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Ebook Information

Word Warrior

Richard Durham, Radio, and Freedom

The life of an inventive African American media writer and tireless champion of freedom, equality, and justice

Posthumously inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2007, Richard Durham creatively chronicled and brought to life the significant events of his times. Durham's trademark narrative style engaged listeners with fascinating characters, compelling details, and sharp images of pivotal moments in American and African American history and culture.

In Word Warrior, award-winning radio producer Sonja D. Williams draws on archives and hard-to-access family records, as well as interviews with family and colleagues like Studs Terkel and Toni Morrison, to illuminate Durham's astounding career. Durham paved the way for black journalists as a dramatist and a star investigative reporter and editor for the pioneering black newspapers the Chicago Defender and Muhammed Speaks. Talented and versatile, he also created the acclaimed radio series Destination Freedom and Here Comes Tomorrow and wrote for popular radio fare like The Lone Ranger. Incredibly, his energies extended still further--to community and labor organizing, advising Chicago mayoral hopeful Harold Washington, and mentoring generations of activists.

Incisive and in-depth, Word Warrior tells the story of a tireless champion of African American freedom, equality, and justice during an epoch that forever changed a nation.


"Sonja Williams has written a book about Durham's life and work, cementing the brilliant journalist and activist's legacy."--Uprising Radio

"Word Warrior: Richard Durham, Radio, and Freedom is a remarkable contribution to the historical narrative, to our understanding of the long civil rights revolution.--People's World

"With this book, Williams . . . rescues a forgotten but important voice in the Civil Rights Movement. [A] well-written analytical profile of this important, versatile writer. Recommended."--Choice

"Williams' book is a major contribution to media studies and provides one model for future media-history work grappling with the current dominant paradigms of media industry and production culture studies. . . . Williams' description of multiple social phenomena, packaged as a biography of an important civil rights figure in Chicago, will pack a strong enough punch to set a precedent for similar work."--Journal of Radio & Audio Media

"Thanks to this biography by Sonja D. Williams, a professor of communications at Howard University, Durham's contributions to our country's dramatic arts, journalism, trade unionism and African American political power will begin to earn the appreciation and admiration they deserve."--Against the Current

"Williams's Word Warrior is an engrossing, at times poetic excavation of one man's dealing with life and learning as an African American man." --H-Net Reviews

"This admirable and engaging study of Durham's life and work fills a huge gap in American history, and it comes at a time where we are in desperate need of reminders that do more than give us hope, but also provide us with the examples of the ways in which agency can be infused into our racially contentious social landscape."--Radio Journal

"The enigmatic life of writer and radio [dramatist] Richard Durham has, for years, cried out for probing and understanding. Sonja D. Williams has answered the call with this fiercely smart and important book. It is an important achievement."--Wil Haygood, author of The Butler: A Witness to History

"Sonja Williams' exhaustively researched biography of Richard Durham sheds valuable light on an inexcusably neglected historical figure. Throughout his many lives, including activism, writing, and broadcasting, Durham demonstrated the importance of narrative in the struggle for justice. As Williams proves, the right to tell the story is a critical part of the quest for equality and power--and those who fought for that right should be remembered with gratitude."--Jabari Asim, author of What Obama Means

"Sonja Williams artfully links broadcasting pioneer Richard Durham to the key social, cultural, and political movements of mid-Twentieth-century America. In Word Warrior, Durham's fierce spirit, strategic mind, and creative genius leap to life as he navigates the streets, boardrooms, and radio studios of Chicago. Without this book, this very important story surely would have been lost."--A'Lelia Bundles, author of On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C. J. Walker

"In briskly energetic prose, Sonja D. Williams reveals the life of an important, but little-known, figure in twentieth century African American cultural and political history. From the Great Migration to the Black Power Movement, Richard Durham's story illuminates movements and events of momentous scope and significance."--Richard A. Courage, co-author of The Muse in Bronzeville: African American Creative Expression in Chicago, 19321950

"Williams' book does smart and invaluable work not only about Durham and his particular talents and contributions, but about the black political and cultural left in Chicago during the span of his career."--Barbara D. Savage, author of Broadcasting Freedom: Radio, War, and the Politics of Race, 19381948


Sonja D. Williams is a professor in the Department of Media, Journalism, and Film at Howard University and the winner of three George Foster Peabody Awards as a radio producer. Her credits include the radio series Wade in the Water: African American Sacred Music Traditions and Black Radio: Telling It Like It Was.

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