As we head into the holiday season and the end of another calendar year, I wanted to feature the section of The Root.com’s article highlighting Word Warrior as one of the ten of the top nonfiction books in 2015 by journalists of color. I am humbled by the recognition.
Please enjoy writer Richard Price’s summary, and all the best to you in 2016!
Just in Time for the Holidays: Top Nonfiction Books
BY: RICHARD PRINCE, Posted Dec. 13, 2015
Sonja D. Williams, a professor in the Howard University Department of Media, Journalism, and Film, has written “Word Warrior: Richard Durham, Radio, and Freedom” (University of Illinois Press, $95 hardcover; $26 paper; $18.79 Kindle).
Durham was the most prolific and successful black writer on radio during its golden age, becoming one of the few African Americans to write regularly for radio and television dramas in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
He co-wrote Muhammad Ali’s 1975 autobiography, “The Greatest: My Own Story,” as well as actor Anthony Quinn’s 1972 autobiography, “The Original Sin: a Self-Portrait.” Durham was the longest-serving editor of the Nation of Islam newspaper, Muhammad Speaks, serving from 1963 to 1970, at a time when the publication moved from being a house organ to aggressively reporting news. He also worked as a special news reporter for the Chicago Defender and as an editor for Ebony magazine.
Dunham’s crowning achievement was the groundbreaking radio series “Destination Freedom,” which aired his scripts from June 27, 1948, until August 1950. Durham wrote this provocative, unprecedented half-hour Sunday feature for Chicago’s CBS-owned WMAQ.
At a time when radio was almost an all-white medium, with blacks chiefly functioning in stereotypical roles, his scripts, acted by such Chicagoans as Oscar Brown Jr. and Studs Terkel, dramatically pleaded for rights denied, through poetically told stories of prominent black people in history.
Jabari Asim, editor of the NAACP’s the Crisis, wrote in a blurb, “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.”
Sonja J. Williams with Charles E. Cobb at Duke University: Radio Journalist Richard Durham (video)
Sonja Williams with Kojo Nnamdi, “The Kojo Nnamdi Show,” WAMU-FM, Washington: The Life And Work Of Broadcast Pioneer Richard Durham (audio)
Follow me on