This story was published in Radio Recall, the journal of the Metropolitan Washington Old-Time Radio Club, published six times per year.
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HISTORIC AFRICAN-AMERICAN OTR COLLECTION
DONATED TO CHICAGO BROADCAST MUSEUM
(From Radio Recall, August 2005)
Destination Freedom, a groundbreaking radio drama series depicting the struggle for civil rights in America, has been donated to The Museum of Broadcast Communications (MBC) in Chicago, IL. The series created by pioneer radio writer Richard Durham was heard on WMAQ Radio from June 27, 1948 to August of 1950, and was sponsored initially by the Chicago Defender and then by the Chicago Urban League.
The series pre-dated the high profile struggle for civil rights in America. "Richard Durham was a very talented writer who worked at a major market radio station at a time when few blacks could be found on station payrolls," said Bruce DuMont, founder and president of the MBC. "Durham’s programs stand the test of time and the MBC will now digitize these programs and create online lesson plans that will introduce Durham to a wider audience and a new generation." DuMont added.
The donation of ninety-one program tapes was made by Clarice Durham, the late Mr. Durham’s wife of 42 years. "My son, Mark and I commend The Museum of Broadcast Communications for recognizing the groundbreaking importance of the Destination Freedom radio dramas," Durham said. "My husband's aim was to tell real life stories of African Americans that would show their heroic strength and dignity and counteract the stereotypical portrayals commonly presented on the radio at that time," Durham added. Richard Durham died on April 27, 1984.
In his book, On the Air, John Dunning praised this series as “One of the most powerful and important shows of its day... It was a striking achievement, a voice whose passion and courage overcame every budgetary shortcoming to become perhaps the strongest plea for Negro rights ever heard on American radio.”
It was the first series in which blacks starred, not white actors portraying them, as was the custom. Negro leads included Fred Pinkard, Oscar Brown, Jr., Janice Kingslow, and Weslyn Tilden.
The MBC Archives includes more than 85,000 hours of radio and television programs. The digitizing and curriculum development of the collection is underwritten in part by a recent donation from The Oprah Winfrey Foundation.
The public can now hear portions of the collection in the online Archives section at www.museum.tv. The complete collection will be available for listening in the Media Café of the new MBC, scheduled to open in the summer of 2006 at State and Kinzie in Chicago. The Richard Durham Collection will also be showcased each year as part of the Museum’s Black History Month programming.
The addition of the Richard Durham Collection underscores the important role the MBC plays in preserving and presenting historic television and radio programs. It also enhances the Museum’s reputation as a cultural destination and educational resource for students, scholars and the general public. It also demonstrates the MBC’s commitment to serve the richly diverse audiences of Chicago.
The MBC has over 450 programs dealing with the civil rights struggle, including the largest collection of Harold Washington media in the United States and an extensive collection of performances by gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson.
The new 70,000-square-foot museum home will accommodate an increased number of school group tours and extend its educational outreach. The new MBC will include a range of educational areas that are critical to its mission, including: the Marjorie G. Weinberg Education Center for classroom teaching and educational screenings, the A. C. Nielsen, Jr. Research Center for scholarly pursuit, the 500-seat Angel Harvey Center for larger public screenings and lectures, two floors of interactive exhibits, and working television and radio studios.
The Museum of Broadcast Communications is one of three broadcast museums in the United States. In addition to preserving history, the new MBC will also conserve energy and is committed to being the first public museum in the nation to achieve a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
For more information on MBS, please visit www.museum.tv or contact Gina Doyle, MBC at 312-396-0103.