(originally broadcast August 29, 1948)
|[More than a story of a year, this radio drama was a metaphor for the end of congressional reconstruction of the South and the imposition of socially repressive controls over Afro-Americans that would last a century. Here Durham dramatized the life of Charles Caldwell, a black state senator in Mississippi following the Civil War—using Caldwell's assassination in late 1875 as symbolic of the lot of emancipated blacks and their white supporters. The story has been streamlined but tensely communicated, especially by Durham's selection of narrators, who take the listener from bright festivities of a hopeful New Year’s Day to the morose realities of late December. But the social issues are also here, clearly delineated in this tale of opportunity lost and promises unfulfilled.]|
SINGER: Oh freedom, oh freedom,
Oh freedom over me,
And before I'd be a slave,
I'll be buried in my grave,
And go home to my Lord and be free.
ANNOUNCER: Destination Freedom:
(MUSIC: Theme up and to background)
ANNOUNCER: The Chicago Defender and station WMAQ bring you Destination Freedom, a new radio series dramatizing the great democratic traditions of the Negro people, interwoven in the pageant of history and a part of America's own Destination Freedom!
(MUSIC: Up and out)
ANNOUNCER: Today Destination Freedom tells the story of Reconstruction leader Charles Caldwell, in a chapter entitled "The Story of 1875."
(MUSIC: Up and hold under)
YEAR: (Quiet, sober, natural) I am a year. Of course, you know all about years. We inherit the habits of history. Men go by names; we go by numbers. I bear the number 1875 AD. I came into the world with my faults, my blunders, my heroes, and my cowards, just ten years after the Civil War. I inherited the ideas of the years before me. I set the seeds for the years ahead of me. I was the year 1875, and in Mississippi on January first, in the morning of my first day alive, ten men in odd regalia came to the home of my Senator Charles Caldwell and woke his wife.
(SOUND: Knocking on door. Pause. Door opened)
MAE: (Peers, a little strained) Who—is it? What do you want?
WADE: (Surly, mocks) What do we want, she says! (Aside) You hear that boys?
GROUP: (Ad-lib reaction)
BOB: (Gruff laughter) Tell 'er what we want—she oughta know!
MAE: Who are you? If this is a New Year's joke
WADE: Well, she thinks it's a joke, boys! We gotta visit this county more often. People ain't heard about the organization! (Aside) Fred—take a look around inside.
FRED: (Fade off) Sure, Wade, sure.
MAE: I said, what do you want?
WADE: (Stops kidding, cut in serious) Woman—what could ten men with sixteen shotguns want to do with a senator who goes up and down the state preachin' race equality and yellin' for the new votin' laws?
BOB: (Cut in) Where's Caldwell?
WADE: Come on, where's the senator?—Where's your old man? MAE: (Low, slow) He's not home. No one's here but me.
FRED: (Fade on) She's tellin' it straight, Wade. Nobody in there. Nobody's around.
GROUP: (Ad-lib, restless to leave)
BOB: Come on, let's go to Clinton. If he ain't here, he'll be in Clinton.
MAE: What do you want with him—what has he done to you?
WADE: He's tried to fix it so people like me can't live here, so ex-slaves and po' whites'll be running and ruinin' the county! Those like him got no business playin' "Senate."
MAE: (In) The people elected him
WADE: (Cut in) People! She calls 'em people
FRED: Let 'er alone, Wade. Let's go to Clinton.
WADE: First I want his old woman to know we'll be back.
BOB: (Hushed) Not tonight, Wade. He'll have them scalawags and Yanks with him.
WADE: (Cut in) Not tonight, woman, but some night we'll get him. Maybe it'll take days, weeks, or months, but we'll get 'im before he gets us. Him and his Yankee songs, and his scalawags and po' white friends—we'll get 'em 'for the year's out.
(MUSIC: Up and under)
YEAR: That was the way I started out in Mississippi. I was a Reconstruction year. They were the men who wanted to make me over like the old years. And on New Year's night in his home, the senator who had once been a slave was singing with men who were (fade) carrying me ahead to a new freedom.
GROUP: (Start under above.) Glory, glory hallelujah,
Glory, glory, hallelujah,
Glory, glory, hallelujah,
His soul goes marching on.
(Break off into ad-libbed festive merrymaking)
(SOUND: New Year's trumpets)
IRA: (Irish. Raps for attention, laughs) That's enough! Enough boys, it's late. And surely you see the Missus Caldwell's getting tired of us being here and keeping the senator up. It's time we left.
GROUP: (Ad-lib assent)
CABELL: Not so fast, Ira. I haven't heard the senator say a word all evening—he's just listening to us.
IRA: How about it Caldwell? Tell us what's on your mind now.
CALDWELL: (Protesting) It's nothing, gentleman. Go on with your singin'—go on.
IRA: Not another note till we hear from you.
GROUP: (Ad-lib agreement)
IRA: How about drinking a toast—a toast to the new year, senator, an' the coming election.
BRANDT: Yes, give us a speech, senator. Speech!
CALDWELL: (Offhanded) You want me makin' speeches when we ought to be makin' merry on New Year's night.
IRA: Sure. Go on, a word from the state senator. Go on!
IRA: They say it's not so hard to get you talking when you're on the Senate floor‑
BRANDT: They say you did plenty talking to stop the planters from holding oil to their taxes.
CALDWELL: (Concedes) All right. All right, gentleman, I'll say a word, a word I would have said to the men in the white robes who came looking for me today—something Lincoln said.
MAE: (Cut in) Now, Charles, don't keep quotin' Mr. Lincoln.
CALDWELL: (Smiles) Mae's afraid I'll come to the same end as Lincoln if I keep usin' the same words.
GROUP: Go on. Go on, senator.
CALDWELL: I'll say this. We're startin' out on a good year, friends, all of us—men who ten years ago would never have been allowed to live together as free and equal men—I was a slave, Ira was a carpenter for the slaveholders‑
IRA: And they've not paid me my last year's wages.
GROUP: (Ad-lib laughs)
CALDWELL: (Nods) And Brandt, a slave. Mason, Cabell, ten years ago you were overseers. Remember it?
CABELL: (Hesitant) I—I've never quite forgotten it.
CALDWELL: And here we're together, on the same side, on the ground that was once a plantation, plannin' how to make it so there'll be more freedom, sure freedom for everyone this year. And we'll do it. There's a civil rights bill to be passed in Washington that'll wipe out every trace of the old system, gentlemen. The last ten years have been good—this'll be better.
MAE: (Fatalistic) It won't be better. All over the county we hear of men who demand the right to be free of plantations being beaten and driven back.
IRA: (Nods) No denying it, senator. As fast as federal troops leave, mobs led by the old planters spring up—call themselves Klans—
CABELL: (Reasoning) Ira's right. It's going to be different from now on, Senator. They defy the law, and they're getting bolder. There's nothing we can do to stop them—they're strong.
CALDWELL: (Cut in) They're weaker than we are, Cabell. We, the poor whites and the Negro freedmen, we are the majority, not the old slaveholders. We know they organize bands against us and wait on their plantations like wounded lions, ready to split us apart when we quarrel. But for eight years we've been together, you've even elected me your senator. They voted against us; we were stronger.
GROUP: (Ad-lib agreement)
CALDWELL: Then we'll get oil with reconstructing the state for the benefit of all the people in it—not for a few who still hold the land.
CABELL: (Hesitant) Yes, but when the troops are withdrawn, senator—
CALDWELL: (Cut in) The governor has promised that the troops'll stay until the changes are made.
CABELL: (Uneasy) But the planters, they're still waiting for a chance to—
CALDWELL: (Cut in) Let them wait! They're Bourbons now like the old Bourbons in France, clinging to an old, decayed way of living. They'll defy the new civil rights amendments, they'll poison us in their papers, they'll play one of us against the other, but if we keep white and Negro together here in the South for ten—five more years—we'll win out. We'll have a democracy—(stops). Now—there, I've made a speech. Mae always says you can't keep me from making a speech.
IRA: (Laughs) It's what we came to hear, what we need for the start of the new year. Toast gentlemen? We'll drink it in good Scotch whiskey.
GROUP: (Ad-lib assent: "A toast! A toast!")
IRA: What'll it be, Senator? What's on your calendar that's important? Toast it.
CALDWELL: To this year's election. May every man in the South, black and white, be free to vote.
(SOUND: Clink of glasses. Pause)
GROUP: (Ad-lib agreement and good-byes)
CALDWELL: (Notices) Cabell, you're not drinking
CABELL: (Smiles) Not Scotch, senator; my taste is for bourbon this year. We'll see how the year turns out.
YEAR: Yes, I was the year when a few men with a taste for old times wanted to turn back. But those who believed they could build better years went ahead. And while my months passed, the senator who had been a slave went nobs led by about his business of binding people together. With fresh copies of the new amendment that had been agreed upon, he traveled throughout the county. m, Senator. He took the words to the farmers and freedmen and told them to read it
GROUP: (Murmurs of interest under this)
JONES: This the law about voting, senator?
CALDWELL: It's the new law, Mr. Jones.
BROWN: (Edge in) What's it like, senator? What's it mean?
CALDWELL: It says what it means. Read it and tell everybody about it.
JONES: (Begins slow) Well, it says—the fourteenth amendment.
JONES: It says, the right of citizens to vote should not be denied or abridged e benefit ofby the United States or by any State—on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. It means this state too?
CALDWELL: (Nods) This state too.
JONES: And it says—the Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation. It means—
CALDWELL: It means—for the first time—Negroes will vote in the state. It means you'll get a new weapon. Hold on to it; this year you'll need it.
YEAR: And the senator went on telling more people about the new right. And they were behind him. It seemed he was right. Even in the legislature he helped pass new bills over the objection of the old planters. Together the white men and black men were making a new South. The senator who had been a slave stood in the legislature and put new ideas into law—
(SOUND: Gavel raps)
CHAIRMAN: The chair recognizes Senator Caldwell.
CALDWELL: Mr. Chairman, in accordance with the thirteenth amendment, I'm proposing that we abolish all segregation in the state of Mississippi.
YEAR: And his proposal was made into law. And he rose again. CHAIRMAN: (Gavel raps) The chair recognizes Senator Caldwell. CALDWELL: Mr. Chairman, to put teeth in the bill against segregation, I offer an amendment to provide a fine of 5,000 dollars against any officer or agent of any railroad or vessel guilty of Jim Crowism.
CALDWELL: I offer a bill to recognize the property rights of women. To establish free public schools unsegregated as to race, creed, or color!
YEAR: And before I, the year 1875, had passed many months, the laws were written and agreed on. They stood on the books, but there were men who stood outside the law. There was the planter, Preston Whipper. He was one of the wounded lions waiting for his years to come back. He spat when the senator passed.
WHIPPER: (Cough, disgust)
CALDWELL: (Fade on) Good morning, Mr. Whipper.
WHIPPER: What's good about it—slave?
CALDWELL: This is the last morning of the old laws segregating citizens in our state, Mr. Whipper.
WHIPPER: For a man who's just been ten years free, you got an awful lot to do with the laws—
CALDWELL: The law's everybody's business.
WHIPPER: The likes of you ain't got no business with it. I've said it before; I'll say it again.
CALDWELL: I've heard your words before.
WHIPPER: And when you hear me again, it won't be with words and laws. One day, slave senator, the poor whites'll be united with me, not with you.
CALDWELL: What is there for anyone to unite on with you?
CALDWELL: Suppose they'd rather unite for the right to vote and to be equal under the law? Suppose they don't go with you?
WHIPPER: Those who don't want to join with me—we have our ways of persuading. One day we'll put an end to you and your Reconstruction. Next time when night riders come your way, you'll not live to tell about it.
YEAR: The senator heard, but the senator went on his way. Then slowly, the days in my year began to change. There were jobless men and hungry men joining the riders, looking for the leaders of the Reconstruction. And they would come on horseback and knock on the doors at night—
(SOUND: Horses galloping up under above. Stop on cue)
WADE: (Back off) Hold up. This the place?
BOB: Sure, it's the Jones place. I saw him with the senator.
FRED: It's him all right. I know his place. Knock.
(SOUND: Knocking on door)
JONES: (Off) What is it? What are you wantin'?
(SOUND: Door knocked harder)
WADE: (Budge in) Open that door or we'll break it in!
(SOUND: Door opened)
JONES: Who—what do you want? (Alarm) What is it?
WADE: For a man who's facin' a shotgun, he talks too big, don't he?
JONES: I'm askin' what you want—
BOB: We didn't come to give you what you deserve; we'll just give you a warnin'.
JONES: What—what have I done?
FRED: Go on, Wade, give it to 'im—both barrels.
JONES: (Cut in) I tell you, put down the gun. I haven't done anything.
FRED: (Aside) Sure, Wade, put down the gun and take the rope. Maybe that'll teach him to stay away from ex-slaves like that Caldwell and to vote the way he's told—when it's time to vote. Go on, Wade, teach him—
WADE: (Sees) He's scared already. Don't need teachin', just remindin'. Remind him, and maybe he'll join us, join us in the fun.
JONES: The fun?
WADE: Yea. Puttin' folks back in line. Teachin' 'em self-respect instead of cooperatin' with ex-slaves. You'll come along?
JONES: I—I'm not up to it. Please—leave me alone. My wife's sick and
WADE: (Cut in) I know all about it. just remember when you come to the polls—you vote right—or not at all. Come on, Fred, we gotta lot more calls to make before the year's out.
WADE: (Fade) Giddyap, boy! (SOUND: Horses galloping off)
YEAR: And before I was three months old, the men who wanted to turn me back towards slavery were doing the bidding of the old slaveholders, were going from door to door (fade) through the night.
(SOUND: Heavy knocking on door)
BROWN: Who's there? Who's there?
(SOUND: Knocking on door)
BROWN: Well, don't wreck the door, I'm comin'. I'm comin'.
(SOUND: Door opened)
BROWN: What—what's that gun for? What do you want? (MUSIC: Punctuate and keep under)
YEAR: They wanted men to forget the new right to vote—to put the right back into the hands of a few, instead of the many. They had the rope, the faggot, and my days were filled with terror. But the men who fought for the new freedom turned towards the senator who had been a slave. They were the poor farmers, white and black and the freedmen.
BROWN: Senator, last night ten of the men in my town who voted for new Reconstruction laws were killed.
JONES: Every night the mobs grow bigger. Can't you do something? Can't you get the governor to do something?
YEAR: And while I was in the middle of my months, the senator went to the governor. The governor listened. The governor was worried.
AMES: Everybody—every official on the Reconstruction side says the same thing, Caldwell. What can we do? The mobs are too strong for us to risk an open fight. Let them alone—it'll blow over.
CALDWELL: When we let it blow over, all the good we've done'll be blown away with it‑
AMES: It's a chance we'll take. We'll get no more troops from Washington—I know that. There've been reports that all troops will be disbanded.
CALDWELL: Before the Reconstruction changes are made?
AMES: They say that your Reconstruction does no good. Some men are tired of it—some are afraid of it.
CALDWELL: The men who are afraid of it are those who fight to hold on to the old system, governor.
AMES: Slavery won't come back, senator.
CALDWELL: Not the old slavery, but a new slavery. Unless people in the South are given a chance at free schools and education for both Negro and white—a chance to live in peace together, the freedom we fought for in the war'll be lost. We've moved ahead. Don't turn back now. Make the laws stick.
AMES: But how—how, senator?
CALDWELL: Enforce them.
AMES: You didn't understand me. There are too few troops to enforce anything. The planters raised their own armies. You once said the poor whites and the freedmen would be natural allies. Now the whites are going over to the side of the planters—you see that.
CALDWELL: I see that. I know why. Thaddeus Stevens said why. Frederick Douglass has said why. It's because the planters still own the land. They have the power to say "work for us or starve." They have the land; now they want to take the last weapon of independence from the freedmen. That weapon is the right to vote. The election is coming in November, governor. It'll be the most crucial election in the state. If freemen go to the polls and vote—we move ahead—the civil rights will stick. If they're driven away, there'll be no more free votin' for Negroes or whites—I believe this.
AMES: And what do you want me to do?
CALDWELL: Give me permission to organize our own militia—from the people—to fight the planters and to keep down the Klaus.
AMES: (Long pause, sigh) Very well, see what you can do. There's not much time before November comes.
(MUSIC: Martial type in and under)
YEAR: There was still time to bring together three hundred men in the heart of Mississippi, who joined to carry on the Reconstruction and to teach the new civil rights. There was still time and the senator took it. They marched through the state, and the terror and the Klaus were quiet. The Reconstruction went ahead. The senator stopped at the workshop of' carpenter Ira. He was building the new school.
(SOUND: Sawing under)
CALDWELL: Ira—how long will it take you to finish? (Pause) Ira—
IRA: (Stops) Oh—I didn't see you come up, senator.
CALDWELL: How long will it take to put up the school?
IRA: Well—with things quiet like they are ought to be—say two or three years.
CALDWELL: (Low) Two or three years—wonder if I'll be here to see it finished?
IRA: Sure you will. You worried about the election? Don't. Half the county that ain't scared's for you—including me. If there's any votin', you'll be in.
CALDWELL: (Laughs) It's not gettin' elected that's worryin' me; it's gettin' people to fight for this thing, this right to vote, free education. It's new in this state. The way I see it, if we get it now—our children won't have to fight for it a hundred years from now (pause). Ira.
CALDWELL: (Hesitant) A lot of the men are going over to the side of the plantation owners.
IRA: (Nods) That's right. Some of those we thought would stick have gone over. There was Cabell, I hear, and Jones and Brown. They think it's safer.
CALDWELL: And you, Ira? I see you've got a uniform of the Klan hanging here.
IRA: Uh-huh. They came to me this morning, senator. The men who lead the mobs for the planters were telling me to come over to the master class. Say the Negro's my natural enemy.
IRA: I told 'em to look at the schools we're building now. The slaveholders were in power a hundred years. They never built a free school for nobody—black or white. Then this votin'—they say it's for white folks only. I told 'em I never got a chance to vote when there was slavery. And they said think it over and gimme this sheet for a uniform. Well, I ain't got no sheets at home, so I said I'll take this whole idea home and sleep on it (stops). That's what sheets are for—ain't they?
(MUSIC: In under)
YEAR: Then the senator went to friends and spread the news of Ira's stand, and it stiffened the men fighting to rebuild the South. And when the senator was tired, he went home to rest, to wait for the voting month. But there was other news waiting for him. Mae was standing, waiting at the door.
CALDWELL: Mae—you've been waitin' for me?
MAE: (Painful) You've had a message, Charles
CALDWELL: What is it? Have the mobs been here again?
MAE: No, not the mobs, but an invitation to the mobs.
CALDWELL: What are you talkin' about?
MAE: Charles, there's no more Reconstruction—there's no more support from the governor. All the troops have been withdrawn
MAE: Yes! The governor wired you. It had to be done, he said.
CALDWELL: (Bewildered). But—he said he'd wait until after the votin' was done. I told him why—I told him to give us time—a little more time.
MAE: There's no more time, Charles. What are you going to do?
CALDWELL: (Low) We'll wait for the votin'. We'll gather all our strength to test the new amendments. We'll let November tell what we'll do.
(MUSIC: low under)
MONTH: I am the month of November. I was the voting month. When I came, the senator welcomed me and went to work on me trying to make the days in my month quiet, peaceful days. But the old planters were loose, and the mobs were doing their work. Again they covered the county on horseback, with ropes and faggots, hammering on doors, pulling people out into the night. And before the month of November had gone three days, a heavy knock came on the door of the senator.
(SOUND: Off' heavy desperate pounding)
CALDWELL: (On. Soft, guarded) Mae, someone's at the door
MAE: Don't open it, Charles. Don't open it!
CALDWELL: I've nothing to hide from, Mae. (Fade a hit) I'll let them in.
MAE: (Calls) Stop, Charles, don't.
(SOUND: Door opened off mike)
CALDWELL: Mae, it's Ira. Help me with him—he's hurt.
IRA: (Fade on) I'm all right, senator. I'll be all right.
MAE: Here, put him down on the chair.
CALDWELL: There. What happened, Ira? Yom- clothes are torn. You've been running.
IRA: I tried to get to you, senator, to tell you not to go to the polls.
CALDWELL: Ira, what have they done to you?
IRA: They're tracking down all the leaders of the Reconstruction, Negro and white, driving them out before the election. They had me. I got away. I came here to warn you.
CALDWELL: (Aside) Mae, bring a cloth and water. Wash his wounds, and let him rest.
MAE: (Fade on) Yes, but where are you going?
CALDWELL: I'm goin' out to see if I can change some of the men to fightin' for the new civil rights before votin' week begins.
IRA: (Cut in) It's too late for that!
CALDWELL: It may not be too late. I'm going to see if I can keep the men from turnip' the clock back to a new kind of slavery.
IRA: (Insistent) They won't listen to you, senator. Even some of your old friends have changed. The planters have their power back now.
CALDWELL: I know, but I still believe the power of the poor whites and the freedmen joined together
IRA: There'll be no more joining now, senator. Those who would are afraid.
CALDWELL: I know they're afraid, and I know why. But I'm not afraid to face them and fight their fears. Mae, take good care of Ira. I'm goin' outside. I'm goin' to where the mobs meet.
MONTH: And that day, as I came closer to the voting week, the senator went out to the farms and homes. Some men were afraid and wouldn't talk with him. And finally he walked along the streets where mobs roamed. And they saw him and called out
GROUP: (Fade on derisive murmurs and keep going under)
VOICE I: Well, look who's comin'—the slave senator.
VOICE II: Hey, boy, look who thinks he's goin' to get 'lected again.
GROUP: (Ad-lib jeers)
VOICE II: He wants to talk. Let him talk. Let's hear 'im.
VOICE I: Now what have you got to say about your civil rights, your Reconstruction, senator?
CALDWELL: (Soft, calm) I've got to say the rights are not only for me, and the reconstructing is for every man among us. The right to vote is the right of all—
VOICE II: (Cut in) The right to vote in this state's for white men and white men only. You hear that, senator?
GROUP: (Ad-lib assent)
CALDWELL: I hear it. I don't believe it. I came to talk to you because a year ago, before you became afraid, some of you sat in my home. Now you're afraid the planters won't hire you if you work with Negroes. They tell you to segregate Negroes—and you do it—If they say these rights are not for Negroes, what's to stop them from saying it's not for Catholics, Jews, Irish, the foreign born? If the right to rule is for white men only, what will you say to the majority of the world which is not white? Listen—
VOICE: (Cut in hastily) Don't listen to him! You've talked enough. You'll change nothin' here, understand that. Get on. Stay away from the votin'—if you want to keep alive.
CALDWELL: (Pause) Gentlemen, I'd like to say—
VOICE I: (Angered) You've said enough! We're not listenin'! Your days are numbered, senator. You'll live longer if you keep away from the polls!
(MUSIC: In under)
WEEK: I am the week when the voting began, and though he knew he was being watched, he was at the polls. There was terror in the streets and in the counties. The planters were turning time back ten years. But the senator who had been a slave stood in line and waited for his ballot.
GROUP: (Ease in murmurs under following. Keep)
OGLESBEE: Oglesbee, Lee.
CLERK: Un-huh. You not votin' f'or none of them ... scalawags or Negroes are you?
OGLESBEE: (Nervous) Oh no, no sir. I'd never...
CLERK: Good. 'Fake your ballot. Go on—next? (Pause) You here!
CALDWELL: I'm here.
CLERK: (Nervously) They warned you not to show up here, Caldwell.
CALDWELL: I heard them. Ballot?
CLERK: Look, can't you tell when your side ain't winnin'? You know how many people they've given the rope and lash to already? It's a white primary hereafter—Be smart. Get on. (Appeal) Look, the planters have the power now. They've got their own militia. I'm tryin' to help you.
CALDWELL: You'll help more by givin'a ballot to every man registered for it. You're holdin' up the votin'—
CLERK: (Gives in) All right. Here's the ballot. But if you take it—the planters'll see to it that there'll come a day when a bullet'll go with it.
(MUSIC: In under)
DAY: And I was that day in the year 1875. I was a Christmas day, and the planters still celebrated the death of the Reconstruction. Still they were unsure as long as leaders lived who remembered the civil rights and the new laws. I was the disastrous day when the men in the odd regalia came back. They knocked on the door of the senator's house.
(SOUND: Heavy pounding on door)
MAE: (Fade on) Who's there? What do you want?
WADE: (Surley, mock) She still says,"What do we want?" You hear that, Fred?
GROUP: (Ad-lib reaction)
WADE: (Pounding) Open the door or we'll blast it in.
(SOUND: Door opened)
MAE: You! What are you lookin' for?
WADE: Well, at least she recognizes us now! We're pretty well known 'round these parts since a year ago, huh ma'm‑
MAE: What do you want?
WADE: You know as well as I do what we want. That slave senator! Where is he?
MAE: He's not here. I don't know where he is
FRED: (Fade on) She's tellin' you right, Wade. I looked around. She's alone.
MAE: Why don't you let him alone!
WADE: Why don't he leave the votin' alone? Him and his scalawags and their equal rights stuff!
MAE: You got the election; let him alone.
WADE: The boss says it ain't safe leavin' ideas like those in his head loose in the county. We'll stay here 'til we get him.
FRED: No use stayin' here, Wade. If he's anywhere, he's in Clinton. We got Cabell with us. He knows the senator's habits. On Christmas day he goes to Clinton. It's there we'll get him.
DAY: And on my day, the men in sheets went to Clinton to find the senator. And they spoke to Cabell, the ex-overseer.
WADE: He'll be cumin' down the road, Cabell. You'll see him?
CABELL: (Nervous) Yes, I'll see him.
FRED: You know what to do? You know what we told you?
CABELL: I know—I know.
WADE: Be sure you do. He knows you. He trusts you. You'll offer him a drink.
CABELL: If he refuses—
FRED: This is a holiday; you call insist, can't you? You'll take him to the open bar at Moe's. Sit bull near the bar—his back to us. You understand?
CABELL: Yes, yes.
FRED: Then—when you raise your glass, tap it in a toast. That'll be the signal. We'll go to work. You nervous?
CABELL: The drink'll help me.
WADE: You'll be rewarded. You'll earn a place in the Order. Understand?
CABELL: I—but can't you get someone else?
WADE: You with us or against us?
CABELL: I—I'm with you (pause). He has a devilish way of knowing what's happening. He has a way
WADE: We've got better ways. We've picked the day and the place. You set the hour and the minute. We'll be watchin'.
HOUR: (Low, quiet) I am the hour on the Christmas day the year 1875 that was picked to spot the senator. And as I ticked into minutes, Cabell came to him and spoke:
CABELL: (Nervous) Er—Senator—Caldwell?
CABELL: It's me, Senator, of Buck Cabell. Don't you recognize me?
CALDWELL: Why, yes. It's been a year since I've seen you last at my house. New Year's Day I believe.
CABELL: Yes—yes it was. The world seemed to change since then. Lots happened. Some good, some bad. Would you care for a—er drink?
CALDWELL: I haven't much time—
CABELL: Oh, just one on a holiday. I know how you feel about the election, the Reconstruction plans. This]] make you feel better.
CALDWELL: (Pause) Well, maybe it will. Mae always said I'd end up like Lincoln.
CABELL: Lincoln? Now what gave you that idea, senator?
HOUR: And in my hour according to plan, Cabell sat down with the senator in a booth near the bar.
CABELL: Er, sit, this way, senator. Take this seat if you don't mind.
CALDWELL: No, I don't mind. I know when my time's up.
CABELL: What's that?
CALDWELL: Nothin'. You still drink—bourbon?
CABELL: Yes—yes I-I do. Mind if—I pour yours? (Pause) Shall we make a toast?
CALDWELL: (Nods) If I can think of one this minute.
MINUTE: (Low, hushed) I am the minute in the hour in 1875 when the drink was poured and the senator raised his glass for the toast—
CABELL: What were you going to say, senator?
CALDWELL: I was thinkin' of something Lincoln said. I had wanted to say it to men who tried to stop me from votin'—
CALDWELL: Lincoln said—Liberty is the heritage of all men. Destroy it, and you plant the seeds of despotism at your own door. Get familiar with hatred and put chains around others, and you prepare your own limbs to wear chains. Accustom yourself to trample and destroy the rights of others—you'll become fit subjects of the first cunning tyrant who rises among you! It will be easy to destroy me, Charles Caldwell, and turn back the demands now for civil rights. But they'll grow stronger, and demands'll be born again in another generation. Then no mob'll be able to destroy them. A toast to tomorrow when the whites and Negroes in my state will again try for the civil rights I tried to bring them. Toast?
(MUSIC: Sting and under)
SECOND: And I am the split second in the year 1875 that marked the time when the glasses were touched.
(SOUND: Clink of glasses)
SECOND: And the signal was given.
(SOUND: Double shotgun blast)
SECOND: And the assassins snapped the life of Charles Caldwell.
(MUSIC: Cut short)
YEAR: I am the year 1875. I was a Reconstruction year. I came with my heroes and my cowards, and I ended the life of Charles Caldwell, a senator who had been a slave and who planted the seed of civil rights in the Mississippi soil.
SINGER: Oh freedom, oh freedom, Oh freedom over me,
And before I'd be a slave, I'll be buried in my grave,
And go home to my Lord and be free.
ANNOUNCER: You have just heard Destination Freedom's dramatization of the story of Charles Caldwell, Negro and Mississippi state senator during the days of the Reconstruction.