map of chicago

Richard Durham Papers

Finding Aid: Richard Durham Papers
Repository: Chicago Public Library, Carter G. Woodson Regional Library, Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature

Richard Durham is best remembered as the creator of Destination Freedom, a groundbreaking radio series that dramatized the struggle for civil rights in America. Destination Freedom aired on WMAQ, a Chicago radio station, on Sunday mornings from 1948 to 1950. Durham received radio script-writing training while employed by the Federal Writers' Project of the Work Projects Administration in the late 1930s and early 1940s. His prolific writing career spanned four decades and extended far beyond radio: Durham edited the official publication of the Nation of Islam, Muhammad Speaks, in the 1960s; he created the television series Bird of the Iron Feather in the early 1970s; he co-authored The Greatest, the autobiography of boxing champion Muhammad Ali, which was published in 1977; and he wrote numerous speeches for Chicago's first African American mayor, Harold Washington, in the 1980s.

The Richard Durham Collection at the Chicago Public Library, Carter G. Woodson Regional Library, Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature comprises mostly manuscripts and primarily includes scripts written for Destination Freedom and Bird of the Iron Feather.

In March 2005, Clarice Durham donated the ninety-one audiotapes to the Museum of Broadcast Communications. Portions of this collection are available on the online archives section of the Museum of Broadcast Communications website ( and the complete collection is available for listening at the Museum of Broadcast Communications, located at 400 North State Street, Suite 240, Chicago.

Selected Artifacts

The Durham Collection includes scripts for all the Destination Freedom radio plays that aired. 'Poet of Bronzeville,' a biography of Gwendolyn Brooks, aired in 1949, the year before Brooks became the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry for her volume Annie Allen. The cast of Destination Freedom at a rehearsal, 1949. Destination Freedom actress Louise Pruitt, 1949. Destination Freedom actor Fred Pinkard (left), 1949. Poet, playwright, songwriter, and activist Oscar Brown, Jr., pictured here in 1949, was a featured performer on Destination Freedom. Destination Freedom was a breakthrough for actress Janice Kingslow, who had difficulty finding work as a stage actress because she was viewed as too light-skinned to play a black woman. Kingslow recounted her troubles in 'I Refuse to Pass,' an article published in True Experiences and reprinted in Negro Digest, May 1950. An advertisement for a Destination Freedom publicity event. The cast of Destination Freedom broadcast a live performance as a session of Vivian Harsh's Book Review and Lecture Forum, a series Harsh organized at the George Cleveland Hall Branch Library from 1933 to 1953.

Images and credits.