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Working, Then and Now

Studs Terkel

50 years ago, in 1974, oral historian Studs Terkel published a book with an unwieldy title: “Working: People talk about what they do all day and how they feel about what they do.” This collective portrait of America was based on more than a hundred interviews Studs did around the country. And after “Working” came out, something surprising happened. It became a bestseller. It even inspired a Broadway musical. Something about ordinary people talking about their daily lives, struck a cord. Studs recorded all of his interviews on a reel-to-reel tape recorder, but after the book came out the tapes were packed away in boxes and few have ever been heard. In 2015, we and Jane Saks of Project& got access to the tape. We tracked down some of the people Terkel interviewed and created a series called Working, Then and Now. 50 years later, it’s interesting to hear how much some jobs have changed — or disappeared entirely. This week on the podcast, we present an hour-long special of the series: Working, Then and Now. 


The Working Tapes of Studs Terkel is a co-production of Radio Diaries and Project&. This series is a part of the larger initiative Working in America, which has an exhibit featuring images from Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Lynsey Addario traveling the country right now.
Find out more at working.org.

The Working Tapes is produced by Joe Richman, Jane M. Saks, Nellie Gilles, and Sarah Kate Kramer. The editors are Deborah George and Ben Shapiro. Thanks to the Studs Terkel Archive at WFMT, the Chicago History Museum, Sydney Lewis, NPR’s Franklyn Cater, Chris Turpin and Matt Ozug, and The New Press (where you can find all of Studs Terkel’s books.)

Support for this project comes from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowments for the Arts, the New York Council on the Arts, The Ford Foundation, and the Hitachi Foundation.


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