Bill of Rights? How ‘American’ is THAT?

“In the autumn of 1940 James Boyd, the engaging historical novelist and essayist from North Carolina, recruited an outstanding cast of writers to prepare a series of radio scripts….  Unsponsored and unpaid, this group called itself the Free Company and took as its mission a dramatic presentation of the Bill of Rights. ‘Our only purpose,’ Boyd explained, ‘is to remind people, in this hour of danger, how precious the American way of life is.’

“The writers felt determined to reach the broadest possible audience and by May 1941 there were, indeed, more than 5 million faithful listeners. Despite the self-evident ‘Americanism’ of the scripts, however, more conservative listeners and the Hearst papers disliked the internationalism and liberal tone….

“Boyd’s ‘team’ included William Saroyan, Archibald MacLeish, Stephen Vincent Benet, Orson Welles and Paul Green. Their 11 programs were heard on CBS and enjoyed extensive rebroadcasting  despite the flak…. More than 7,000 copies of the scripts were sold, and the Free Company received more than 10,000 fan letters.”

— From “Mystic Chords of Memory: The Transformation of Tradition in American Culture” by Michael Kammen (1991)

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