.
Continuing A Legacy
Destination Freedom followed two earlier radio series, both also focused on issues relevant to Black Americans, New World A'Coming and Freedom's People.
New World A'Coming (1944-1957), broadcast on New York radio station WMCA. Based on the work of nationally-known black journalist Roi Ottley, New World A'Coming focused on political and racial issues faced by Black Americans in the U.S. military and at home. AFter two seasons, this focus was expanded to include other minority groups. Theme song by Duke Ellington. Frequently hosted by Canada Lee.
Freedom's People (1941-1942) was an eight-episode documentary series produced by the Federal Radio Education Committee in the U.S. Department of Education. The series was created by Dr. Ambrose Caliver, a specialist in Black American education within the United States Department of Education. Dr. Caliver enlisted a wide variety of Black American intellectuals, musicians, and actors, including E. Franklin Frazier, Sterling A. Brown, Joe Louis, A. Philip Randolph, Fats Waller, Jesse Owens, Cab Calloway, Josh White, and Paul Robeson. Freedom's People is significant as the first major radio series to focus on Black American life, culture, and history. Only two episodes are thought to survive from the original eight-part series.
Episode 01, 21 September 1941, available
Sound file of episode available here
Episode 02, 19 October 1941, not available
Theme: Science and Discovery
Episode 03, 23 November 1941, not available
Episode 04, 21 December 1941, not available
Theme: Military Service
Episode 05, 18 January 1942, not available
Theme:The Negro Worker
Episode 06, 15 February 1942, not available
Theme: The Education of the Negro
Episode 07, 15 March 1942, not available
Theme: Creative Arts
Episode 08, 19 April 1942, available
Theme: The Negro and Christian Democracy
Storytellers of Color: donnie l. betts on Reaching Destination Freedom by Radio. KGNU News, 15 Feb. 2022.
Betts revived the Destination Freedom series on KGNU, Denver, CO, in 2002. He speaks with KGNU’s Rossana Longo-Better about how young people continue to inspire him to come up with stories and what reparations really means.
Power, Politics, &: Durham's Destination Freedom at WTTW television website (includes several photographs)
Destination Freedom episodes at Old Time Radio Researchers Group Library website
Destination Freedom radio logs at Jerry Haendiges Vintage Radio Logs website
Destination Freedom at American Radio Works website
New World A'Coming episodes at Old Time Radio Researchers Group Library website
New World A'Coming at American Radio Works website
Freedom's People episodes at Old Time Radio Researchers Group Library website
Special thanks to Maureen Keller, Syliva Lindman, and Brenda Alling for promoting this episode of Re-Imagined Radio.
READ their Press Release
Spykerman, Monika. Try This: "Invisible Warriors"; "Exit Laughing"; "Destination Freedom": Five Things To Do This Week. The Columbian, 17 Feb. 2022.
The Destination Freedom trailer by Holly Slocum, Marc Rose, and John Barber.
Destination Freedom web poster by Holly Slocum, Holly Slocum Design (240 x 356)
Destination Freedom landscape poster by Holly Slocum, Holly Slocum Design (820 x 356)
Destination Freedom square poster by Holly Slocum, Holly Slocum Design (2000 x 2000)
Destination Freedom full poster by Holly Slocum, Holly Slocum Design (2000 x 3000)
Graphic and live stream by Regina Carol Social Media Management.
Name: Destination Freedom
Tagline: A tribute to Black American culture, art, and history
Description: Re-Imagined Radio celebrates Black History Month and the democratic traditions and cultural contributions of Black Americans by sampling from original episodes of Destination Freedom to consider W. C. Handy, "The Father of the Blues" and the New Orleans jazz stylings of Louis Armstrong.
Program type: Episodic
Media type: Radio broadcast, podcast
Premier broadcast and live stream: 21 February 2022, KXRW-FM (Vancouver, WA), KXRY-FM (Portland, OR)
Recording availability: Podcast
Recording specs: Audio, MP3, stereo, 44.1Hz, 320kbps
Recording name: rir-destination-freedom.mp3
Categories: Radio drama, Documentary, Radio performance, non-fictional
Keywords: radio drama, storytelling, documentary, destination, freedom, Handy, Armstrong, jazz, blues, music
Script: Original scripts adapted, research, commentary by John F. Barber
Producer/Host: John F. Barber
Sound Design/Music Composition: Marc Rose