Disability Pride 2017

This Saturday is Chicago’s Disability Pride parade, to celebrate Disability Awareness Month.

“Disability” used to have a very limited application and although not everyone is aware of it, the definition has widened to include people with chronic physical illnesses or conditions, learning disabilities, cognitive disorders or delays, mental illnesses, and autism spectrum disorders.

We’ve hunted through the archive to find three recordings that demonstrate the broad mindset of the disability community, and that remind listeners, then and now, that being different is nothing to be ashamed of. Continue reading →

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Remembering Japanese-American internment

Japanese-Americans in front of poster of internment orders.

In 1942, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, nearly 120,000 Japanese-Americans were taken to internment camps scattered throughout the western United States.

John Tateishi was three years old when he was brought to Manzanar with his parents.  In 1984, his book And Justice For All: An Oral History of the Japanese American Detention Camps was published, and he joined Studs to talk about it. Continue reading →

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TBT: The Pentagon Papers

Map of Communist positions in South Vietnam, 1964

In 1971, analyst Daniel Ellsberg gave parts of a Department of Defense study on American involvement in Vietnam to a New York Times reporter, Neil Sheehan.  This DOD study, officially known as the “Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Task Force” came to be known in common parlance as the Pentagon Papers.  The Pentagon Papers revealed to the American people that they had been misled about American actions in Vietnam for nearly a decade.

The following year, Neil Sheehan and his wife Susan (also a writer) joined Studs in the studio.  They are forbidden to discuss the legal matters surrounding the Papers’ publication (there had been a Supreme Court case over the publication, which was decided in favor of the Times), but they do discuss the relationship between journalism and truth (or, as we think of it these days, “alternative facts”), the expected and assumed honesty of people in power, leaks to the media, phone tapping, and FBI investigations.

Interview Highlights

Here, Neil talks about his career as a journalist and why he writes what he does.

In this clip Neil talks about how a “dissatisfaction of conveyance of truth” has started to change journalism.  Susan picks up the thread and points out that “They’ll always cover what President Nixon says in a press conference, but it’s much harder to get into the papers why what he’s saying is untrue.”  Neil goes on to talk about government using the media to manipulate, rather than inform, the public.

As an example of this manipulation, Neil talks about how information about North Vietnamese infiltration was leaked to the press in order to influence public feeling about the war in Vietnam.  He implicates Assistant Secretary of State William Bundy, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, and General Maxwell Taylor, a diplomat in Saigon.

Finally, Neil and Susan tell Studs how their lives have changed since the Pentagon Papers were published.  They had become the subject of an FBI investigation, and as a result their bank statements were subpoenaed, friends and relatives were questioned, and investigators even tried to get photographs of the Sheehan’s children.

Neil Sheehan has continued to write.  His ebook The Battle of Ap Bac came out in 2014.  His 1986 book A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam won the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction and the National Book Award for Nonfiction.  Susan Sheehan has also continued to write, including articles for Architectural Digest through 2010 and The New Yorker through 2006.  She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction in 1983 for Is There No Place on Earth for Me?

Photo credit: United States Military Academy (http://ehistory.osu.edu/vietnam/maps/0005.cfm) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Meyer Weinberg on desegregation

May is Teacher Appreciation Month and today we’re featuring an interview with Dr. Meyer Weinberg.  Dr. Weinberg taught at Wright Community College (then Wright Junior College) in Chicago, and was a co-founder of Teachers for Integrated Schools.  He also edited the journal Integrated Education.

In 1971, the Swann v Charlotte-Mecklenberg Board of Education case was decided by the Supreme Court, allowing busing to be used to desegregate schools.  This was a controversial decision for a variety of reasons, from students not wanting to leave their neighborhoods, to Richard Nixon’s awareness of George Wallace’s impending presidential campaign.

Dr. Weinberg spoke with Studs in 1975, and is a voice strongly in favor for busing as a method to desegregate schools.

In this first clip, he talks about how the media covers the schools where busing has led to protest and violence, instead of those schools where it hasn’t; and about the success of desegregation in the South.

Here, Dr. Weinberg replies to Studs question about the relationship between educational success and desegregation, saying, “The whole society is stacked against the education of minority kids.”

Finally, Dr. Weinberg compares the desegregation experience in Pontiac, MI and Kalamazoo, MI, saying, “You can’t just analyze a specific problem with generalities.”

Over 40 years later, we can see that desegregating schools requires a far more complex solution than busing students across city lines, but this interview is a valuable snapshot of another facet in the work for civil rights.

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Looking back: Rodney King and The Merchant of Venice

Twenty-five years ago this month, in April 1992, the Rodney King trial was decided.  This resulted to the LA riots, although some would say they were a long time coming.

The following summer, director Peter Sellars staged a production of The Merchant of Venice in Leimert Park, just a few miles from where major violence erupted at Florence and Normandie, and just inside the curfew boundary.  He chose this play because he says it’s “Shakespeare’s play about racism.”

In 1994, the play came to Chicago’s Goodman Theatre.  Here’s an excerpt, including the “Hath not a Jew eyes?” speech, with Paul Butler as Shylock.

 

In order to highlight the contemporary issues of the play, including antisemitism and racism, Sellars updated the production to twentieth-century Venice Beach, CA and cast the play in a unique manner, which he discusses here.

Peter Sellars talks to Studs about the importance of theater, and why we still have it around even though we can watch so much on television or at the movies.  He tells Studs, “Theater is the last place where grassroots politics can have a presence”  and goes on to explain why he chose a Shakespearean play to convey his message.

Reflecting on Los Angeles, Sellars says, “The Rodney King trial, and the aftermath of that, already established that Los Angeles was at the center of the crisis zone of this country, and the issues that are on America’s mind are in their fiercest, most painful state in that city.”  He goes on to talk about why Leimert Park was chosen as the site for the arts festival, which included the production of The Merchant of Venice.

Speaking about why he chose The Merchant of Venice specifically, Sellars highlights the word merchant in the title, saying “It’s about the economic construction of racism.  Racism wasn’t just invented because some people don’t like other people; it was invented as a specific tool of exploitation.”  Sellars applauds Shakespeare for writing a play about antisemitism at a time when Jewish people had been expelled from England, and goes on to discuss Shakespeare’s time as one in which colonial imperialism exploded.

Photo credit: By Folger Shakespeare Library Digital Image Collection http://luna.folger.edu/luna/servlet/s/55l29b, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40983097

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Thich Nhat Hanh, poet and activist

line from Thich Nhat Hanh's "Condemnation"

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Buddhist monk, peace activist, and poet.  By 1971, when he joined Studs in the studio, he had spent years campaigning for peace in Vietnam; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967. Thich Nhat Hanh and Studs discuss the Vietnam War and two books of his poetry that had been translated into English at that time: Cry of Vietnam, and Vietnam: Lotus in A Sea of Fire.

In this clip, Studs tells Thich Nhat Hanh that he has heard about American soldiers finding poems in the pockets of the dead Vietnamese.  Thich Nhat Hanh uses this story to demonstrate how important poetry is in the Vietnamese culture.

They continue the conversation about poetry in Vietnam, and its importance even among non-literate populations.  Thich Nhat Hanh recites an example of one of the spontaneous poems of the farmers.  This leads to a conversation of the ongoing destruction of this culture: “The kinds of things imported, together with this war, has been destroying much of our way of thinking and creating.”  To show how hopeless things have become, Thich Nhat Hanh tells a story of Vietnamese people trying to raise earthworms in order to save the land that was destroyed through defoliation.

Thich Nhat Hanh talks with Studs about his experience of speaking and reading his poems to a group of anti-war veterans in Washington, D.C.  He tells Studs they are “very, very brave in recognizing the truth.” One of the poems he reads to the veterans is “Condemnation,” which you can read here.

Studs asks Thich Nhat Hanh about his feelings on the war.  Thich Nhat Hanh discusses the policy of “Vietnamization” as opposed to a cease-fire.  He also says that “most of the Vietnamese people feel the same way — they want the war to end at this very moment.”

Thich Nhat Hanh tells Studs about a family he knows whose home was burned six times in five years; they continually moved to escape the violence but were unable to.  “Sometime[s] we don’t know [if] what we have in our heart is hope or just illusions, because life would be impossible without some hope in the future.  That is why sometime[s] we are very ready to accept illusions as hope.”

Photo by James K. F. Dung, SFC, Photographer – This media is available in the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration, cataloged under the National Archives Identifier (NAID) 530610. Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=78487

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“We’re all sisters together”: Remembering the 1970 Women’s Strike

This post was written by one of our interns, Rachel Newlin.

On March 8th 2017, women across the world are planning to strike in an effort to create an International Day of Action in honor of International Women’s Day.

High schools and college campuses are closing in anticipation of the strike, unable to continue business without their female employees. This international strike is seen as ‘the beginning of a new international feminist movement’ and has been garnering great media attention across the United States. Women across the country are striking from paid jobs, childcare, housework, among other truths of female existence – and it all feels very familiar. That is because this will be the second Women’s Strike where thousands of women rise up and demand equal treatment and change under the law.

On August 26th 1970, on the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, thousands of women marched across the country for many of the same things.

Second-wave feminist Betty Friedan led the strike, organized by NOW, the National Organization for Women. Friedan was met with a lot of resistance when she first brought up the idea of a strike – older women were scared that the strike wouldn’t turn out and the media would mock, them while younger generations of women were sure that the move wasn’t radical enough. Still, Friedan moved forward with the idea, and across the country, the idea caught on. Studs met with a few of these women in March of 1970, where he parsed complex ideas of oppression and the female experience with them in a fascinating two-part interview.

1970 Women's Liberation March, Washington, D.C.

1970 Women’s Liberation March, Washington, D.C.

Continue reading →

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“If Emmett Till lived, he’d have been your age”

In 1975, when Studs interviewed Muhammad Ali about his book The Greatest, Studs said to him, “If Emmett Till  lived, he’d have been you’re age, wouldn’t he?”  Hear Ali’s response here:

It’s likely you’re familiar with what happened to Emmett Till.  Twenty years before Studs interviewed Muhammad Ali, 14-year-old Till was visiting Mississippi from Chicago when he was brutally murdered for allegedly whistling at a white woman.  His murderers were acquitted and then confessed publicly.

Earlier this month, Vanity Fair ran a story about author Timothy Tyson‘s new book, The Blood of Emmett Till. In that article, Tyson revealed that the woman who was the alleged whistle-target (Carolyn Bryant Donham) has reneged what she said at the trial for Till’s murder.  The murder, and subsequent trial and acquittal, is credited by many as being the first spark – or last straw – that ignited the Civil Rights movement.

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“Equality is for Everybody”

Maryland suffragists picket the White House, 1917.

Working for women’s rights has a long history in our country and has taken many forms,

from the early suffragists in the mid-nineteenth century up through today’s movement to ensure STEM education for young women.  This Saturday, January 21, is the day of the Women’s Marches around the world. 215,000 people have RSVP’d to the Washington, D.C. event on Facebook, and another 1.3 million are expected to attend marches around the world, including over 60,000 here in Chicago[update as of 01/21 11:00 am central: 150K!]. (more…)

Inauguration Countdown

Studs was very interested in politics at all levels, from the grassroots movements in a neighborhood all the way up to the White House.  This is reflected in the archives’ interviews with organizers, city councilmen, and authors and journalists writing about our presidents.  As our nation prepares for our 58th inauguration ceremony for an American president, we’ve looked through the archives to find interviews about previous presidents and campaigns.

The faces of Mount Rushmore: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.

In 1970, he spoke with Doris Kearns Goodwin about her time in the White House with Lyndon Johnson and the resulting book Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream.  In 1981, author David McCullough spoke to Studs about his book on Theodore Roosevelt, Mornings on Horseback.  Studs spoke to multiple guests about Richard Nixon during his campaigns and terms, including Joe McGinniss, author of the The Selling of the President, 1968; and Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein about breaking the Watergate story, and their follow-up book, All The President’s Men

Be sure to check back later this week as we gear up for the Women’s March with programs on the ongoing struggle to pass the ERA.

Photo credit: By Dean Franklin – 06.04.03 Mount Rushmore Monument. (Resized by User:ComputerHotline, 20:17, 12. Mai 2007.), CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7930156
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