On the left, a black and white photograph of Abraham Lincoln. On the right, a black and white photograph of Frederick Douglas.
Images of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass courtesy Library of Congress and National Portrait Gallery.

Necessary Sacrifices: A Radio Play

A Radio Adaptation of a History Play

In his fourth commission for Ford’s Theatre, playwright Richard Hellesen explores the two documented encounters between Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln during a period of national crisis.

During the summers of 1863 and 1864, Douglass challenges Lincoln to use his power as president to bring truth to America’s founding ideal that “all men are created equal.”

Craig Wallace will play Frederick Douglass with Paul Morella as Abraham Lincoln.

Hellesen’s previous works for Ford’s Theatre include One Destiny, Investigation: Detective McDevitt and The Road from Appomattox, three gripping and insightful explorations of critical moments in Civil War history.

The play will be available to Ford’s Theatre members beginning April 6 and to the general public beginning April 12.

WPFW 89.3FM, Pacifica radio in the nation’s capital, is Broadcast and Media Partner for Necessary Sacrifices and will air the play April 15 at 5:00 p.m. and April 21 at 3:00 p.m. EDT. WPFW also will make the broadcast available to other Pacifica radio stations nationwide during April and May 2021.

“This nation cannot excel half-equal and half-unequal. To accept that would be merely to remove our shackles from our legs, clean and polish them, and put them right back on. This work must be done, and done forever,” Frederick Douglass in Necessary Sacrifices.

Artistic Team

Playwright Richard Hellesen
Director Psalmayene 24
Sound Design, Original Music and Audio Production John Gromada
Production Stage Manager Brandon Prendergast


Paul Morella

Abraham Lincoln

Craig Wallace

Frederick Douglass

Downloadable Materials

Souvenir Program
Read an essay by historian Noelle Trent and see historic images of Douglass and Lincoln.

Analyzing a Historic Speech
Give students an excerpt of “What to the American Slave is your Fourth of July?” by Frederick Douglass and conduct a Reading Reflection exercise.

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