On the night of May 7th, 1951, a thousand people gathered in Laurel, Mississippi, to witness the execution of Willie McGee, a black man convicted of raping a white woman.
McGee's case had wound through three trials, and garnered support from many including William Faulkner, Paul Robeson and Albert Einstein. But after the execution, his story was forgotten. Sixty years later, McGee's granddaughter teamed up with Radio Diaries to search for the true story of Willie McGee and the Traveling Electric Chair.
Willie McGee and the Traveling Electric Chair won the Best Documentary: Silver Award in the 2010 Third Coast / Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Competition. The story was produced in 2010 by Joe Richman and Samara Freemark of Radio Diaries with narration by Bridgette McGee and assistance from Anayansi Diaz-Cortes, Deborah George, Ben Shapiro and Harold Robinson for NPR’s All Things Considered and the BBC World Service.
(total running time: 22:58)
Joe Richman is the founder of Radio Diaries, a non-profit organization. Over the past 15 years, Radio Diaries has helped to pioneer a model for working with people to document their own lives for public radio. Richman has collaborated with teenagers and octogenarians, prisoners and prison guards, bra saleswomen and lighthouse keepers to create award-winning productions including: Teenage Diaries, Prison Diaries, My So-Called Lungs, New York Works, Thembi's AIDS Diary, Mandela: An Audio History, and Willie McGee and the Traveling Electric Chair. Before Radio Diaries, Richman worked for many years as a freelance reporter and producer for NPR programs All Things Considered, Weekend Edition-Saturday, Car Talk, and Heat. He also teaches at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.
Samara Freemark is a reporter at American Public Media's Public Insight Network. Before coming to APM she was a producer at Radio Diaries, an independent production company helping people document their own lives. She has also worked in the newsroom of Ann Arbor's NPR affiliate, and done her time in the freelancing trenches. Freemark's work has been heard on All Things Considered, UnFictional, This American Life and other outlets. Prior to settling on a career in radio she tried out policy research, community organizing, and urban planning before choosing soundwaves over spreadsheets.
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