Extraordinary Stories of Ordinary Life

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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 Women 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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Centenarians (Still) in Lockdown

It’s been 9 months since 107-year-old Joe Newman and 100-year-old Anita Sampson, recorded themselves for our series Hunker Down Diaries. …

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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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When Nazis Took Manhattan

In February 1939, 20,000 people gathered for a Nazi rally at Madison Square Garden. On the stage hung a banner of George Washington between two huge swastikas.

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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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Segregation Now, Segregation Forever: The Infamous Words of George Wallace

Radio Diaries tells the story behind those infamous words, and the man who delivered them.

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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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Soul Sister: The Limits of Empathy

A story about the limits of empathy. A collaboration with NPR’s Code Switch.

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March of the Bonus Army

In 1932, 20,000 WWI veterans set up a tent city in Washington. They called themselves the Bonus Army.

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The Words of Renault Robinson

Renault Robinson was one of Chicago’s few black police officers in the 1970s. When you listen to his words from the 1970s, and from 50 years later, what’s most striking is how much things haven’t changed.

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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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Love from Six Feet Apart

Part of our series Hunker Down Diaries. Wendy is an ER Doctor. Her husband is immunocompromised. During the pandemic, they are living together… six feet apart.

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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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Claudette Colvin: “History Had Me Glued To The Seat”

You know the story of Rosa Parks. But have you heard of Claudette Colvin?

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A Voicemail Valentine

Audio love letters recorded around the world in the 1930s and 40s.

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Podcast: My So-Called Lungs

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

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The Teenage Diaries Revisited Hour

A lot of life happens in 16 years.

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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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Podcast: The Press is the Enemy

50 years ago, Spiro Agnew delivered what may be the most famous speech ever given by a vice president. His message: the media is biased.

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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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The Working Tapes

In the early 1970’s, author Studs Terkel went around the country with a reel-to-reel tape recorder interviewing people about their jobs.

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Stories from a Vanishing NYC

On the Radio Diaries podcast, we pay a visit to Walter the Seltzer Man, and also remember Selma Koch, the iconic bra fitter in the Upper West Side’s Town Shop.

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Shirley Chisholm: Unbought and Unbossed

50 yrs ago, Shirley Chisholm was the first woman of color in Congress. She too was told to “go back from where you came from.”

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Podcast: The Square Deal

Some people called it “Welfare Capitalism.” George F. Johnson called it “The Square Deal.”

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Amanda’s Diary, Revisited

Amanda was our very first diarist. Her story was about being a gay teenager, with parents who were having a really hard time with the idea.

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Remembering Olivia Hooker

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

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Juan’s Diaries: Undocumented, Then and Now

This week on the podcast, listen to Juan’s diaries of living under the radar in America.

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The Working Tapes of Studs Terkel

We present a special, one hour episode of our series The Working Tapes of Studs Terkel.

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The Ski Troops of WWII

The men of the 10th Mountain Division led a series of daring assaults against the Nazis in the mountains of Italy. After returning home, many of these soldiers helped to create the modern ski industry.

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When Nazis Took Manhattan

On February 20, 1939, 20,000 American Nazis rallied at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The event was billed as a “Pro-American” rally, but it championed Hitler and fascism.

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The Border Wall

What happens when, instead of people crossing the border, the border crosses the people?

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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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Campaigning While Female

Stories of three women who launched bids to be President of the United States: Victoria Woodhull, Margaret Chase Smith, and Shirley Chisholm.

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Podcast: Matthew and the Judge

We gave Judge Jeremiah, a Rhode Island juvenile court judge, and Matthew, a 16-year-old repeat offender, tape recorders. Through their audio diaries, Matthew and the judge tell the same story from opposite sides of the bench.

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Last Witness: Mission to Hiroshima

Russell Gackenbach is the only surviving member of the crew that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. This is his story.

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Nelson Mandela At 100

Nelson Mandela would have been 100 years old this week. And we’re marking the anniversary by bringing you our documentary, Mandela: An Audio History.

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Last Witness: The General Slocum

In 1904, a steamship on its way to a church picnic sank in the East River. More than 1,000 people, many of them women and children, died in the disaster.

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Strange Fruit, Revisited

James Cameron is the only known person to have survived a lynching in America.

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Crime Pays

A program in Richmond, CA that is trying a controversial method of reducing gun violence in their city: paying criminals to not commit crimes. Sounds crazy, but the even crazier part is…it works. 

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The Green Book

A guide to “traveling while Black” during Jim Crow. A story from our friends and fellow Radiotopians at 99% Invisible.

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A Diary of Deportation

At 26-years-old, Jose William Huezo Soriano—a.k.a. Weasel—was deported back to his parents’ home country, El Salvador, a country he hadn’t seen since he was 5.

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Majd Wins Third Coast Award

To celebrate, we’re revisiting Majd’s Diary on the podcast this week.

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Juan, Live at the Moth

Juan crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, and settled with his family in Texas, right by the Rio Grande river.

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On Our Podcast: The Two Lives of Asa Carter

Asa Carter and Forrest Carter couldn’t have been more different. But they shared a secret.

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The Last Place

When you spend so much of your life getting to the next stage, thinking about the next move, what is it like to find yourself at…the Last Place? On this episode of the Radio Diaries Podcast, we bring you audio diaries from a retirement home.

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Willie McGee and the Traveling Electric Chair

Bridgette McGee is unearthing everything she can about her grandfather’s life – and his death.

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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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A Movement, a Massacre, and Mexico’s 50 Year Search for the Truth

The secret behind the 1968 massacre of students in Tlatelolco.

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The Rubber Room

Meet the teachers who are paid NOT to teach.

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The Oddest Town in America

Gibsonton, Florida: Where the Sideshow Went to Retire

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The Radio Diaries DIY Handbook

A field guide for making radio.

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Radio Diaries Live at the Moth

In a special Mother’s Day podcast, we’re bringing you Melissa’s story, as she told it live at The Moth.

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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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From Flint to Rio

How much does an Olympic gold medal really change things for a teenager in Flint? Listen to Claressa Shields’ story.

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Contenders: The ‘Veep’

Throughout American history, only 14 VPs have ever gone on to the presidency. The rest have been mostly forgotten. And not many people would remember the name Alben Barkley, except for two things: his nickname, the “Veep,” and the remarkable circumstances of his death.

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