The Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission, National Park Service, and PRX Present “The Agitators: The Story of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass,” A New Dramatic Podcast Adapted from the Play by Mat Smart

The creative team includes playwright Mat Smart, director Logan Vaughn, actors Cedric Mays and Madeleine Lambert, and music by Rootstock Republic. Acclaimed writer Ashley C. Ford will host the six-part podcast.

David Cotrone
Oct 28 · 6 min read
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Listen here

The Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission, the National Park Service, and public media organization PRX today announced a new historical fiction audio drama podcast: “The Agitators: The Story of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass.”

“The Agitators” is adapted from the theatrical play of the same title, authored by Mat Smart.

Developed by PRX Productions — PRX’s audio team specializing in high-quality production and storytelling — the six-part podcast will premiere free on-demand to listeners beginning on November 18 with new episodes each Wednesday through December 16.

“The Agitators” presents listening audiences with the story of the enduring but tempestuous friendship of social activists Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass. Young abolitionists when they met in the 1840s, they were full of hopes and common purpose. But as they grew to become the suffrage and civil rights icons we know today, their quests for freedom and equality collided, which severely tested their friendship. Boldly imaginative and complex, “The Agitators” is the story of that 45-year friendship between great allies and at times great adversaries, from its beginning in Rochester, New York, through the Civil War, and to the highest halls of government as they agitated the nation and each other, helping to shape the course of American history.

The show is informed by historical primary sources such as personal correspondences between Douglass and Anthony, as well as their extensive speeches, editorials, and letters — including the University of Rochester’s collections and The Frederick Douglass Papers at the Library of Congress — in addition to histories of the suffrage movement.

An audio trailer is available now.

The cast includes actors Cedric Mays (Showtime’s “The Chi”) in the role of Douglass and Madeleine Lambert in the role of Anthony. Based in New York City, director Logan Vaughn was Playwrights Horizon Director in Residence in 2012–2013, named a member of the Director’s Lab at Lincoln Center Theater, and received a 2019 Outer Critics Circle nomination for best direction of a play. “The Agitators” features original music composition and performance by Rootstock Republic and violinist Juliette Jones, whose work has been heard in Oscar-nominated film “Mudbound” and on NBC’s live broadcast of the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar” in 2019. Written by Mat Smart, “The Agitators” saw a world premiere in 2017 at the Geva Theatre Center in Rochester, New York, and has since been produced around the United States. As the cast and creative team have performed the show for the stage, the podcast will for the first time deliver an audio performance to listeners everywhere.

Acclaimed writer Ashley C. Ford will host “The Agitators, guiding listeners through narrative space and time, introducing each episode, and providing historical context as well as stage directions. Ford can be heard as a co-host on HBO’s official “Lovecraft Country Radio” podcast, as a correspondent for the TIME100 Talks series, and as host for the video series “PROFILE” from BuzzFeed News. She is the author of the memoir “Somebody’s Daughter,” forthcoming from Flatiron Books in June 2021.

The Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission (WSCC) was created by Congress to coordinate the nationwide commemoration of 100 years of the 19th Amendment and American women’s constitutional right to vote. The WSCC has celebrated this milestone of democracy through a series of initiatives throughout 2020, from the building of a national suffrage memorial in Virginia to the donation of 18,000 history books to public libraries. The WSCC, the National Park Service, and PRX also teamed up to present two new podcasts: “And Nothing Less: The Untold Stories of Women’s Fight for the Vote,” co-hosted by actresses Rosario Dawson and Retta, and “The Magic Sash,” a historical fiction adventure for tweens hosted by gold medal gymnast and advocate Aly Raisman. Lesson plans and additional accompanying materials are available from the National Park Service at go.nps.gov/suffragepodcasts.

“‘The Agitators’ brilliantly captures the complex relationship between Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, and provides fascinating insight into the dynamics that voting rights activists navigated during the 19th century,” said Anna Laymon, Executive Director of the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission. “We’d planned to partner with regional theaters to sponsor special free performances of ‘The Agitators’ for high school students nationwide throughout 2020, but because of COVID-19 restrictions, we had to get creative and find new ways to share this history. And a theatrical podcast was born! We’re thrilled to partner with PRX and the National Park Service to bring this important story to audiences across the country and around the world.”

“We look forward to giving listeners a chance to imagine the spirited relationship between these two towering historical figures, to have a visceral sense of their frustrations, their determination, their humanity. Their voices still echo throughout American civic life today,” said Jocelyn Gonzales, Director of PRX Productions and Executive Producer of “The Agitators” podcast. “I’m grateful for the talent and hard work of my colleagues at PRX who make this play come alive in audio, and we thank the WSCC, the National Park Service, and the creative team behind the theatrical production for their vision and collaboration.”

“The Agitators’ aims to get inside the guts of history, and the words of these brilliant, flawed, and rebellious social activists ring as true today as when they were first spoken,” said Smart. “I look forward to audiences getting to know these two American icons in a new, more personal way. Thank you to the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission and to PRX for bringing the story of this remarkable friendship to life.”

“It’s so important to tell our nation’s stories, and to keep history alive,” said Ford. “It’s a thrill to join the incredible team of creators behind this meaningful project. As a theater lover, it’s also exciting to be part of this ambitious production. I can’t wait for listeners to hear it.

Subscribe to “The Agitators” now via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, RadioPublic, across podcast listening platforms, and at go.nps.gov/suffragepodcasts.

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About the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission

The Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission was created by Congress to coordinate the nationwide commemoration during the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which was officially signed into the U.S. Constitution on Aug. 26, 1920. The amendment prohibits the United States or any state from denying the right to vote based on sex, protecting women’s access to the ballot in the Constitution. Led by a bipartisan group of 14 women leaders, the WSCC has a nonpartisan mission to ensure that Americans across the country find inspiration in this important but often overlooked history. Learn more about the WSCC and its initiatives at womensvote100.org.

About the National Park Service

More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 421 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at nps.gov, and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

About PRX

PRX is a public media organization shaping the future of audio by producing and distributing content, building technology, and training talented, independent producers. With an award-winning portfolio ranging from iconic public media programming such as “This American Life,” “The Moth Radio Hour,” “TED Talks Daily,” “Snap Judgment,” “Reveal,” and “Latino USA,” as well as a growing body of podcast-first productions, including the Radiotopia podcast network, PRX generates more than 100 million podcast downloads per month. PRX is also home to PRX Productions, a team of audio directors, editors, sound designers, engineers, and producers specializing in high-quality audio production alongside partners who tell stories with impact. More at PRX.org and at PRX.org/productions.

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