George Wald, Nobel Laureate

In 1967, George Wald, along with Ragnar Granit and Haldan Keffer Hartline won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine “for their discoveries concerning the primary physiological and chemical visual processes in the eye.”

Dr. Wald, 1967

Dr. Wald, 1967

In 1970, Studs invited Dr. Wald (of Harvard University) to speak on his show.  In the meantime, Dr. Wald had given a talk at an MIT anti-war teach-in: “A Generation in Search of a Future” (read it here).

Perhaps not surprising to Studs’ regular listeners, the two men do not discuss the primary physiological and chemical visual processes in the eye.  Instead, they talk about Dr. Wald’s speech, student unrest, destruction of the environment, and the possibility of nuclear war.  Dr. Wald tells Studs, “We’ve reached a time, the like of which has not appeared in human history in which the whole human enterprise is threatened, all over the world.  The future of humanity is at stake.”

From here, the conversation moves on to the difference between science and technology, and the ethical imperatives of our fast-paced technological world.  Dr. Wald admonishes us to “only do those things that seem right and good to you.”  The relationship between technology and humanity is one Studs returns to consistently; but maybe that’s not unexpected for a man who uses technology as a medium to collect and convey human stories.  In 1962, he spoke to French filmmaker Jacques Tati about much the same thing (although from a more humorous perspective).  Listen here.

Photo: Author unknown, public domain,

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Robert Maynard Hutchins & the American University

“What is the trouble with the private institutions?  It is that they are after money.  If you are after money, you have to appeal to the people who have got it, and the way to appeal to the people who have got it to represent to them that you are going to do what they would like to have done.”
-Robert Maynard Hutchins

This blog post was written by Meghan, one of our summer interns from the MLIS program at Dominican University.

Robert Maynard Hutchins’ time at the University of Chicago coincided with Studs Terkel’s education there, providing a platform for the interview.  Hutchins shared his views on the American educational system, particularly the system of higher education in the U.S., which he believed had departed from its original intended purpose.  Universities should serve as, what he referred to as “centers of independent thought,” or “centers of intellectual illumination.”  However, they changed course, catering to the “LaSalle Street” inhabitants, in other words, bankers and financial institutions.

Hutchins’ thoughts and beliefs about the ways in which universities strayed from their goals were direct and truthful, but, he did not believe that universities should necessarily be condemned for their choices.  He himself began the process of developing “centers of independent thought” outside of the university setting so as to keep alive the need in this country for individuals to participate in a community that thinks critically in the interest of serving the country as a whole.

I say it may be necessary simply to reconcile ourselves to the fact that the American university is so far gone in this direction that nothing can be done about it, but if this is so, then what we have to do is to set about establishing new institutions that will perform this function.

Robert Maynard Hutchins founded the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions to help support his goal of providing scholars with a venue where their ideas could be freely examined and discussed.  This brief interview is densely packed with criticisms of the American higher educational system, while also attempting to provide a lifeboat for “eggheads” who are not destined for LaSalle Street.

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John Henry Faulk

This blog post was written by Meghan, one of our summer interns from the MLIS program at Dominican University.

In the month when we remember our country’s birth, it is time to reflect upon the principles on which our nation is founded and the principles for which many Americans have fought and died.  John Henry Faulk, an American storyteller from Austin, Texas, shared with Studs some of his insights into who we are as Americans, drawn from reflections of his travels across the country.

“And [Momma] said, ‘Don’t you know a chicken snake won’t hurt ya?’ And Boots Cooper said, ‘Yes ma’am, I know that, Miss Faulk, but they can scare you so bad, you’ll hurt yourself!’
And I use this as my theme.”
-John Henry Faulk


There is neither any volume of text nor elegance of prose that can sufficiently portray the passion with which John Henry Faulk expressed his message through the spoken word.   This interview must be heard in order to fully grasp Faulk’s emotion, which is woven through his stories, and which he brought to college students and prominent community members across the country during the sixties.  Faulk, speaking with Studs Terkel in this 1969 interview mused:

Who are we, the American people?  What is our purpose?  How did we get started?  And I go back to the colonial days, see, and describe the Boston Tea Party: an act of vandalism against the constituted authority, old King George, but a protest, in reality, against oppression and against repression and against tyranny, and it was a spark that caught on over the colonies, and we won our freedom.

And then, I get to, what I love best, 1787, the summer that those magnificent men gathered there in Philadelphia and slapped mosquitos and sweated all summer to lay the groundwork for the nation that became the United States of America; conceived the idea of a free people governing themselves, set up the framework for a society where man would be totally free, hedged him ‘round with every defense in the world, his freedom ‘round with every defense in the world, so that the government would be the servant and the people would be the sovereign.  And this is a magnificent idea, you see.

Faulk’s travels across the country, speaking to what he termed, “the knife and fork clubs” and students at university, helped him discover not that Americans differ greatly in their views and opinions, but that, in all the ways that matter, they were seeking the same things.  The United States was going through a tumultuous time when Faulk began his tours.  He himself had been a victim of the blacklisting in the media industry during the McCarthy era, and openly and colorfully shared his own experiences with his audiences of having been “stampeded by fear.”

The central message of his story, and the most resounding lesson he learned from his audiences was that America was in the process of being transformed back into what it was when it had first begun.  This rebirth of awareness American citizens’ had of their responsibility to direct the actions of the government, he attributed primarily to African-Americans, who led the Civil Rights movement, and the youth of our country – those he calls, “the least privileged of our citizens.”  And, he tells Studs, “I don’t believe they can be stampeded by fear anymore – they’ve started thinking.”


Pride Month Celebration – Week Two: Quentin Crisp

This post was written by Meghan, an MLIS student from Dominican University.

“Oh no.  I don’t think homosexuals are really happy.  I wouldn’t say this. I think they’re madly gay, and this itself is a dead giveaway, isn’t it?” 

  • Quentin Crisp in conversation with Studs Terkel
Quentin Crisp by Ella Guru - Oil on Canvas

Quentin Crisp by Ella Guru – Oil on Canvas

Studs Terkel speaks to Quentin Crisp in his one-room flat in a boarding house in London’s Chelsea neighborhood, where, at the time of the interview, Mr. Crisp had lived for thirty years.  Although Mr. Crisp was 61 when he was interviewed, and ultimately lived to be 90 years old, he remarked to Studs Terkel, “I don’t expect anything new from my life now.”  As a “self-confessed homosexual,” Quentin Crisp suffered a great deal during his early adulthood, as he was subjected to verbal, emotional, and physical abuse from friends, family, and strangers.  However, he came to the realization that the best way to cope with this treatment was simply to accept it.

By the time of the interview, although a sexual revolution had taken place and Crisp was then living in a much more “permissive” society, he still claimed that the best way to live was to accept one’s chains, rather than trying to break them, saying, “when you can’t sink any lower, then you’re absolutely free.”

Quentin Crisp NYC 1992 Ross Bennett Lewis

Quentin Crisp NYC 1992 photo by Ross Bennett Lewis

Mr. Crisp was an actor, writer, a well-known public figure, and the subject of films and interviews.  He nonetheless felt that he was “always at the losing end.”  Were he alive today to see that the struggles he endured during his life have paved the way for others, perhaps his outlook might have changed.

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Happy Birthday Studs!

Studs Terkel was born on May 16, 1912.

Studs Terkel smoking a cigar in a recording studio, Chicago, Illinois, circa 1960.

Studs Terkel smoking a cigar in a recording studio, Chicago, Illinois, circa 1960.

1912 was quite a year.  The Titanic made its first and last voyage, the Republic of China was founded, the African National Congress was formed, and Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, Howard A. Taft, and Eugene Debs all ran for U.S. President.  (Wilson won, and women couldn’t vote yet!)

What better way to celebrate his birthday than hearing from those who admired him most?


Thanks to our friends at MediaBurn for providing this video montage of Studs’ memorial service.  You can view the full 2 hour version here.

Photo credit: Chicago History Museum, ICHi-65442; Stephen Deutch, photographer

Searching for Nazi War Criminals

Monday, May 9 was Victory Day.  Celebrated throughout Eastern Europe, it marks the Nazi surrender to the army of the Soviet Union.  There is nothing in the archive that specifically covers Victory Day, but to honor this day we are sharing the story of Tony DeVito, who worked to bring Nazi war criminals to justice, and Howard Blum, the author of his story.

Defendants at the dock during the Nuremberg Trials, 1945 or 1946

Defendants at the dock during the Nuremberg Trials, 1945 or 1946

Tscherim “Tom” Soobzokov, Valerian Trifa, Andrija Artukovic, and Boleslavs Maikovskis were living stable, successful lives in the United States in 1976.  That same year, investigative journalist Howard Blum published his book Wanted: The Search for Nazis in America, (read a 1977 review here), exposing the men as war criminals.  During the course of the interview with Terkel, Blum explains that although he was enlightening the general public on the men’s histories, a hearing for Trifa had been scheduled in 1975 (and never followed up on), and in 1965 an investigation into Mailvoskis was begun, only to be terminated.

Continue reading →

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Material Feminists, & Daniel Berrigan, SJ

Last Sunday was May 1, International Workers Day.  Studs was a great supporter of the labor movement in all its iterations, and he demonstrated that on April 30, 1981 when he spoke to Dolores Hayden, author of The Grand Domestic Revolution: A History of Feminist Designs for American Homes, Neighborhoods, and Cities.  The book describes the work of women who “campaigned against women’s isolation in the home and confinement to domestic life as the basic cause of the unequal position in society” (from the MIT Press page).

It’s an economic struggle which is about women’s work, all kinds of women’s work.  In the household, taking care of children, cooking and cleaning… A struggle to find… places which spatially support new forms of women’s work.

Hayden focuses specifically on what she calls material feminists: “alert women who understood that in addition to changing work, they had to change the design of the workplace.”  Since for most women, the workplace was the home, this entailed “the feminist struggle to transform homes, neighborhoods, and cities.”

Feminist, social reformer, and author Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Material feminist, social reformer, and author, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, 1900

At a time when a presidential candidate can reference the “Woman card,” where a pink tax is common and a tampon tax must be voted against, and women still are paid less than men, this is the right moment to remember the American feminists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who believed that “women must be economically independent if they were going to be truly equal citizens in society.”

Over the weekend we also lost one of the last century’s great civil disobedients, Father Daniel Berrigan.  In 1972, after he’d been released from prison for burning draft records in Catonsville, Maryland, he joined Studs in the studio to talk about his family, the time he spent in France, his civil rights work with his brother Philip, and why he continues to make radical choices.

And finally, if you enjoyed our month of poetry programs, you can find them all here.

Photo credit: By Frances Benjamin Johnston – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3a49162.  Public Domain,

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Celebrating Greek Independence Day

We had a great intern this week helping out with our project, and she found this program just in time for Greek Independence Day.  Here’s what she has to say:

Today is Greek Independence Day, a holiday celebrating Greece’s revolution against the Ottoman Empire. In honor of the holiday, we’d like to share Studs’ celebration of Greek culture from 1968, a dark moment in Greece’s history. Less than a year before this program was broadcast, a far-right military junta had staged a coup in Greece; for the next seven years, the Greek people lost virtually all of their political freedom and civil liberties and lived in fear of arrest, exile, and torture.

Studs had a great talent for examining the intersection of art and political activism, and this exploration of Greek music, theater, and film shows that talent. With traditional Greek music and conversations with actress (and future member of Greek Parliament) Melina Mercouri, director Jules Dassin, actress Irene Papas, and singer Nikos Gounaris, Studs placed Greece’s rich cultural history in contrast with the repressive political situation of the time. Irene Papas brings up the role of Antigone as an example: “Sophocles wrote [Antigone] against the tyranny; so the heroine is someone who represents an idea. It’s like in modern times, a revolutionist, a partisan, a person that goes against a thing that is fascistic, tyrannic, and all that.”

Melina Mercouri, 1985

Melina Mercouri, 1985

In her interview, Melina Mercouri speaks passionately about her country and speaks out against the military regime’s censorship, anti-Communist blacklisting, and brainwashing.

“I want to speak about the Greek people and this country, which is the most beautiful country in the world,” Mercouri says. “I want to tell you that the Greeks are brave. The Greeks have humor. The Greeks know how to love. The Greeks know how to cry. The Greeks know how to die with a song.”

Photo credit: By Bart Molendijk / Anefo (Nationaal Archief) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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Talking with activists in Montgomery, Alabama

Fifty-one years ago this month, Studs was in Montgomery, Alabama talking with people who had just marched from Selma to Montgomery, others who were joining the movement in Montgomery, and Montgomery natives both for and against the march.

Abernathy family with Dr. and Mrs. King leading the march from Selma to Montgomery.

Abernathy family with Dr. and Mrs. King leading the march from Selma to Montgomery.

Studs recorded nine programs’ worth of interviews in Montgomery, capturing the candid voices of a nation undergoing a great change.  Reminiscent of today’s campaign trail interviews, these Montgomery interviews include voices of hope and voices of hate.

Today we’re featuring the second program in the series.  Studs is at the home of his unnamed host (well, it slips out partway through, but we get the feeling it’s not supposed to), a bustling place that sounds full of people with even more calling every few minutes.  He first speaks to Rachel and Sarah, two college students who joined the march and were arrested and sent to jail for their trouble.  Next, he speaks with a middle aged woman who has returned to her home in Alabama after living many years in California.  She is familiar with the perspective of upper-middle class Montgomery citizens, and gives some insight into it.  In fact, she is so closely tied with that world that she decides not to attend the final rally: “I would alienate myself from my family… I would lose my job… and I would be criticized by my friends.”

Finally, he speaks with the host.  This man had a career in Washington, D.C., including time spent on Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration.  He is a proud Southerner, and offers a thoughtful account of Southern identity as well as a broader view of the problems in the South.  What it all comes down to, he believes, is passivity and fear: “We got afraid to think anymore.  Not only to express our opinions, but soon we got so we can’t think.”

Photo credit: By Abernathy Family (Abernathy Family Photos) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Nobel Peace Prize Winner Mairead Corrigan Maguire


“Armies are not trained as community development officers.  Armies are trained to kill.”

Mairead_Corrigan_Gaza_cropIn 1976, Mairead Corrigan’s sister was out walking with her children; three of the children were killed in the aftermath of a violent incident between I.R.A. and British troops.  Their deaths, a result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, were the final straw that led Maguire to co-found Peace People, for which she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.




17 years later, shortly after the Downing Street Declaration, she talks with Studs about Northern Ireland and her work for peace around the world.  She speaks of a divided and impoverished country, in which young people struggle to see a future; and she speaks of the violence that results from hatred based on ethnic, religious, and political divisions.  Studs sees parallels around the world, and in his own city.

Shankill Road, Belfast, circa 1970

Shankill Road, Belfast, circa 1970

“Our approach to the Peace People is that we want to create a non-violent society, we want to really be able to create a society where ethnic conflict is solved by people themselves coming together to really build proper politics.”  This was very timely in 1993: there were wars going on across Africa, and in many former Soviet states.

But it is as necessary now as it was in 1977 and 1993.



Photo credits

Mairead Corrigan Maguire: By Mairead_Corrigan_Gaza.jpg: Free Gaza movementderivative work: Materialscientist – This file was derived from  Mairead Corrigan Gaza.jpg:, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Shankill Road: By Fribbler (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons


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