“We’re all sisters together”: Remembering the 1970 Women’s Strike

This post was written by one of our interns, Rachel Newlin.

On March 8th 2017, women across the world are planning to strike in an effort to create an International Day of Action in honor of International Women’s Day.

High schools and college campuses are closing in anticipation of the strike, unable to continue business without their female employees. This international strike is seen as ‘the beginning of a new international feminist movement’ and has been garnering great media attention across the United States. Women across the country are striking from paid jobs, childcare, housework, among other truths of female existence – and it all feels very familiar. That is because this will be the second Women’s Strike where thousands of women rise up and demand equal treatment and change under the law.

On August 26th 1970, on the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, thousands of women marched across the country for many of the same things.

Second-wave feminist Betty Friedan led the strike, organized by NOW, the National Organization for Women. Friedan was met with a lot of resistance when she first brought up the idea of a strike – older women were scared that the strike wouldn’t turn out and the media would mock, them while younger generations of women were sure that the move wasn’t radical enough. Still, Friedan moved forward with the idea, and across the country, the idea caught on. Studs met with a few of these women in March of 1970, where he parsed complex ideas of oppression and the female experience with them in a fascinating two-part interview.

1970 Women's Liberation March, Washington, D.C.

1970 Women’s Liberation March, Washington, D.C.

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Cultural Connections with James Baldwin and Merce Cunningham

I Am Not Your Negro has opened to major critical acclaim.

It features the writings of James Baldwin, and is an exploration of a book on Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evers, and Malcolm X that Baldwin never completed.  The film’s website describes it as “a journey into black history that connects the past of the Civil Rights movement to the present of #BlackLivesMatter.”

In 1985, James Baldwin returned to Studs’ studio after a twenty-three year break, but their connection had not waned.  Studs starts off the hour by playing an excerpt of their 1961 conversation, which included a Bessie Smith song, and then asks Baldwin what has changed since that day.  He responds with very thoughtful observations on race, language and identity.

Closer to home, catch “Merce Cunningham: Common Time” at the MCA.

The Museum of Contemporary Art’s retrospective focuses on Cunningham’s many collaborations with his artistic contemporaries, including John Cage.  In 1971, Merce Cunningham and John Cage joined Studs in the studio to talk about their work together.  In the featured clip, they talk about chaos and experimentation in art, and what it means to “accept the mess.”  Merce Cunningham talks about what this means practically, while John Cage speaks more conceptually about Thoreau, forests, and thunderstorms.  This brief conversation makes it easy to see why they were such a synergistic pair.

Baldwin photo credit: By Allan warren – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22305867
EyeSpace photo credit: By Daniel Arsham – Daniel Arsham, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42645611

Happy Birthday Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte

Two lights of the entertainment and civil rights worlds are turning 90 this year, Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier.  Both men used their artistry and their fame to bring awareness to the plight of African-Americans in our country, as well to shine a spotlight on the amazing contributions African-Americans have made to our nation.

In 1959, Sidney Poitier visited Studs in the studio to talk about his new film The Defiant Ones.

In this clip, he tells Studs how he first became interested in acting.  It leads Studs to ask him, “Has the thought of playing a role, a person who is not necessarily Negro, just an actor; he is neither Negro nor white, just a certain character?  Has this thought occurred to you or come into your ken?”

“Oh of course it has,” replies Poitier.  In his response, he describes his hopes for a future we still have not attained.

In one of the earliest interviews we have in the archive, Studs sits down to talk with Harry Belafonte about music.

In this clip, Belafonte talks to Studs about how he perceives his responsibility as an artist: “I am intellectually conscious of the time when it first became evident to me that I had a responsibility as an artist, but my responsibility in relationship to my people, and in relationship to the culture of my people far surpassing anything else.  It was the recognition of this responsibility that I gave my artistic life a direction.”

Later on in the same interview, Studs and Belafonte talk about the role of the church in the African-American community.  Belafonte goes on to talk about Mahalia Jackson, how he believes that she embodies the role of a leader in the community and admires the way she connects spirituals and popular music.  He gives the example of her version of “When the Saints Go Marching In,” and after talking about the history of the song, Belafonte asks to hear it.  You can hear it below.

We’re proud to have these men’s voices as part of our archive, and wish them both very happy 90th birthdays!

 

Poitier photo credit:  U.S. Information Agency. Press and Publications Service. (ca. 1953 – ca. 1978) – NARA – ARC Identifier:542075 (use http://arcweb.archives.gov/arc/basic_search.jsp and search Actor and Vocalist Harry Belafonte), Avalik omand, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=146400
By United States Department of the Interior National Park Service – http://www.nps.gov/features/malu/feat0002/wof/Sidney_Poitier.htm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28814756

“If Emmett Till lived, he’d have been your age”

In 1975, when Studs interviewed Muhammad Ali about his book The Greatest, Studs said to him, “If Emmett Till  lived, he’d have been you’re age, wouldn’t he?”  Hear Ali’s response here:

It’s likely you’re familiar with what happened to Emmett Till.  Twenty years before Studs interviewed Muhammad Ali, 14-year-old Till was visiting Mississippi from Chicago when he was brutally murdered for allegedly whistling at a white woman.  His murderers were acquitted and then confessed publicly.

Earlier this month, Vanity Fair ran a story about author Timothy Tyson‘s new book, The Blood of Emmett Till. In that article, Tyson revealed that the woman who was the alleged whistle-target (Carolyn Bryant Donham) has reneged what she said at the trial for Till’s murder.  The murder, and subsequent trial and acquittal, is credited by many as being the first spark – or last straw – that ignited the Civil Rights movement.

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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!

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