New York: . ,51, leaves of mimeographed text, printed rectos only, on white or pink paper. Contemporary maroon hardcover spring binder, stamped in gilt on front cover. Minor wear. Internally clean. Very good. Item #4571
A very rare script for a famous stage and television program produced by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in the heat of the Civil Rights Movement. The program, Freedom is the Word was presented at Madison Square Garden and other live venues on May 14, 1964, incorporating some pre-taped segments with live performances and broadcast via closed-circuit to auditoriums and theaters in forty-eight cities around the country. The program was created in order to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which outlawed segregation in public schools. The event was promoted in the New York Times and other newspapers as the "NAACP Freedom Spectacular." According to an advertisement in the May 10, 1964 edition of the Times, the event was happening "in the midst of the Senate filibuster on the Civil Rights Bill" and was aiming to rival "last year's March on Washington" in attendance nationwide. The money raised through ticket sales was "earmarked to provide cash bail and other assistance for our active workers, particularly in the South, whom we are called upon to help in their often dangerous work for civil rights."
The present script includes a two-page rundown, a listing of the production staff, detailed schedules for the pre-taped segments (which were recorded in ABC's Studio I on May 11-12), pages indicating when the production would switch to the pre-taped segments, and the end credits for the production. The preponderance of the text is comprised of the dialogue and action for the live portions of the program. The script begins with Frederic March's introduction, followed by the song "Freedom is the Word," a back-and-forth between Preston and Sidney Poitier, Poitier's introduction to Gloria Foster and Foster's speech in which she plays the role of a fifteen-year-old girl trying to attend Little Rock High School in 1957, and much more, ending with Sammy Davis, Jr.'s heartfelt salutation for the evening and the presentation of the Freedom Bell Award to Thurgood Marshall by the Executive Secretary of the NAACP, Roy Wilkins.
A cavalcade of stars participated in the event, and the cast of luminaries included Nat King Cole, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Eartha Kitt, Richard Widmark, Godfrey Cambridge, Robert Preston, Duke Ellington, Gloria Foster, Harry Belafonte, Camilla Williams, Dick Gregory (who was apparently replaced at the last minute by Bill Cosby), Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Lena Horne, Sammy Davis, Jr., Sidney Poitier, and the NAACP's own Roy Wilkins. The show was apparently a great success, raising several hundred thousand dollars for the NAACP; according to one of their officials, the program was also the first closed-circuit production created by and for African Americans. The present script was owned by Bella Tillis (1913-2013), with her name stamped in gilt on the front cover. Tillis was director of Brooklyn's Midwood High School Chorus which accompanied Robert Preston in singing, "Freedom is the Word" during the program; she is listed in the end credits for the production, on page 50.
An original script for a vital production by the NAACP intended to raise funds for its civil rights work and celebrate the tenth anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision that desegregated American public schools. We could locate no other copies of the script, with no listings in OCLC, and as far as we know, the closed-circuit production was not recorded for posterity (though it is listed in the Internet Movie Database). A script for a portion of the program is held by UCLA as part of the papers of Steve Binder, who produced and directed the "Some People" (oddly not part of the present script, but likely a different part of the show produced live in Los Angeles). In any case, the present script is likely the most complete record of the overall program to be found anywhere.