Happy Birthday Saul Alinsky

This coming Monday, January 30, would be Saul Alinsky’s 108th birthday.  Alinsky was a community organizer, perhaps best known here in Chicago for his work against the machine politicians Ed Kelly and Richard J. Daley, and around the country for his book Rules for Radicals (full text here). Studs says the book “show[s] how the anonymous people can find power through organization.”  Alinsky has surged back into political culture recently because of Hillary Clinton’s connections to him; and recently, two members of Bernie Sanders’ campaign have authored Rules for Revolutionaries, an obvious tip of the hat.

Studs and Saul had known one another for decades by the time Saul joined him in the studio in 1962 to talk about Rules for Radicals.  They end up having a conversation that is both philosophical and very practical.  They ask questions that would likely feel very relevant to today’s protesters and march participants:

Who has the right to decide what is best?

Can we prioritize morality over basic human needs?

What happens once power has been achieved and demands have been acceded to?

Hear what “the organizer’s organizer” has to say about it all.

“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

A conversation on healthcare

Chicago’s Cook County Hospital

In 1976, Studs sat down with three doctors working in Chicago’s Cook County Hospital system: Dr. Quentin Young, Chairman of the Department of Medicine, Dr. Robert Maslansky, Director of Medical Education, and Dr. Lambert King, Medical Director of Cermak Memorial Hospital in Cook County Jail.  (For those readers who aren’t local, Cook County Hospital is where Harrison Ford as Richard Kimble in The Fugitive sneaks in as a janitor on his quest to find his wife’s killer.)

About a decade earlier, in 1965, Medicare and Medicaid had been signed into law and greatly changed how the “sick poor” in Chicago and elsewhere sought and received medical care.  Dr. Young sees a dichotomy developing: the public hospitals, where doctors are paid on a salary, treat patients in order to prevent illness; the private hospitals, where doctors are paid on a fee-for-service basis, treat patients after conditions have already arisen.  He tells Studs, “Our [public hospitals’] interests are changing the social conditions that send people to our doors, treating the patient in an early stage, or better yet, preventing the conditions that make his illness take place” as opposed to his understanding of private hospitals, where “all of their interests are in the sickness.”

Pro and anti healthcare protesters vie for space in front of televison camera. Demonstration for health care in front of the Hale Boggs Federal Building, Poydras Street, New Orleans, 2009.

It is clear that healthcare in the United States will continue to be a major point of contention for voters and elected officials.  Many things in medicine have changed since this interview was recorded forty-one years ago, but much of what these three doctors discuss is still very relevant: the balance of “laying of the hands” with tests and technology, the best way to educate new doctors, and the effects of financial decisions on the health of our nation.

Cook County Hospital photo credit: By Jeff Dahl (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Protest photo credit: By Infrogmation of New Orleans (Photo by Infrogmation) [GFDL 1.2, CC BY-SA 2.0, CC BY-SA 2.5  or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Remembering Oscar Peterson

Oscar Peterson 1977The extraordinary jazz pianist, Oscar Peterson, died nine years ago tomorrow. He is known for his collaborative work, especially with the many incarnations of his trio and for teaching and mentoring young musicians.  He has won a Grammy for Lifetime Achievement and is an inductee in the International Jazz Hall of Fame.

In 1961, after a performance in Chicago with bassist Ray Brown and drummer Ed Thigpen, he sits down and talks with Studs.  Studs is in for a real treat – Oscar doesn’t just talk, but uses the piano to illustrate what he says.  When Studs asks about his influences, Oscar plays them for him. And when Oscar talks about his absolute pitch and ability to hear notes outside of a chord, he plays a part of a Chopin etude to demonstrate what he means.

This interview gives us a rare insight into how a musician thinks about his music, and how a jazz musician thinks about creating a new kind of melody.  Peterson describes himself as a player, not a writer, and we have the opportunity to hear that in action.


photo credit: By Tom Marcello Webster, New York, USA – Oscar Peterson portrait -1977, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3889466

STRA gets major funding boost

We are honored and excited to announce that the Studs Terkel Radio Archive has been the recipient of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Check out the press release here!  Between now and 2020, we’ll be able to:

  • Unveil a much more extensive website including curated pages on many areas of content in the archive, and sophisticated search functions.
  • Develop a weekly podcast that features content and themes from the archive, paired with contemporary commentators.
  • Continue to encourage creative reuse of the interviews in the archive.
  • Continue to build our library of transcripts and eventually make them available online.
  • Continue our relationships with our guest curators, who help us to place Studs’ interviews in context and provide introductions to many areas of content in the archive.
  • Continue to provide opportunities for graduate and undergraduate interns.
  • Continue to offer Studs’ radio interviews to the public free of charge!

It has taken us nearly three years to reach this goal.  We are grateful to so many people: our listeners and Kickstarter supporters, our colleagues at the Chicago History Museum; our coworkers at the WFMT Radio Network; the Library of Congress, MediaBurn, our Advisory Committee, Studs’ friends and colleagues, our many interns over the years, and all the folks who have helped us get our name out there – Blank on Blank, CPL’s YOUMedia, Third Coast International Audio Festival, and more.  We couldn’t have done it without you!

Sonja Williams on Richard Durham

Recently, we had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with Sonja D. Williams, Howard University professor, radio producer, and author of Word Warrior: Richard Durham, Radio, and Freedom.  After a lovely lunch together, she and Tony Macaluso, the STRA Director, sat down and talked about Richard Durham’s innovative work and his connections with Studs Terkel.

Richard and Studs met while working on the WPA Writers’ Project and their friendship and collaboration continued from there.  Richard Durham went on to develop and write the groundbreaking series Destination Freedom and Bird of the Iron Feather (which aired on our sister television station, WTTW Chicago, and one episode of which can be seen here).

In this episode of Destination Freedom, Studs Terkel voices Sammy the Whammy, the ultimate Dodgers fan.

Sonja Williams tells us how the constant theme in Durham’s life was the fight for freedom, justice, and equality.  This fight was never easy, and as she discusses, it required frequent sacrifices from him.  He was truly a Word Warrior, and an inspiration to anyone working to effect social change today.

Durham got to know many of the bright lights in contemporary culture, including Nelson Algren, Muhammad Ali, and Toni Morrison, who also spent some time in Studs’ studio.

Want to learn more about Richard Durham?  His papers are held by the Chicago Public Library, and you can read more about him here and here.

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Why We Vote: Women’s Issues

In this final week of campaigning, we’re exploring the ideals that send us to the voting booth and help us make these vital choices.  Verify your registration and find out where to vote here!

Women in this country have been fighting for the right to vote since the 1840’s, and were finally granted it in 1920 with the nineteenth amendment to the constitution.  Less that one hundred years later, we may elect our first woman president.

Women’s issues have not played a major role in this election cycle (unless of course you consider the issues surrounding a major candidate being a woman), but they have been a consistent point of contention since the mid-twentieth century.  In this post, we hear from three women working to make our country a better place for women.

Gloria Steinem joins Studs on the tenth anniversary of Ms. Magazine (1982); in 1970, Judy Collins stops by after a Ravinia concert to talk about her work with the Illinois Citizens for the Medical Control of Abortion (about 20 minutes into the interview); and finally we hear from Nora Ephron on her book Crazy Salad (1975).

But first, check out Blank on Blank‘s animated adaptation of some funny and insightful moments in Nora Ephron’s interview.

Photo credit: By K. Kendall [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons, https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b5/National_Women%27s_Day.jpg

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Why We Vote: education

In this final week of campaigning, we’re exploring the ideals that send us to the voting booth and help us make these vital choices.  Verify your registration and find out where to vote here!

In this post we’re looking at education.  The first interview features Mrs. Alberta Patterson, the mother of an autistic boy. She started the S.T.E.P. School in Chicago in order to meet his needs.  We also hear from Alice Jerome, the school’s director, and Sally Heynemann, a teacher.  These days, it is not unusual to hear about how best to educate children with autism, but this 1970 interview demonstrates the challenges that parents and students faced before schools were required and trained to educate students with autism spectrum disorders.

We reach further back in time to 1968 when Studs visited the St. Mary’s Center for Learning in Chicago.  The teachers and parents talk about their excitement for education, while the students share their passions for courses and teachers.  Educating young women, particularly in STEM subjects, has become a great talking point, and Mrs. Obama’s Let Girls Learn initiative has made it global.  The teachers and parents at St. Mary’s believed it was a priority nearly 50 years ago – and much of what they say rings true for today’s students.

Next up – Why We Vote: Women’s Rights

Photo Credit: By Macruve (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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World Day for Audiovisual Heritage

On October 27, 2016, UNESCO and the Coordinating Council of Audiovisual Archives Associations is celebrating World Day for Audiovisual Heritage.

For this year’s theme, “It’s Your Story – Don’t Lose It”, we’re featuring a collection of American voices from the Studs Terkel Radio Archive.  This collection showcases the struggles and triumphs of Americans of all stripes, from students to activists to Nobel Prize winner, Bob Dylan.

Studs cherished all stories; the experience of a taxi driver was as relevant and worthy of respect to him as that of a newspaper editor, politician, or celebrity.  During the nearly fifty years he broadcast out of WFMT in Chicago, he heard and shared stories that together create a compelling and vital picture of our nation through the second half of the twentieth century.

American Voices

1963: Bob Dylan was in Chicago for a show and spent an hour speaking with Studs about songwriting and folk music.  Looking at the archive with historical perspective, we can see that Studs often spoke with people early in their careers who would go on to be American cultural leaders.  This is one such time.

1965: Studs traveled to Montgomery, Alabama for the culmination for the march from Selma to Montgomery.  He recorded nine programs worth of interviews while he was there and we’re featuring two here.  He talks with both African-American and white citizens of Montgomery, and in the second program speaks with a woman who was raised in Nazi Germany and came to the United States as an adult.

1967: On Mother’s Day 1967 a “Be-In” was held in Chicago’s Lincoln Park.  Studs stopped by with his recorder and spoke to fellow participants.  This program is in two parts.

1970: Students from Chicago’s Metro High School talk about their experience at this unique school in which Chicago itself serves as the classroom.

Also that year, Studs’ fellow broadcaster, Elsa Knight Thompson of KPFA, talks to him about what makes a great interview.

1973: Author Hunter S. Thompson talks about his time on the Nixon campaign and the resulting book, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72.  About halfway through the interview, they play a recording of a disabled Vietnam veteran, Ron Kovic, protesting the campaign (courtesy of Pacifica Radio Archives).  Kovic is unknown in 1973, but he would go on to write Born on the Fourth of July

1974: Ed Sadlowski has just won an upset victory in the election for director of the largest district of the International Steel Workers Union.  Ed and his wife Marlene join Studs to talk about labor history, their families, and why Ed saw a need for change in his union.  This program includes the original advertisements from the broadcast.

1982 marked the tenth anniversary of Ms. Magazine.  Studs talks with its founder Gloria Steinem.

1992: Astronomer Carl Sagan and his wife, science writer Ann Druyan, talk with Studs about humankind and what makes us who we are – the subject of their book Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors.

1996: Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert joins Studs for a two hour conversation on Roger Ebert’s Book of Film: From Tolstoy to Tarantino.

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