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 home >> Civil Rights History Project >> Survey of Collections and Repositories >> Collections >> Collection Record

The Civil Rights History Project: Survey of Collections and Repositories

Sound recordings of the Studs Terkel program on WFMT radio station

Repository: Chicago History Museum. Research Center

Collection Description (CRHP): According to the Black Metropolis Research Consortium, more than 200 interviews with African Americans are included within the Studs Terkel sound archive at the Chicago History Museum. The interviewees also include many authors and historians of books about the civil rights movement.

Collection Description (Extant): Original sound recordings of the Studs Terkel Program, broadcast on WFMT Radio, Chicago, Illinois. In most programs, Mr. Terkel interviewed one or more persons about a topic of current or historical interest and often invited the person to read, play music, or otherwise perform an excerpt from the person's work. Guests were often authors of recently published books (non-fiction or novels, short stories, or poetry), musicians and composers, political activists, social service workers, or persons discussing their own experiences relating to the topic of the day. Early programs are usually about 30 minutes in length, whereas later programs are usually about 55 minutes long. Topics of the programs include aging; creative writing; ecology and environmental pollution; educational methods; health and access to medical care; music, especially folk, jazz, opera, and classical music; Cold War politics and the dangers posed by nuclear weapons; nuclear energy; poetry; psychology and psychiatry; race relations; the concerns of young people, and the government's administration of programs to aid youth.

The great majority of these sound recordings were created by Studs Terkel in Chicago, Illinois, and broadcast by WFMT radio between the 1950s and 1999. Many sound recordings contain portions of interviews conducted outside the studio. Some of these programs contain excerpts from previous Terkel radio programs or from interviews he conducted for his books. When earlier sound recordings are re-used in a new program, Mr. Terkel often added commentary.

Origin Info: This collection was donated by Studs Terkel and WFMT (1998.0116).

Access Copy Note: Consultation of these sound recordings is possible only when a listening copy or a transcript of the recording is available. Hundreds of copies have been made. However, if a copy does not exist for a particular tape that a user wishes to consult, the user may be required to cover the cost of making the copy in order to consult it. The process of making copies or transcripts may take several weeks.

Date(s): 1950-1999

Digital Status: Partial

Existing IDs: Terkel WFMT programs

Extent: ca. 5800 sound tape reels : analog, 7 1/2 ips ; 7 in. or 10 1/2 in.

Finding Aid: All original sound recordings of the Terkel/WFMT programs are described in individual catalog records in the Research Center's online database.

Language: English

Related Archival Items: Excerpts of some sound recordings are available online at "Studs Terkel: Conversations with America" ( See especially recordings of interviews used for Terkel's 1992 book /Race/ (

Related materials at Chicago History Museum Research Center include "Studs Terkel office files from WFMT radio station." Other sound recordings of Studs Terkel's book interviews, transcripts of many of those interviews, and other papers form a collection named "Studs Terkel papers and book interviews." A commercially released set of excerpts from the WFMT programs named "Voices of our time: five decades of Studs Terkel interviews" is also available.

Interviewees: Mahalia Jackson, Harry Belafonte, Godfrey Cambridge, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Louis Armstrong, James Baldwin, Eartha Kitt, Marian Anderson, Lorraine Hansberry, Oscar Brown, Jr., Maya Angelou, Lerone Bennett, Jr., John Hope Franklin, Hoyt Fuller, Norman Thomas, Lillian Smith, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dick Gregory, Elmer Gertz, William Bradford Huie, Stokely Carmichael, Charlie Cobb, Courtland Cox, Charles V. Hamilton, Earl Caldwell, Rosa Parks, Myles Horton, Earl B. Dickerson, Will Campbell, Myra Alexander, Anne Braden, Morris Dees, John Egerton, Clifford Durr

Rights (Extant): Copyright to these sound recordings is held by the Chicago Historical Society. Reproduction, broadcast, publication or other dissemination of a sound recording or a transcript of it, in whole or in part, requires the written permission of CHS.


Chicago (Ill.)--Politics and government
Chicago (Ill.)--Race relations
Chicago (Ill.)--Social conditions
Civil rights movements--Illinois
Civil rights movements--United States--Songs and music
Civil rights--Press coverage
Medical care


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   May 15, 2015
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