Thousands of Studs Terkel’s Interviews To Become Available To Public

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

Last week, we went public with just some of our big plans for the archive. The news was well received in the local and national press. Here’s a round-up of what we’ve got planned, and what they’re saying about it:

  • “The Studs Terkel Radio Archive will launch May 16, the 106th birthday of the late author, activist and oral historian.” (ABC News/Associated Press)
  • “For 45 years — 1952 to 1997 — the legendary Terkel elevated oral history to a popular genre by interviewing both the celebrated and everyday people for books and on WFMT. Among the radio interviews to be released are those with Martin Luther King Jr., Simone de Beauvoir, Bob Dylan, Cesar Chavez and Toni Morrison.” (Chicago Tribune/Associated Press)
  • Among the several digital and audio initiatives we’re drumming up is the Bughouse Square podcast, which will launch in August 2018. (Broadway World)

We’re hoping the archive will be a resource for educators, journalists, artists, activists, media-makers, scholars, and people from all walks of life seeking to connect the voices and ideas of 20th-century luminaries with contemporary social issues.

But that’s not all we’ve got up our sleeves. We have many more projects and collaborations in the works — and several public events being planned for launch week. So stay tuned!

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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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New Nora Ephron animation from Blank on Blank

We’re very pleased to be partnering (once again) with the fabulous team at Blank on Blank!  This time, they’ve used selections from Studs Terkel’s 1975 interview with Nora Ephron, in which they discuss her book Crazy Salad.

Hear the complete interview:

For the first time, we are able to make an interactive transcript of the interview available.  Click here to open the transcript, then highlight your favorite parts to share them on Twitter!  (This works best in Chrome.)  This interactive transcript is one of the features provided by Trint, and our partnership with them is made possible through the generosity of our Kickstarter backers.

Want more Blank on Blank?  Check out Studs and Buckminster Fuller, Studs and Hunter S. Thompson, and Studs and Maya Angelou.

And that article, “A Few Words About Breasts” – read it here.


We reached our Kickstarter goal!

Yesterday we reached our Kickstarter campaign goal of $75,000, and as of this writing, we’re at $84,475!  (And I sure hope it will be even higher by the time you’re reading this!)

These past few weeks have been full of ups and downs for us, but we can now safely say that over the next two years we’ll be able to upload audio files and transcriptions of 1000 more programs to our website.  We thank you, but so do teachers, students, scholars, journalists, artists, and future listeners.

Last week, some of our Facebook posts featured Studs’s commitment to social justice through his conversations with activists and trailblazers of all kinds.  In case you didn’t get a chance to listen to the clips, you can hear them here.

Thank you again to everyone who contributed and helped to spread the word.

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Bob Dylan and other news

Instead of sharing a program with you this week, we have lots of news to share.  Everyone who supports our Kickstarter campaign by Sunday, February 21 gets exclusive access to interviews with beloved icons Bob Dylan, Mel Brooks, and Lily Tomlin and her collaborator and wife Jane Wagner.  Hear Studs draw out their thoughts and stories as only he can.

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan


Lily Tomlin

Lily Tomlin


Mel Brooks

Mel Brooks







We talk a lot about the famous people Studs interviewed in his studio.  People like Bob Dylan, Mel Brooks, and Lily Tomlin.  But his guests, famous or not, were often activists, advocates, and working to change the world for the better through their everyday choices and actions.  Studs spoke with feminists, peaceniks, Holocaust survivors, Native Americans, and union activists.  The stories his guests tell are as relevant today as they were when they were first recorded, and to honor their voices we are celebrating Studs’s commitment to social justice this week from Thursday through Sunday.  Check out our Facebook page for more information, starting tomorrow.

You may remember that the theme of last year’s Third Coast Festival ShortDocs competition was Studs’s radio programs.  Tonight the compilation show will be on Chicago’s WBEZ at 10:00pm, or you can listen here.

And finally, we had a lovely endorsement from David Harrington of Kronos Quartet that we’d like to share with you (and my apologies if you’ve already read this on our Kickstarter update, and in that case, thank you for your pledge!).

The Studs Terkel Radio Archive is one of the most inspiring and diverse mosaics of American culture ever made. Studs’ energy and his spontaneity, his inimitable voice and his timing, his intense interest in people’s stories and in celebrating the pageantry of our society makes The Studs Terkel Archive my favorite body of work. That this archive will become more available means that future generations of listeners can revel in the fun, the probing questions and the magnetism of Studs Terkel. I always feel better after hearing Studs’ show.  Please join me me in supporting The Studs Terkel Radio Archive.
Kronos photographed in San Francisco, CA March 26, 2013

Kronos photographed in San Francisco, CA March 26, 2013


Pledge here!  Thank you!


Photo credits

Brooks: By Towpilot (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

Dylan: By U.S. Information Agency. Press and Publications Service. (ca. 1953 – ca. 1978) This image was made by Rowland Scherman on assignment from The US Information Agency, 1963. – This media is available in the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration, cataloged under the ARC Identifier (National Archives Identifier) 542021.This tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required. See Commons:Licensing for more information.English | Español | Français | Italiano | Македонски | മലയാളം | Nederlands | Polski | Português | Русский | Slovenščina | Türkçe | Tiếng Việt | 中文(简体) | 中文(繁體) | +/−, Public Domain,

Tomlin: By U.S. Department of State [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Kronos: ©Jay Blakesberg

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Our Vamonde adventure is available!

We are so pleased to be working with Vamonde, a great Chicago company that creates location-based audio adventures.  They’ve developed an adventure based on Studs’ 1975 conversation with David Lowe, author of Lost Chicago, called “Views of a Splendid World.”  You can get the Vamonde app in the Apple store and start your walk today.

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Studs was a regular on the street, and we have many more programs we’d like to turn into audio adventures, including “Fiesta” (1969), the Lincoln Park Be-In (1967), the unveiling of the Picasso sculpture (1968), and the snow-in (1967).

Do you have a favorite “on the streets” program that you’d like to see turned into an audio adventure?  Let us know in the comments.  And if you haven’t checked out our Kickstarter campaign yet, please do.  We need to raise $75K by February 25 in order to keep the archive functioning.

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Our Kickstarter campaign has begun!

We’ve launched our Kickstarter campaign!  Click here to visit!

We’re looking to raise $75,000 and we need your help.  This money will enable us to upload audio and transcriptions for 1000 more programs to our site, including interviews with groundbreaking television host Dick Cavett, filmmaker Michael Moore, comedian Lily Tomlin, authors Maya Angelou, Chaim Potok, and Dorothy Parker, civil rights icon and activist Rosa Parks, and so many more.  We’ll also be able to continue working with our technology partners to bring you new ways to experience, share, and reuse the audio.

What’s in it for you?  To say thanks for your help, we have some very exciting rewards.  You can sponsor a program – or an entire category of programs.  You can join the Curating Producer of WFMT’s “Best of Studs Terkel” program as she plans for the next week’s show.  You can even record your own podcast, reflecting on your favorite interview in the archive.

Thanks in advance, and we’ll keep you posted on how the campaign is going.

Take it easy, but take it!

One Book, One Chicago Partnership!!



We are happy to announce our new partnership with Chicago Public Library’s One Book, One Chicago campaign.  We can’t wait to share Studs Terkel’s programs in conjunction with this years pick, The Third Coast by Thomas Dyja.

Read all about it here. Happy reading/listening!

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Hunter S. Thompson on Outlaws – the Blank on Blank edition

Check out the latest video from our partners Blank on Blank featuring Hunter S. Thompson and Studs Terkel talking about the Hell’s Angels.

We are so excited to continue our collaboration! Make sure to check out their other videos!!

Listen to the full interview here (in two parts):

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