(originally broadcast August 7, 1949)
|[Durham used the story of educator, author, and humanitarian, Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954) to broaden his assault on discrimination. While he portrayed Terrell as a black woman overcoming great obstacles that resulted from racial prejudice, Durham emphasized her own argument that discrimination for reasons of gender was equally destructive to the nation's professed liberal democratic values. The closing scene remains particularly touching as this elderly woman of great achievement and renown is rudely forced from a public bus in Washington, D.C., because she refused to sit in the rear.]|
ANNOUNCER: Destination Freedom!
(MUSIC: Theme up and under)
ANNOUNCER: Destination Freedom! Dramatizations of the great democratic traditions of the Negro people is brought to you by station WMAQ as a part of the pageant of history and of America's own—DESTINATION FREEDOM!
(MUSIC: Theme to finish)
ANNOUNCER: Of an American woman—the late H. G. Wells once said: "turn the pages of this plucky woman's story of the broadening streak of violence and injustice through which she has lived her life ... in her own century and I wonder what answer will America give to her." The woman was Mary Church Terrell. And in a chapter entitled "The Long Road," Destination Freedom turns the pages of the Terrell story.
(MUSIC: Punctuate and segue to a brooding, troublesome theme)
NARRATOR: I—am the woman. Mary Church. The pages of my story began at the close of the Civil War. On the threshold of that new age I was born...born in Memphis, Tennessee, unheralded, unwanted.
FATHER: (Deep disappointment) It's a girl! At a time like this the Almighty sends us a girl. It's neither the time nor the place to raise one.
MOTHER: (Quiet, slow-tongued) It's not the time for any child. I wanted none.
FATHER: (Sorry he has said that) A boy, he'd have a chance but in this section of the South where they're strugglin' to throw us back into slavery—a girl—
MOTHER: (Quiet) I wanted no children at all. (Fade) None at all.
(MUSIC: Sting disappointment and under)
NARRATOR: So, I was "welcomed." And in wreckage of the Reconstruction I grew and quietly wondered at the split personality of the social system that spawned me, that preached one way of living for white folks—and demanded a different way from black folks. And I asked my mother why I was unwelcome.
MOTHER: (Slightly bitter) Must you keep asking me that?
TERRELL: (About seventeen) I'd like to know.
MOTHER: You'll get to see for yourself soon enough. You'll know.
TERRELL: (Cut in, insistent) How will I know?
MOTHER: (Quiet, sage) When you don't have to ask—you'll know. Now go on out to get your schooling. (Fade) Your father and I—have work to do. NARRATOR: So I would go out to school and to play—and to wander across the street where a boy I knew, Tom Moss, also wondered—and who would call to me:
TOM: (Fading on) Hello, Mary. Wanna piece of apple? Take half.
TERRELL: (Shy) Well
TOM: Awww go on, bite. You got a small mouth.
(SOUND: The bite)
TOM: (Surmise) Nice bite. Hub! Y'mouth ain't as small as I thought it was.
TERRELL: I did the best I could.
TOM: Your best is plenty good. (Walking) Goin' my way?
TERRELL: You walking down Cottonwood Street? You're not supposed to.
TOM: (Chuckles) It's only for the "white folks"—the sign says, but I hear your old man's going to buy a house on it.
TERRELL: But my mother says
TOM: (Shakes his head) She won't stop him. He's right. I'm gonna be like him one day. Ain't goin' to be no streets where I can't walk—when I get bigger. You ever read the thirteenth, fourteenth amendments?
TOM: (Visionary) You know, our folks used to be slaves, but all that stuffs ended. It's dead (fade).
|NARRATOR: (Over his fade down)||Ain't no more slavery, so them|
|And Tom and I--children of||"white" signs don't mean a thing.|
|newly freed slaves, would||The Constitution says everybody's|
|wonder at the world around us.||free and equal, and I intend to stick by|
|it like gospel.|
NARRATOR: And already there was a militant manner in his outlook that I longed to have. And when I asked him how he got that way, he said—
TOM: ((grins, shrugs) I'm a man. I'm supposed to fight for what's my own, your pa says.
TERRELL: (Ladylike) And just what am I supposed to be doing?
TOM: (Grins broader) You're a woman. You're supposed to---keep out of the way—your pa says.
(MUSIC. Sneak under)
NARRATOR: It was true. My father had said this. And one evening when I came home, he took me over to our new house on the corner of forbidden Cottonwood Street. I stood with my mouth open.
FATHER: (Stern and quiet) All right now, girl, stand aside. Least a woman can do is to keep out of the way of those who're busy. Let the moving men by. (Up) Wagner?
MOVER: (Loaded, fading on) Comin'—Church—we're coming.
FATHER: This way. (Sterner) Stand aside, girl, you hear me?
MOVER: (Fade on) Here—here boys, hold it awhile—easy now—easy. There.
FATHER: (Impatient) You see the sun setting—don't stop now. Get my furniture in.
MOVER: I see the sun settin', Church. But do you see what else I see? Way down the end of Cottonwood?
FATHER: (Terse) I've got eyes.
MOVER I: (Soft) It's a mob. They've been collectin' like buzzards since they heard you were movin' on this street.
FATHER: (Stiff) I know that.
MOVER I: Then you know that all they're waiting for is—nightfall. My advice, Mr. Church, take your wife and daughter away
FATHER: I hired you to move me, Mr. Wagner.
MOVER I: (Cut) That we're doing.
FATHER: When I need advice, I'll ask for it.
MOVER I: Church—if you had someone here to help you fight off the mob if they attack you—it'd be different. All you've got's two women. Tell my boys to take the furniture back. (Up) Boys—? Here
FATHER: (Cut in, terse, low) Mr. Wagner—I've paid you. Will you go on?
MOVER: (Turns back) If you insist on it. But you're a fool, John Church. A fool and his life's soon parted. (Up) All right, boys. Heave on that furniture. Up! Stand aside, girl.
(MUSIC: In under soft for)
NARRATOR: I stood aside as the movers piled furniture into our house on the forbidden street. That night my father kept a restless watch. Outside, a mob intent on preserving white supremacy milled about and shouted
CAST: (In under this hold off sound of angry crowd. Keep well in background as indicated)
NARRATOR: Through the night as our vigil wore on my father called—
TERRELL: (Prompt) Yes—
FATHER: (Annoyed) Not you, your mother. Mary—
MOTHER: (On) What is it!
FATHER: They're still waiting out there.
MOTHER: Let them wait.
FATHER: (Cut in) They won't go away until they're driven away.
MOTHER: (Begins) The police—
FATHER: (Cut in) The "police" won't help us; you know it. If we stay cooped up, they'll swarm around until one gets enough nerve to shoot through the windows—then they'll come at us like hungry dogs.
MOTHER: (Anguish) Oh, John, why did we move here?
FATHER: (In, snappy, stiff) Because our fathers longed for this freedom even more than we have, and by George, they're not going to drive us out.
MOTHER: What are you going to do?
FATHER: (Fade) I'm going to meet them.
FATHER: It's better to go outside and "convince" them than wait and let them take us. My gun, Mary.
MOTHER: (Protesting) Convince them of what!?
FATHER: That slavery's over. My gun (pause). Good. Step aside girl.
(MUSIC: Chord under and keep in background for)
NARRATOR: I stepped aside. And though my mother snatched at him, the ex-slave went out to convince his ex-masters that he indeed—was free. And we huddled in the house and
NARRATOR: heard shots in the streets, heard the uproar and the
SOUND AND CAST: (Shot and shouts in and out)
NARRATOR: rioting, and listened as it died out. And when the overdue dawn drove the night off—there was a knock on the door.
(SOUND: Knocking that sounds hollow)
NARRATOR: I went to see if father had won his house—or lost it.
(SOUND: Stronger pounding)
MOTHER: (Fearful, but low) I'll go, girl. You stay here—
TERRELL: All right, mother.
FERRELL: She tiptoed to the door—and opened it—
(SOUND: Door opened off mike. Shuffling of trio of footsteps under)
NARRATOR: (Catches her breath at the sight) It was—father. He came walking in—(notices). No, three men—the movers—were helping him walk. They brought him past me—and then I saw the back of his head and cried out—
TERRELL: Father—you're hurt.
FATHER: (Stiff', proud) Mary
MOTHER: (Fade on) Yes, John.
FATHER: Didn't I tell you to keep the girl out of sight?
MOTHER: I did, but—
FATHER: (Stops) Well—why do you stop and stare too? (Slight catch of pain)
Wagner—take me up—my head
(SOUND: Body slumps to floor)
MOVER: (Low, quiet) Now, now quiet, m'am. He's hurt bad, but I think he'll pull through. He drove them off all right. Just step aside, and let us handle it—I think he'll pull through.
(MUSIC: Sneak under)
NARRATOR: And she stepped aside and took me with her and told me why she had not been anxious for a child.
MOTHER: (Quiet, firm) Now, you can see. Oh, for a short while around here while the Reconstruction was on, there was a growin' freedom, and poor white men and Negroes were coming into their own. But before you were born, a reaction tore down the work of the Reconstruction: the free votin', the equal education—and I could see we were headin' towards a new kind of slavery. No mother wants to see her child suffer prejudice and bigotry. Now you see.
NARRATOR: I did see, and I looked closer at the life around me and tried to adjust myself for the task ahead. And finally, when father had recovered, he said
(MUSIC: Stop abrupt)
FATHER: (Also abrupt) You won't have to adjust. You're not to live in it—(brooks, no defiance) I've decided to send you somewhere else.
FATHER: Somewhere, where freedom and justice are more than ideas—where men are working at it. I've made arrangements for your education, though I don't know what you'll do with it. I wish you had been a boy—you could be useful—(sighs. Makes the best of a bad bargain) However—girl that you are, do the best you can. Now you got packin' to do. Get started.
NARRATOR: (Soft) I prepared to go north to school, and Tom came to say good-bye
TOM: (Chuckles) Well, well, th' "little mouthed" girl's leavin' Memphis. TERRELL: Tom.
TOM: I just came over to help you pack your suitcases. Brought you air apple, too. Want a bite?
TERRELL: That's nice of you, Tom. (Sudden) Oh—no. I'll cut it this time. My folks say—you're not going north. Staying right here.
TOM: (Packing) I'll be here when you come back.
TERRELL: Wouldn't it be easier for you up north?
TOM: (Little annoyed) It might be. It's rough here for anybody believin' in the— thirteenth, fourteenth—amendment. But—I'm stayin'.
TOM: Ohhh—I dunno. Maybe—because my people are here. Maybe because my folks helped build this country and made it worth living in—anyway, I'm sticking south. (Chuckles) Even if I'm lynched for it. (More serious) Besides—I've opened a grocery store up on Market Street; did they tell you?
TERRELL: I hear on Market Street they're driving out the Negro merchants.
TOM: (Shrugs) I'm a "Negro merchant" an' I'm still there, and I'll be there, Mary, when you come back with your education. (Going off) I'll be there.
NARRATOR: I left "Tom" and all the people I'd grown up with and went north to Oberlin College and studied the history of my country, grew up and got married and then came home to settle down. Came home to a welcome that was different than that which had greeted my birth.
CAST: (Welcome ring)
MOTHER: (As gay as she can be) Welcome home, Mary! Welcome!
FATHER: Yes—we've gotten together a little surprise party for you, Mary. Welcome home.
NARRATOR: My eyes were wet, and my heart was full.
MOTHER: Now Mary, don't look so serious! It's welcome home. You've been away from Memphis now ten years!
FATHER: (Proud) Not many Memphis girls come home from college with two, three degrees.
CAST: (Ad-lib encouragement)
FATHER: (Fade on) And look at these gifts! Everybody you ever knew sent you something. Look.
TERRELL: Where's Torn Moss?
FATHER: (Tries to hide worry) Young Tom Moss? He's an up-and-coming market man now, you know.
TERRELL: (Shyly) I'd like to see him.
FATHER: Well—it's time he got here, as a matter of fact, but, well, —
MOTHER: (Uneasy) He said he wouldn't miss your homecoming!
FATHER: No—in fact, he sent you a gift—right along with the other folks. (Raises) Here—I'll lift it. In this here ... crate. Help me, Mr. Wagner. You helped me move my furniture into my house when you thought it was going to be my coffin—you oughta be able to lift a little crate.
MOVER: Sure, sure, John.... Here.
(SOUND: Thud on table)
FATHER: I'll Just open it. (Strains a little) See what's in it.
(SOUND: Creaking as boards of crate are forced back)
FATHER: There. Well—nothing but—red apples.
GROUP: (Ad-lib gaily)
FATHER: And a note saying—"don't let your big mouth eat 'em all—save half' for me—I'll be there! (Affirms it) You're home, girl!
NARRATOR: (Smiles over ad-lib) And I felt the warmth of the people around me and forgot the years I'd lived in terror, and when my father went out to convince his neighbors he was free. And I waited for Tom to come and to strike again his rich warm note. Instead, his younger brother came running up the steps in panic and fear!
(SOUND: Running steps on stairs—door opens)
CAST: (Surprise, etc.)
FATHER: (Eager) What is it boy? What is it?
BOY: (Panic) It's Tom. There's a riot—over on Market Street. They've wrecked his store. (Breaks down) Tom—he's been lynched.
(MUSIC: Drums punctuate something terrible. Sting and segue to theme effect underneath)
NARRATOR: (Affected by it) The warmth I thought I'd felt in the southern air turned thick and humid and unfriendly. And the party turned into a wake. I recall wandering around the streets of Memphis in a state of shock and knocking on the doors of the churches, and telling the story to the ministers who prayed over me, and hearing some say—
MINISTER I: (Sad) I'm afraid—there's nothing the church can do about such a horrible thing, Miss. (Fade) Nothing we can do—but pray.
MINISTER II: I'm sorry, there's nothing we can do but pray. (Going off) There's solace in prayer.
MINISTER I: The church for Negroes—is on the other part of town. (Going off) You have my deepest sympathy, however.
MINISTER II: What do you expect my church to do? We can only pray. (Going off) We can pray for their souls.
(MUSIC: Punctuate closing of doors. To religious background)
NARRATOR: (Sad) I was bitter and confused. I couldn't see why Memphis churches could not fight lawlessness, could not feel it was time to crusade for the living equality of all mankind. I had read of lynchings before and had been deeply stirred. But when a woman has been closely associated with the victim from childhood—the anguish is indescribable, and I decided to make my home—elsewhere.
FATHER: (Affected by the preceding events) I've always said—if I had a son—instead of a girl, he would be of help in bringing about the kind of justice the world needs. A woman?
TERRELL: And why not a woman?
FATHER: Most people would think, fighting—it's out of place for a woman.
TERRELL: (Slow) Then, father, I think hereafter I'll devote my life to being "out of place," to convincing most people that only when woman stands with man and demands full rights for all is she really—in her place.
NARRATOR: And I went across the sea to study and learn of the progress women had made in France and Italy. I went to register at a German institution. I was welcomed by Herr Hanson
HANSON: (Cordial but curious) Fr5ulein Church—we're very glad to have you register to study here.
TERRELL: I've heard so much of this school‑
HANSON: (Laugh) At first, we were worried about your race.
TERRELL: You discriminate against students because of their color?
HANSON: (Slight laugh) Oh no, no, "color," ridiculous! (Hesitant) But—to be frank—we thought you might be Jewish.
TERRELL: If I were?
HANSON: (Politely) We would have to reject you, Frimlein. You see, we do not take Jewish women here. (Shrug) Of course, you being new here—you don't understand that.
TERRELL: I do understand. There's nothing "new" about discrimination—
HANSON: But, of course, you‑
TERRELL: In my own country, Herr Hanson—there too are institutions where I can't study—because of my "color."
HANSON: (Shy) But of course that's foolish—any institution would be proud to have such a scholar as you.
TERRELL: Any institution should be ashamed to discriminate against any woman here, Hanson. I don't think—I can study here.
(MUSIC: Sneak semi-heroic)
TERRELL: I believe, once one accepts discrimination against another, he's preparing the way for his own slavery. I intend to remain free.
(MUSIC: Punctuate and under)
NARRATOR: I remained free in Europe and worked and studied while I saw other women slowly giving in to race prejudice, and I learned that no women can live free and equal by standing silently by while huge sections of the human race were slandered and made second-class citizens. And when I came home to America, I had my work cut out for me. I was called to Rochester by a woman who said
ANTHONY: (Somewhat strong and masculinelike) I've heard of your lectures in Germany— Miss Church. And there's a need for the same things here.
ANTHONY: Yes—women in this country have gathered under the National
American Woman Suffrage Association. We're trying to get an amendment to the Constitution that will give women the right to vote. We need women like you to go across the country and speak and inspire other women to follow you. Without this fight—it may take a hundred years—before women will cast ballots in America—
TERRELL: I've thought of that.
ANTHONY: Will you go?
TERRELL: Where shall I start?
ANTHONY: Start where the message is needed most.
TERRELL: That's in the South. It's harder to get women to listen, there.
ANTHONY: I know, but we've got to get to white women and Negro women in the South. Get to them, and somehow get them together.
TERRELL: (Pause) I'll get to them.
NARRATOR: I took up the fight for women's suffrage and traveled south and spoke days and nights before women gathered in homes and halls. I spoke of the simple desire every woman had for dignity and strength and the same human recognition for their merit and talent that greeted men, some men. And in corn fields in Kansas, I talked to women—(sound) while their men went off to vote at the polls.
WIFE: (Up) How long you say it'll take, Miss Church, to get an amendment passed?
TERRELL: (Address group) If enough women from this state join the association— get their men to vote for the amendment first
WIFE: How do you get the men to vote for equality when just the sound of the word makes 'em mad?
TERRELL: You've got to convince them
WIFE: How? My husband says woman's place is to raise the children. Nothin' else.
TERRELL: He's got daughters.
FERRELL: Well, ask him if he wants them to serve in drudgery and have no rights of their own.
WIFE: (Slower) No—No—he ain't likely to stand for that—if he thinks of his daughters. (Going off) Not likely.
NARRATOR: And I went south and talked to women in cotton fields, as well as women in clubs and hotels. And soon my name became known in towns before I reached them. Sometimes the women welcomed me as I got off the train. Sometimes they came to the train to see that I didn't get off, as they did in Alabama.
(SOUND: In under this the clang clang of old-type train and station sounds)
ABBY: (Slight southern) Are you that agitatin' woman they sent down here from up north?
TERRELL: I'm from Memphis—and I came to speak about something that concerns us all—
ABBY: (Cut in, certain) That's her! That's that woman who's goin' round stirrin' up trouble—
TERRELL: Women! Please—listen—
ABBY: (Cut in) If you want to know something for your own good, girl, get back on that train and stay! Or they'll be throwin' you back on.
TERRELL: Who are "they"—
ABBY: The men folks around here. They heard about you cumin'.
TERRELL: (Over them) And since when have women with backbone allowed men to dictate who they shall hear and who they shan't? Since when?
ABBY: (Not so angry) We don't want no collud woman cumin' down here tellin' us what to vote fo'—that's all!
TERRELL: And who knows more about what's in the hearts and minds of women of the South—Negro and white? You—or the bigots among the men who have never given equal treatment to their Negro neighbors, nor to you, their wives and relatives!
CAST: (Settle uneasily)
TERRELL: And who among you enjoys the freedom that all women need? Who associates with whom she likes? Who can bring up her children to be true fighters for freedom and humanity without telling them to hold back, for their neighbors, Jews or Negroes?
CAST: (Slight grumbling)
ABBY: We know all what you're talking about! We expected you'd talk this way. Agitator!
TERRELL: (Over) Are you afraid to listen to an agitator?
CAST: (Pick it up but not too spirited)
ABBY: (Over the others) My old man's a member of the Ku Klux Klan. He's got some power in this town, and you—
TERRELL: I can see why you're afraid. He must be a very frightened and brutal man.
ABBY: He treats me all right! He's just hard on the colored and the men folks.
TERRELL: (Pause. Quiet) There's no man who practices brutality towards other men—who will ever practice equality with women!
ABBY: (Cut in, after stirring) We don't want no equality with Negroes. That's all there is to it. My man says the Klan's the only thing's that protectin' us white women from Negro men. He says that!
(MUSIC: In under softly with "Deep River")
TERRELL: (Over all, gets attention, slightly sad) Women—since when have we needed cowards in bed sheets and masks and shotguns to safeguard our persons and our homes.
TERRELL: The only protecting women need is protection by equality under the law. Equality of opportunities and the right to share the benefits of this land, alongside men. Equality to choose their associates without fear of intimidation from bigots and the hissing of cowards. That is why I'm staying in the South and getting Negro and white women together to find their freedom together. In the right to vote and the right to work—will freedom be found—for once a white woman bows down before white masculinism she is ready for slavery!
(MUSIC: Up and down)
NARRATOR: (Slowly) I spoke that way whenever I traveled. And slowly they began to listen. And there were clubs formed of women in the South to promote their own welfare. I helped form a National Association of Colored Women when the crucial nineteenth amendment to grant suffrage to women was passed. I worked for women's organizations everywhere to implement the amendment and to bring a new awareness of the struggles women were making to help construct a new society where race and sex discrimination would be outlawed. And when I had finished this mission, I was invited to another mission.
ADDAMS: Miss Church—I've called you here because we're proud of your work in women's suffrage and your work with the Washington Board of Education. There's another mission—I wish you could join—
TERRELL: What is it?
ADDAMS: Well—you've enlisted women behind political rights and social rights. The world war's ended in Europe, and now there's another thing we've got to get women behind—Peace. Without peace—none of the rights we've won for women will mean anything. Will you help?
TERRELL: You know I will.
ADDAMS: (Nods) I'm glad. I'm going with you. I'm going on leave of absence from Hull House here in Chicago. To help build the peace.
(MUSIC: Sneak under)
NARRATOR: She was Jane Addams, and together with thirty other women we went to Switzerland and there worked with women from every country in Europe to outline a program to put women who give most and gain least by wars— squarely behind the crusade for peace. And on my way home, I stopped in England and met a man who'd already read the early pages of my life and said—
(MUSIC: Punctuate and thin tone behind)
H. G. WELLS: Whenever you write your autobiography, call on me if you need a godfather for it. If you live the next twenty years of your life the way you've lived the last—it will be a book America should read.
(MUSIC: Punctuate and out)
NARRATOR: And I came home to Washington where I had decided to live. And again I was called to undertake a mission. The call came from the head of the Washington Education Association.
WOMAN: Would you have time this year, Miss Church, to make a study of George Washington's relation to the Negro people? My department wants to print a pamphlet for the coming Washington Bicentennial. (Going off) If you have time
NARRATOR: I found the time, and I began by boarding the bus in Washington—to go out to the George Washington home, at Mount Vernon. But it seems I'd forgot that here in our nation's capital I wasn't free.
(SOUND: Street noises under)
CONDUCTOR: (Busy) Fare—fare, please.
(SOUND: Clink of fare register)
CONDUCTOR: Back in the bus. Move back in the bus. (Sees her) Say! Say woman. You hear me, woman? One—You deaf or something? If you're deaf, woman, you sure ain't blind. (Fades to her) Can't you hear me?
TERRELL (Looking up) What is it?
CONDUCTOR: You're sitting in the wrong seats. White folks in front, colored in the rear. You been in Washington long?
TERRELL: A very long time.
CONDUCTOR: Then act like it. Are you moving—or are you giving me trouble?
TERRELL: (Very weary) I'm too tired to move. I guess—I'm going to give you trouble.
CAST: (Reacting excitedly)
CONDUCTOR: All right, woman. You asked for it. Hold that door there.
CAST: (Excitement mounts out with door shut)
(SOUND: Bus door shuts)
(SOUND: Bus starts up, goes off)
NARRATOR: I pulled myself up off the capital's streets and slowly towards the home of George Washington.
(SOUND: Not too slow walking on gravel with)
NARRATOR: I was going to make my survey on the relations of the Negro people not only with the first president—but with the capital of the country. I would not "step aside." True, I was an "old woman"...but there were still fights for women to lead. There were still the fights for justice and equality and peace. I looked towards Mount Vernon; it was at the end of a long, long road, but I still had strength to travel it.
(SOUND: Keep the walking and)
(MUSIC: Run it into the walking and tag)
ANNOUNCER: You have just heard Destination Freedom's dramatization of "The Long Road," the story of the militant fighter for women's rights, Mary Church Terrell.