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the agitators

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The Agitators: The Story of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass tells of the enduring but tempestuous friendship of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass.

Great allies? Yes. And at times, great adversaries. Young abolitionists when they met in Rochester, New York in the 1840s, they were full of hope and a common purpose. As they grew to become the cultural icons we know today, their movements collided and their friendship was severely tested. This six-part podcast is based on the play The Agitators; playwright Mat Smart used historical documents to imagine Susan and Frederick’s conversations. We’re joined by the team from the onstage production: Actors Cedric Mays and Madeleine Lambert, Director Logan Vaughn, and Composer Juliette Jones of Rootstock Republic. Follow these brilliant, flawed, and rebellious activists with host Ashley C. Ford. Their message still matters.

The Agitators is brought to listeners by the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission, the National Park Service, and PRX. Listen to The Agitators using the links below, or subscribe and download wherever podcasts are found.


Episode 1. Beginnings: 1849 and 1861

When Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony met in the late 1840s, he was one of the most well-known people in the United States and she was an unknown schoolteacher who had just quit her job because of unequal pay. Not long after, Frederick recruited Susan to be a lecturer with him in the Anti-Slavery Society and their friendship deepened.

Episode 2. from Bondage to Freedom: 1861

From facing an angry mob to speak out against slavery to waiting for Harriet Tubman to arrive with African-Americans escaping slavery, this episode brings to life Frederick and Susan’s agitations during the Civil War.

Episode 3. Reconstruction: 1867 and 1869

In the years after the Civil War, Frederick and Susan fight to make the United States a country for all –where everyone can vote. What gets in the way of this dream? Will their friendship survive betrayal?

Episode 4. Seeing Anew: 1870 and 1872

In the unlikeliest of places, an integrated baseball game in 1870, Susan and Frederick attempt to repair the rift between them. Then, in 1872, an act of hate threatens to push them even further apart.

Episode 5. Infinite Light: 1883 and 1888

Frederick Douglass dreamed of a day “where even the constancy of hate breaks down and where the clouds of pride, passion, and selfishness vanish before the brightness of infinite light.” In this episode, as Frederick’s hopes are sidetracked by personal loss, Susan attempts to help him find his way back.

Episode 6. “Fight for my rights, Aunt Susan”: 1894 and 1895

Susan and Frederick, well into their 70s, confront one another like prizefighters who don’t know when to quit. Will they finally see eye-to-eye on not only the past, but on how to agitate for a better future?

Originally Commissioned and Produced by Geva Theatre CenterRochester, NY Mark Cuddy, Artistic Director; Christopher Mannelli, Executive Director
THE AGITATORS was developed as part of The New Harmony Project 2017 Conference

Playwright: Mat Smart
Podcast adaptation from: Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission, the National Park Service, and PRX Productions
Podcast adaptation envisioned by: Commission Executive Director Anna Laymon and Director of Communications Kelsey Millay
Frederick Douglass: Cedric Mays
Susan B. Anthony: Madeleine Lambert
Director: Logan Vaughn
Executive Producer: Jocelyn Gonzales
Managing Producer: Genevieve Sponsler
Post-Production Sound & Mixing: Sandra Lopez-Monsalve and Ian Coss
Original Music and Score: Juliette Jones and Rootstock Republic
Music Recording, Mixing, & Mastering: Joshua Valleau
Theme Song Production: Hunter LaMar
Logo Design: Brandy Blackburn, courtesy of Alabama Shakespeare Festival, and Stephanie Marsellos