Extraordinary Stories of Ordinary Life

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A Guitar, A Cello and the Day that Changed Music

November 23, 1936 was a good day for recorded music. Two men – an ocean apart – sat before a …

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Banging on the Door: The Election of 1872

The 1872 election echoed the current American political climate in several ways. For one, the Republican Party was in danger …

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The Square Deal

In the early 20th century, George F. Johnson ran the biggest shoe factory in the world: The Endicott-Johnson Corporation in …

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The Massacre at Tlatelolco

In October 1968, Mexico was preparing to host the Olympics. It was a big moment for the country, as this …

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Guest Spotlight: Ear Hustle

The season premiere of Ear Hustle season 10. A beautiful exploration of the 5 senses behind bars.

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The Longest Game

In the spring of 1981, the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Red Wings met for a minor league game …

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Rumble Strip: Finn and the Bell

This is a story from the Rumble Strip podcast. It’s about a boy named Finn Rooney who loved to fish and play baseball, and about what happens to a small Vermont community as it staggers forward after an unspeakable tragedy.

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The Almost Astronaut

In an attempt to beat the Soviet Union in the space race, the Kennedy administration enlisted Air Force captain Ed Dwight to enter the astronaut training program as its first Black trainee.

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The General Slocum

On June 15, 1904, a steamship called the General Slocum left the pier on East Third Street in New York …

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The End of Smallpox

Rahima Banu holds a remarkable place in history, as the last known person in the world to be infected with smallpox. This week on the RadioDiaries podcast, the story behind a global effort to eradicate the deadly virus.

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The Story of Jane

The story of an underground abortion service that operated pre-Roe vs. Wade.

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The Greatest Songwriter You’ve Never Heard Of

You probably don’t know her name, but you definitely know her songs. Rose Marie McCoy was the woman behind smash hits by Tina Turner, Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin and more – but most people have never heard of her.

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Identical Strangers

Paula Bernstein and Elyse Schein met for the first time when they were 35 years old and found they were “identical strangers.”

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Sofia’s Choice: A Ukrainian Diary

Sofia’s mother Vita was living in Kharkiv, Ukraine when Russian forces invaded. The family is now faced with an difficult choice.

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The Forgotten Story of Clinton Melton

Earlier this month, the Senate unanimously passed legislation that would make lynching a federal hate crime. The new Emmett Till …

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Claudette Colvin: Making Trouble Then and Now

Claudette Colvin grew up in Montgomery, Alabama. On March 2, 1955, she refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a crowded bus, violating the city’s segregation laws. The bus driver called the police, but Colvin refused to move.

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A Voicemail Valentine

Nowadays, we’re very accustomed to recording and hearing the sound of our own voices. But in the 1930s, many people …

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Diary of a Saudi Girl: Then & Now

We’re bringing you a new conversation from one of our favorite diarists, Majd Abdulghani. When we first met Majd, she …

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A Museum of Sound

Thanks to the Music Modernization Act, tens of thousands of recordings made before 1923 will enter the public domain for the very first time on January 1, 2022.

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A Real Life West Side Story

A new movie version of West Side Story is hitting theaters this week. The musical, which tells a story of …

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A Guitar, A Cello, and The Day That Changed Music

85 years ago, Pablo Casals and Robert Johnson both made recordings that would change music history.

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A Wrench in the Works

On September 18, 1980, a technician dropped a wrench in a missile silo in Damascus, Arkansas. This is the story of an accident that nearly wiped out a giant portion of the midwest.

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My Iron Lung

On June 8, 1953, five-year-old Martha Lillard contracted polio. She spent six months in the hospital, where she was put …

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When Borders Move

The Rio Grande has long marked the boundary between the U.S. and Mexico. But rivers can move. What happens when — instead of the people crossing the border — the border crosses the people.

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The Two Lives of Asa Carter

Former Klansman Asa Carter was a segregationist speechwriter for Alabama Governor George Wallace. He most infamously penned the words ”segregation …

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When Ground Zero was Radio Row

When City Radio opened on New York City’s Cortlandt Street in 1921, radio was a novelty. Over the next few decades, hundreds of stores popped up in the neighborhood: Leotone Radio, Cantor the Cabinet King, and Blan the Radio Man.

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Last Witness: The Kerner Commission

Former Senator Oklahoma Fred Harris is the last surviving member of the Kerner Commission, a group appointed by President Lyndon Johnson to investigate the root causes of the violence and civil unrest that swept the nation in the late ’60s.

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Prisoners of War

During the war in Vietnam, there was a notorious American military prison on the outskirts of Saigon called Long Binh …

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The Gospel Ranger

The Unlikely Musical Legacy of Brother Claude Ely.

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The Rise and Fall of Black Swan Records

The story of the first major black-owned record label and the mystery behind the man who created it.

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From the Archive: Josh’s Diary

Twenty-five years ago, Josh Cutler was a 16-year old living with Tourette’s Syndrome, a neurological condition that often causes physical and verbal tics.

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The Tulsa Race Massacre, 100 Years Later

Olivia Hooker was one of the last surviving witnesses to the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921.

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Juan, 25 Years Later

25 years after recording his first audio diary, Juan is now on the verge of getting his green card.

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25 Years of Radio Diaries

This week marks 25 years of Radio Diaries! On the podcast, we bring you an update on our very first diarist.

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Busman’s Holiday

In 1947, a NYC bus driver took an impromptu 1,300-mile road trip in his municipal bus.

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The Last Place

Audio diaries from inside a retirement home in Evanston, Illinois. Stories of love, life, and loneliness.

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Fly Girls, the Women Airforce Service Pilots of WWII

In the early 1940s, the government launched an experimental program to train women pilots. They were known as the WASPs, the Women Airforce Service Pilots.

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Burma ’88: Buried History

On August 8, 1988, university students in Burma sparked an uprising against the military dictatorship.

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Living with Dying

On Valentine’s Day 2020, Peter Fodera’s heart broke. He nearly died. Peter sat down with his daughter who knows a thing or two about death.

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Teen Contender: Then & Now

16-year-old Claressa Shields recorded an audio diary as she fought to make it on the first ever women’s Olympic boxing team. Nearly 10 years later, we bring you an update.

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America Vs. America

On March 1, 1954, four young Puerto Rican New Yorkers launched on attack on the U.S. Capitol.

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Love from Six Feet Apart (Revisited)

Checking in on two Hunker Down Diaries: the couple social distancing under the same roof. And a dispatch from the pizzeria.

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Love at First Quarantine, The Sequel

Eight months ago, Gali and Joshua decided to quarantine together after their very first date. Today, we’re checking back in.

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How to Lose an Election: A History

In every U.S. presidential election since 1896, the losing candidate has given a concession speech.

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Centenarians in Lockdown

Winner of the 2020 Third Coast Festival Award! Joe Newman is 107 years old. He recorded himself and his fiancé, Anita Sampson on her 100th birthday.

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The Forgotten Story of Clinton Melton

Emmett Till’s murder is considered the spark that ignited a burgeoning Civil Rights movement. But there was another brazen murder of a Black man that happened just three months later, in a neighboring town in the Delta.

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The Final Frontline

Fourth generation funeral directors reflect on their experience of the coronavirus pandemic and prepare for a second wave.

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Quarantined in the Pizzeria

COVID-19 has forced many families to improvise childcare. For some, it’s been like a four month long ‘bring your child to work’ day.

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Lockdown in Lockup

Moe Monsuri shares his experience of the pandemic from behind bars at Sing Sing prison. Part of our new series Hunker Down Diaries.

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Home is Where You Park Your Mini Van

As the pandemic hit, Naida Lavon found herself without a home and without a job. Part of our Hunker Down Diaries series.

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Love at First Quarantine

Gali and Joshua made the surprising decision to quarantine together, after their very first date. Part of our series Hunker Down Diaries.

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Busman’s Holiday

The story of William Cimillo, a New York City bus driver who snapped one day in 1947, left his regular route in the Bronx, and drove his municipal bus down to Florida.

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Thembi’s AIDS Diary

Thembi Ngubane carried a tape recorder from 2004 to 2005 to document her life. She was willing to speak out at a time when very few South Africans were willing to say, “I have AIDS.”

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The View From the 79th Floor

On the Radio Diaries Podcast, we tell the story of the plane that crashed into the Empire State Building.

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The Dropped Wrench

Sometimes we make mistakes. They just don’t always happen in a nuclear missile silo. This story was produced in collaboration with This American Life.

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Prisoners Of War

During the war in Vietnam, there was a notorious American prison on the outskirts of Saigon…a prison for American soldiers.

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A Guitar, A Cello, and The Day That Changed Music

November 23, 1936, was a very good day for recorded music.

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Ballad for Americans

How a ten minute operatic folk cantata managed to unite Democrats, Republicans and Communists.

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Miss Subways

Beauty pageants promote the fantasy of the ideal woman. But for 35 years, the Miss Subways contest in New York City celebrated the everyday working girl.

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The Gospel Ranger

Outside the Appalachian mountains, his name was barely known. But Brother Claude Ely influenced some of the pioneers of rock & roll.

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Remembering Robben Island

Anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada served more than 2 decades in prison alongside Nelson Mandela. Kathrada died this week, at the age of 87.

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The Vietnam Tapes of Michael A. Baronowski

In 1966, a young Marine took a reel-to-reel tape recorder with him into the Vietnam War.

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The Last Civil War Widows

Daisy Anderson and Alberta Martin were two of the last surviving Civil War widows.

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Strange Fruit and the Inauguration

British Singer Rebecca Ferguson wanted to sing Strange Fruit at Donald Trump’s Inauguration. This is the story behind the song.

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The March to Washington (1932 Edition)

In 1932, in the midst of the Great Depression, a group of World War I veterans set up an encampment in Washington D.C. vowing to stay until their voices were heard.

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Majd’s Diary: Two Years in the Life of a Saudi Girl

Majd wants to be a scientist. Her family wants to arrange her marriage.

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The Man Who Put the ‘P’ in NPR

In this golden age of podcasting, a conversation about the past and future of public radio with the author of the original NPR mission statement.

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Seeing the Forrest Through the Little Trees

On the Radio Diaries Podcast, the true story behind the untrue story of The Education of Little Tree.

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New Podcast: Weasel’s Diary, Revisited

We check in with Jose William Huezo Soriano – aka Weasel – 15 years after he recorded his audio diary about being deported to El Salvador.

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The Chamizal: A Town Between Borders

When the U.S. and Mexico chose the Rio Grande as an international border, they didn’t expect the river to move.

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Frankie: 16 Years Later

As a teenager, Frankie recorded his life as a high school football star. 16 years later and with a baby on the way, he shares his struggle with drug addiction.

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Josh: 16 Years Later

In high school, Josh documented his life with Tourette’s Syndrome. 16 years later, Josh records a new diary about trying to live a normal adult life with a brain that often betrays him.

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Amanda: 16 Years Later

At the age of 17, Amanda knew she was gay. But her parents kept insisting she’d grow out of it. Today, a lot has changed in the country, and within her own family. In her new story, Amanda goes back to her parents to find out how they came to accept having a daughter who is gay.

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Melissa: 16 Years Later

As an 18 year old raised in the foster care system, Melissa took NPR listeners along when she gave birth to her son Issaiah. Sixteen years later she chronicles her life as a working single mother.

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Juan: 16 Years Later

16 years ago, Juan reported on his life as a recent Mexican immigrant living in poverty in Texas. In his new diary, Juan takes us on a tour of the life he has built since he first crossed the Rio Grande. It looks a lot like the typical American dream: a house, 2 cars, 3 kids—except for the fact he’s still living illegally in the U.S.

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Thembi’s AIDS Diary

Thembi Ngubane was willing to stand up and speak out at a time when few South Africans were willing to say, “I have AIDS.”

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The Gospel Ranger

Outside the Appalachian mountains, his name was barely known. But Claude Ely influenced some of the pioneers of rock & roll.

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The Last Man on the Mountain

In the 1990s, Arch Coal began mining Pigeonroost Hollow. Now Jimmy Weekley is the last person left there.

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Becoming Nelson Mandela

Mandela was a lawyer, freedom fighter, leader of the African National Congress, and finally, president.

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Soweto 1976

On June 16th, 1976, in South Africa, a group of school children in the black township of Soweto held a protest and changed the course of a nation.

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The Pygmy in the Zoo

On September 8th, 1906, New York’s Bronx Zoo unveiled a new exhibit that would attract thousands of visitors. Inside a cage, in the monkey house, was a man.

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West Side Story: Michael Farmer and the Murder that Shocked New York

More than fifty years ago, Puerto Rican and black gang members in New York City fatally stabbed Michael Farmer, a white teenager.

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Identical Strangers

Paula Bernstein and Elyse Schein were both born in New York City and adopted as infants. When they were 35-years-old, they met, and found they were “identical strangers.”

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Adlai Stevenson: A Candidate in the Age of Television

The 1952 presidential campaign pitted the popular General Dwight D. Eisenhower against the intensely private Adlai Stevenson. It was an election fought on a new battleground: television.

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Selma Koch, Bra Saleswoman

94-year old Selma Koch runs the Town Shop, one of New York’s last old-style bra fitting shops.

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Walter Backerman, Seltzer Man

Once there were thousands of seltzer men in New York City. Today, Walter Backerman is one of the last.

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The WASPs: Women Pilots of WWII

In the early 1940s, the government launched an experimental program to train women pilots. They were known as the WASPs, the Women Airforce Service Pilots.

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The Last Place: Diary of a Retirement Home

A group of residents of The Presbyterian Home use tape recorders to document their lives.

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My So-Called Lungs

Laura Rothenberg tried to live a normal life, with lungs that betrayed her and the awareness that she might not live to see her 30th birthday.

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Going Home: Cristel’s Diary

At 15, Cristel attacked a classmate with a razor blade. After 3 years of incarceration, she’s being released.

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Matthew and the Judge: Juvenile Court Diary

Through their diaries, Matthew and Judge Jeremiah tell the same story from two different sides of the bench.

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Amanda’s Diary: Girlfriend

Amanda is gay. Amanda’s family is Catholic. And she’s having a hard time convincing her parents that this is not “just a phase.”

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Josh’s Diaries: Tourette’s

Josh has Tourette’s Syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes uncontrollable tics and involuntary verbal outbursts.

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Melissa’s Diaries: Teen Mom

Melissa never meant to get pregnant. But now, after 12 years of living in the foster care system, she’s trying to build the family she never had.

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