Earlier this fall, I had the opportunity to visit the Library of Congress during the opening weekend of the exhibit commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Certainly it was inspiring to learn so much about the work of activists, politicians, and everyday people; but it also left me feeling a real grief for our country, that such a thing could have ever taken place here. And yet it is in having an exchange – a conversation – about this history that may keep us from repeating it.
Studs Terkel understood the power that words and conversation have to affect not only our daily experiences, but the history we choose to make both personally and nationally. In the conversations I listened to while preparing this collage, Terkel bears witness to the challenges that face underdogs of every stripe, and invites us to do the same. He asks Muhammad Ali what it was like to read about Emmett Till’s death in the newspaper, when Ali was just a child himself; he talks to a young Puerto Rican activist about his struggles with the local alderman; and he listens to Maya Angelou recall seeing children speak disrespectfully toward her grandmother because she was Black and they were white.
Like the exhibit at the Library of Congress, Terkel’s conversations about civil rights simultaneously reveal the best and worst of human behavior; but through it all, he never loses heart. He is obviously inspired by the stories he hears; and his speakers’ words, hopeful or heartbreaking, flow clearly through my laptop speakers, as potent as when he first recorded them.
Order of clips: Pete Seeger; Maya Angelou (reading an excerpt from “When I Think About Myself”); Peter Sellars; three selections from the 1969 “Fiesta: A Chicago Happening” in Lincoln Park (male resident, Terkel, female resident); William Bradford Huie; Charles V. Hamilton; Muhammad Ali; Dr. Neil Sullivan; Terkel and Ali; friend of Paul Robeson at a tribute event; Myles Horton; Terkel and Rosa Parks; John D. Weaver; Daniel Berrigan, S.J.; Pete Seeger (singing).
Thank you to Allison Schein and Sophia Feddersen for their help in building this collage.
-Grace Radkins, Archive Assistant
Studs Terkel loved to learn (as regular listeners know, sometimes he couldn’t ask his questions fast enough!) – and because his program reached so many listeners, he in turn became an educator. Those of us at the Studs Terkel Radio Archive love a lot of things about Mr. Terkel, but we’re particularly passionate about continuing his educational legacy by introducing his material to new listeners and seeing it used in new ways.
Last week, we had the opportunity to meet with a group of teachers from public and alternative schools in Chicago to discuss using the Studs Terkel Radio Archive and the Exploring Music Archive in the classroom. We came in with some specific project goals about teaching critical listening, but we knew that the teachers were the true experts. After demonstrating some of the digital audio tools that we can provide, we asked for their input and feedback: how can we make our online collections and tools work for you? We got some great suggestions, including a searchable taxonomy of musical terms, and the possibility of using time-stamped recordings and transcriptions as teaching tools for English-language learners.
You may have noticed that this post is Part 1 of a series; our hope is to have many more posts on this topic in the future. In fact, our ultimate goal is to develop and curate an online repository of remixes made by students, combining their own recorded oral histories with Studs’ programs. Imagine hearing Maya Angelou talk about her grandmother’s life in the South, and then hearing a student speak with her own grandmother about her life. Or hearing Studs’ live footage of the near-riot situation at the Young Lords’ Lincoln Park Fiesta in 1969, and then cutting to a student interviewing a friend or relative who was there, too. What about splicing Studs’ and Mike Royko’s conversations about journalistic integrity into students’ discussions about a school newspaper or a school blog? The possibilities are endless and we are very excited to see what students and teachers come up with!
Are you an educator interested in using either of these archives in your classroom? Please get in touch with Allison Schein, the Archive Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to help you do everything from brainstorming a lesson plan to teaching you the nuts & bolts of our audio remix software.
Special thanks to Bill McGlaughlin of Exploring Music, Rowan Beaird of Project&, Jordan LaSalle of Chicago Public Schools, and Barbara Radner of DePaul University’s School for New Learning!