Happy Birthday Gwendolyn!

We in Chicago are very proud of our hometown star, Gwendolyn Brooks.  She was poet laureate in Illinois and the first African-American writer to win the Pulitzer Prize.  Often her works, such as In The Mecca and A Street in Bronzeville, brought readers from around the world into the living rooms and front stoops of Chicago.  The Poetry Foundation describes her work as “express[ing] the poet’s commitment to her people’s awareness of themselves as a political and cultural entity.”

Ms. Brooks joined Studs in the studio in 1961, 1967, and 1975.  He introduces her to the listening audience by saying “through the poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks, we learn more of the dreams, the hopes, the visions of the Black people of Chicago better than through any other form, I feel.”

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Volunteers Needed!

Do you love Studs?

Do you love history, science, literature, or music?

Do you love learning new things?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’d make a great transcription volunteer!

This is a great opportunity for students, teachers, retired adults, and anyone who is curious about Studs or his guests.  Requirements and application information is below, or can be viewed and printed by clicking this link: Studs Terkel Radio Archive Transcription Volunteer


Studs Terkel Radio Archive Transcription Volunteer

Transcription is a vital element in how we share Studs Terkel’s radio legacy. The transcription volunteer will use cutting edge browser-based text-to-speech technology to correct automatic transcripts via Trint. Completed transcripts are an important part of rounding out the archival record.  This requires critical listening skills and attention to detail. Volunteers are expected to actively transcribe and conduct related research for four hours each week.

The transcription volunteer will be exposed to a primary source collection that documents the second half of the twentieth century in the United States like no other and will improve critical listening and research skills.

General Information

  • Studs Terkel was a Pulitzer Prize winning author, and spent nearly fifty years broadcasting a daily radio show out of WFMT in Chicago. He interviewed well-known guests, such as Muhammad Ali, Oliver Sacks, Nora Ephron, and Mahalia Jackson; as well as people his audience may never have heard of, including teachers, activists, union leaders, taxi drivers, and doctors.  Studs was very interested in social justice movements, such as Civil Rights, migrant workers’ rights, and LGBT+ community rights, and he used his show as a platform to document and share those movements.
  • Candidates must be able to commit to listening and transcribing at least four hours per week.
  • Volunteers should stay for the length of a summer or a semester.
  • Eligible candidates must hold an undergraduate degree, or have equivalent knowledge in a relevant topic: humanities, social science, natural science.
  • Fluency in additional languages is welcome.

Requirements

The ideal candidate must be comfortable working in a digital/online environment, and must have strong research skills.  Must critically listen and pay close attention to detail.  Must be able to manage time and tasks; this is a self-directed position.  The volunteer(s) will work with the Archivist and Digital Content Librarian to establish priorities.

Description/Duties

  • Listening critically and transcribing programs using the STRA style guide.
  • Researching topics, names, titles, places, etc. that appear in the program to ensure accurate spelling.

Application Process

Interested persons should email their resume and cover letter expressing their qualifications and interest to Allison Schein at aschein@wfmt.com. Please reference “STRA TRANSCRIPTION internship” in the subject line of all correspondence to ensure proper routing.

Questions may also be sent to Allison Schein at aschein@wfmt.com.

Photo by Takashi Hososhima from Tokyo, Japan – A typewriter, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40587152

Memorial Day 2017

In memory of those we’ve lost, we’ve put together this special collection of voices.  The first two are stories from those who fought alongside soldiers who were killed; the last is the recollection of a man who saw the aftermath of Kristallnacht as a child.  All of us at STRA are grateful for the sacrifices made by those in the armed forces and their families.

David Schoenbrun was a foreign correspondent for CBS, and according to Studs’ introduction, “took part in the liberation of certain French cities after World War II.”  He joined Studs in 1980 to talk about his book Soldiers of the Night: The Story of the French Resistance.  Here he tells Studs about Marie-Madeleine Foucarde, the leader of a resistant intelligence network.

Ron Kovic is best-known for his book Born on the Fourth of July.  He talked with Studs in 1977 about the emotional difficulties he encountered while writing the book and what inspired him to finish it.

Werner Burkhardt was a German jazz critic and the author of The Story of Jazz: From New Orleans Jazz to Rock Jazz.  He and Studs got together in 1967 to talk about jazz but also about Werner’s growing up in Germany as a teenager during World War II.  Here he tells Studs about his experience the morning after Kristallnacht.

 

Photo by Tony Hisgett, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21113089

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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

The Studs Terkel Radio Archive is a partnership between the WFMT Radio Network and the Chicago History Museum.

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