[Word Warrior is] deeply researched and deftly and gracefully written…with succinct but essential contextualization that moves the reader through nearly seven decades without getting bogged down in telling us too, too much. This is very hard to do, especially as each decade has its own political and cultural distinctions. But she does that beautifully, and I admire that very much…like a good documentary, the book is full of interludes with people we do not expect to find (Toni Morrison, Harold Washington) in the ways that we find them. Black cultural production and black political activism are smoothly joined here, and they should be, but few writers know enough about both to pull this off. I really enjoyed reading this manuscript and felt pulled along by its narrative and its complexity, and its respectful but critical look at Durham’s life and career.
Barbara D. Savage, author of Your Spirits Walk Beside Us: The Politics of Black Religion
[Word Warrior] offers a well-written biographical portrait of an important, but little-known, figure in 20th century African American cultural and political history, and an informative window onto his historical, geographical, and social contexts. The wide sweep of great historical events (Migration, Depression, World War II, Cold War, Radio’s Golden Age, Heyday of the CIO, the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements, election of Mayor Harold Washington) intersected by Richard Durham’s life and career, his singular contributions to several forms of mass media, and Sonja Williams’ briskly energetic prose suggest that this work will be of great potential interest to both general readers and scholarly readers in several disciplines.
Richard A. Courage, co-author of The Muse in Bronzeville: African American Creative Expression in Chicago, 1932-1950
This is a long overdue biography of Richard Durham, who had an amazing career from creating the Destination Freedom radio series, to working on Muhammad Speaks newspaper, to writing the first authorized book on Muhammad Ali. Author Sonja Williams, herself an experienced radio producer, tells a gripping story of Durham’s life breaking down barriers in the American media. This book will add to the growing scholarship on the Black Chicago Renaissance and the important role that popular culture, in this case radio, played among African Americans at mid-century.
Brian Dolinar, author of The Negro in Illinois: The WPA Papers
Word Warrior is a fascinating look at the life and times of Chicago radioman Richard Durham. We get to know Durham through his dynamic radio programming during the 1940s and 50s and then later as the editor of Muhammad Speaks and as the biographer of Muhammad Ali. Durham’s prolific and expansive life intersected with notable luminaries of the era. Williams expertly interweaves Durham’s personal and artistic life, his struggles and his triumphs, to produce a highly informative and entertaining read.
Cheryl LaRoche, author of Free Black Communities and the Underground Railroad: The Geography of Resistance
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