Jazz88.3 FM WBGO Radio once again broadcasts the landmark series it helped produce and first premiered in January of 2004. The series airs on consecutive nights at 8pm through Saturday March 6th. The fact that Executive Producer/Director Eric V. Tait, Jr. is also celebrating his 40th anniversary as a broadcast journalist and documentarian makes re-broadcasting this series all the more timely.
Inspired by the 1991 re-discovery and battle to save the Colonial African Burial Ground in lower Manhattan, Then I’ll Be Free To Travel Home is hosted and narrated by WBGO Program Director Thurston Briscoe. With the musical contributions of Noel Pointer, Daryl Waters, Ebony Jo Ann, and Andre and Diana Solomom Glover, it was funded primarily by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) as well as the Ford Foundation.
Instead of just the usual professional Actors to recreate the voices and lives of those early Africans, Mr. Tait enlisted such modern Clergy/Community Activists as Reverend Johnny Ray Youngblood, and Journalists Earl Caldwell, Connie Aitcheson and many others to help document those stories. In doing so he achieved a remarkable sense of cultural authenticity and connectedness.
The Elmendorf Reformed Church, the oldest church in Harlem celebrates its 350th anniversary in 2010. It is now actively attempting to reclaim, restore and memorialize its very own 340-year old Colonial Harlem African Burial Ground. This documentary series about the original Africans and their struggle for freedom and first class citizenship in North America is more than fortuitous, its a fitting reminder of what to do and what NOT to do in striving to preserve and honor our rich, diverse, cultural legacy which the endangered Elmendorf Colonial Harlem African Burial Ground represents.
This radio series evolved from the original 2-part video documentary that featured Miss Lena Horne, Gail Lumet Buckley, Noel Pointer and others. Now available on Amazon.com are the “Then I’ll Be Free To Travel Home” individual DVDs of Disc 1 (Part 1), Disc 2 (Part 2, with an enhanced feature Interview with Producer/Director Tait), and a Disc 3 (Promo Reel, also with the enhanced feature/Tait Interview), as well as the Combined 3-Disc DVD Set.
For more information on how to obtain these DVD Releases and the epic 13-part radio documentary series, visit www.evted2.org or call 212.281.2456.
Painting By Eli Kinze
In 13 one-hour programs, Then I’ll Be Free To Travel Home traces the historical arc of the long African-American battle against northern slavery and for full, first-class citizenship. It chronicles the contributions the original Africans who founded the New York African Burial Ground – and their descendants – made to the survival and development of New York and the nation from the 1600s to the New York City Draft Riots of 1863. It is also a history of larger-than-life “freedom fighters” on many levels and of many races, who challenged slavery to change the course of this nation from its earliest Colonial days. Its historical arc will be capped with a modern “coda” (1992 2003) that illustrates and highlights the parallels of those historical contributions, issues and battles, with their modern echoes and counterparts in the present struggle to preserve and honor the site where those early Africans were and are buried.
Hosted and narrated by WBGO’s VP of Programming and Production, Thurston Briscoe, the series will air beginning on Monday, February 22, 2010 through March 6, 2010, each night at 8pm. A description of each show in the series follows:
- Monday, February 22 at 8pm — “THEN I’LL BE FREE TO TRAVEL HOME”: PREVIEW/OVERVIEW: (1626-1863). Segment #1 traces the historical arc of the long African-American battle against northern slavery and for full, first-class citizenship. It chronicles the contributions the original Africans who founded the New York African Burial ground – and their descendants – made to the survival and development of New York and the nation from the 1600s to the New York City Draft Riots of 1863. It is also a history of larger-than-life “freedom fighters” on many levels and of many races, who challenged slavery to change the course of this nation from its earliest Colonial days. This is that story as it unfolded in the northeastern part of what would eventually become the United States of America.
- Tuesday, February 23 at 8pm — PREQUEL: EARLY CONTACTS – JUAN “JAN” RODRIGUES, THE FIRST FREE AFRICAN IN THE HUDSON VALLEY (1612-1614). Before slavery rears its ugly head in North America, Africans and people of African descent traverse the northeastern part of the continent as free entrepreneurs – traders, guides and interpreters; men such as Matthieu Da Costa, and “Jan” Rodrigues. Who they were – especially Rodrigues – how they interacted with the Europeans and Native Americans, their value and impact, are the heart of Segment #2, and aptly set the stage for the next segment.
- Wednesday, February 24 at 8pm — SURVIVAL: ELEVEN AFRICANS AND THE SURVIVAL OF THE NEW NETHERLANDS COLONY (1624-1664). The New Netherlands Colony is founded by the Dutch West India Company as a profit-making venture in 1624. The original Dutch Settlers are unhappy, huddled at the lower end of the more southerly of the two Manhattan Islands. They want to trap and collect furs, get rich quick and return home. The Colony is not prospering. Eleven Africans are brought to the Colony and put to work for the Dutch West India Company. The Colony’s fortune improves. How these Africans survive, grow, prosper and significantly contribute to the survival, economic development and prosperity of New Netherlands is the heart of Segment #3.
- Thursday, February 25 at 8pm — ALMOST FREE: SUSSANA ANTHONY ROBERTS, SOLOMON PIETERS, AND THE PUSH FOR PERSONAL AND ECONOMIC FREEDOM (1664-1712). By 1664 the African population in New Netherlands has significantly increased. The “Original Eleven” and their children are not only property owners, but one second-generation member is a renowned Barber-Surgeon (i.e. Medical Practitioner), one is a business-woman entrepreneur with multiple property holdings, and they have had access to educational opportunities provided by their Dutch owner-employers. They can also earn or buy their freedom. Segment #4 discusses how all of this changed with the British takeover in August of 1664.
- Friday, February 26 at 8pm — EARLY SLAVE RESISTANCE: NEW ENGLAND/NEW YORK 1712, ETC. The prevalent, accepted myth is that enslaved Africans in North America pretty much docilely accepted their enslavement. The evidence is quite to the contrary. The number of revolts and runaways – especially in the north – are early, and significant. (The NY Colonial Legislature passed a law mandating the death penalty for any slave found 40 miles north of Albany). Highlighting that early struggle, and how it literally paved the way for what would, almost a hundred years later, come to be known as the Underground Railroad, makes for an enlightening Segment #5.
- Saturday, February 27 at 8pm — THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES: MORE REVOLTS, “CONSPIRACIES,” AND RUNAWAYS (1712-1775). As the British campaign for a global empire played out on the North American Continent – Queen Anne’s War, The French & Indian Wars, and so on – the stage and stakes for revolts and rebellions continued to increase for the enslaved Africans and their Colonial enslavers. Even as the Colonists edge and stumble towards their own revolution, they grow more paranoid about a possible Black Revolt amongst them. The so-called “Great Negro Conspiracy of 1741″ in the City of New York captures it well, and is the cornerstone of Segment #6.
- Sunday, February 28 at 8pm — THE REBELLION WITHIN THE REBELLION: HUDDY AND TYE (1775-1783). “There’s a famous quote by a Lutheran Priest, which says ‘Everyone recognizes that the Blacks favor the British. If the British win, they will gain their freedom.’” (Prof. Graham Hodges). The British promise said freedom immediately, knowing they need the enslaved Africans in order to defeat the rebellious Colonists. The American Colonists’ two-fold dilemma: how to reconcile preaching/fighting for “liberty and justice for all” while still trying to keep enslaved Africans as property; and secondly, can they defeat the British without the help of the Africans in their midst? How it all plays out – as seen primarily through the efforts/conflicts of two larger-than-life antagonists (Huddy & Tye) and the subsequent effects, make for a dynamic Segment #7.
- Monday, March 1 at 8pm — SELF-DETERMINATION: THE RISE OF THE BLACK CHURCH, THE BLACK PRESS AND THE FIGHT FOR EDUCATION (1783-1830). The war changes the entire colonial social landscape. Once rigid class and economic lines now blur, and the Colonists’ fight for freedom plants the seed for the eventual death of slavery. Chafing at discriminatory segregating practices, Blacks form their own institutions – churches, schools, theaters, insurance and employment agencies, literary societies, magazines and newspapers – and with a number of white allies, battle for education, economic progress and an end to slavery. Segment #8 reflects it all.
For the full schedule and more info, click here.
About the Author (Author Profile)
There are no comments yet. Why not be the first to speak your mind.