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Ford’s ‘Necessary Sacrifices’ Details Lincoln’s Relationship with Black Leaders

History documents the respectful relationship between abolitionist Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln, who held two significant meetings during the summers of 1863 and 1864.

Though the two men engaged in thoughtful dialogue, Douglass did not hold back on direct criticism of the 16th president when it came to the treatment of Black Americans.

The District’s historic Ford’s Theatre takes a look at those conversations between Lincoln and Douglass in the audio adaptation of “Necessary Sacrifices,” a play written by Richard Hellesen. The audio production is currently streaming on Ford’s website until May 30.

“Necessary Sacrifices” will also air as a radio drama on April 21 at 3 p.m. on WPFW-FM (89.3), Pacifica radio in the nation’s capital. The broadcast is followed by a discussion on the role of women abolitionists Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman in relationship to the conversations between Douglass and Lincoln.

“Necessary Sacrifices” includes original music, sound design and audio production by John Gromada. The play also marks directorial debut at Ford’s of Psalmayene 24, an artist-in-residence at Bowie State University.

“Audio is the perfect medium for the story of two remarkable leaders whose significant use of language and discourse shaped America at a tumultuous time. This play deals with hefty themes of war, slavery, politics, justice, and freedom,” Psalmayene 24 said. “Undergirding these themes is the relationship between two men who are confronted with their perceptions of who the other man is and the truth of who they really are. It is about their friendship, and the transformational leadership that laid the groundwork to move America toward a new birth of freedom.”

Like many performing arts organizations working to survive during the pandemic, Ford’s went virtual programming during the 2020-2021 season. But with the District’s recent observance of Emancipation Day, the timing of “Necessary Sacrifices” appears to be perfect.

“Although we are unable to be back in the theatre this spring, we are thrilled to provide the audio drama of ‘Necessary Sacrifices’ to a national audience,” said Paul R. Tetreault, Ford’s director. “Frederick Douglass respected Abraham Lincoln but was highly critical of Lincoln’s slowness on taking key actions toward equality and emancipation. As our nation confronts deep political divisions, and we rise to answer calls for equity and justice for Black Americans, I hope this play inspires audiences to listen as Lincoln did and to agitate for change like Douglass.”

In September, the theater announced its commitment to presenting productions on civil rights issues and icons. The full schedule is at www.fords.org.

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