Radio Diaries

108 EpisodesProduced by Radio Diaries & Radiotopia

First-person diaries, sound portraits, and hidden chapters of history from Peabody Award-winning producer Joe Richman and the Radio Diaries team. From teenagers to octogenarians, prisoners to prison guards, bra saleswomen to lighthouse keepers. The extraordinary stories of ordinary life. Radio Diar… read more

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Bonus Episode: Hear the World Differently

December 10th, 2018

5:33

There’s an old saying that “sound is like touch from a distance.” We think it’s a perfect metaphor for what we at Radio Diaries — and all the shows …

A Guitar, A Cello, and the Day that Changed Music

November 15th, 2018

17:14

November 23, 1936 was a good day for recorded music. Two men – an ocean apart – sat before a microphone and began to play. One was a cello prodigy who had performed for the Queen of Spain; the other played guitar and …

The Song That Crossed Party Lines

November 1st, 2018

13:31

Our country is so politically polarized these days, it’s hard to remember a time when Republicans and Democrats could agree on anything at all.

In …

Campaigning While Female

October 18th, 2018

28:43

A record-breaking number of women are running for Congress in the midterm elections this November. There are 257, dwarfing all previous years. And in 2020, we’ll likely see a record number of women running for President …

Serving Time 9-5: Diaries from Prison Guards

October 4th, 2018

24:17

Sergeant Furman Camel spent 27 years in a North Carolina Prison. That's as many years as Nelson Mandela spent behind bars. But Camel did his time, as …

Matthew and the Judge

September 20th, 2018

21:18

We gave Judge Jeremiah, a Rhode Island juvenile court judge, and Matthew, a 16-year-old repeat offender, tape recorders. Through their audio …

Prisoners of War

August 29th, 2018

22:01

During the war in Vietnam, there was a notorious American military prison on the outskirts of Saigon, called Long Binh Jail. But LBJ wasn’t for …

Last Witness: Mission to Hiroshima

August 6th, 2018

15:41

On August 6, 1945 the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. It was the first time a nuclear weapon had been used in warfare. There were three strike planes that flew over Hiroshima that …

Nelson Mandela at 100

July 17th, 2018

1:02:26

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. …

Busman’s Holiday

June 21st, 2018

21:54

The story of William Cimillo, a New York City bus driver who snapped one day in 1947 and went on a 1,300 mile detour with his bus… to Florida.

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This episode is sponsored by  Quip. _

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Last Witness: The General Slocum

June 14th, 2018

19:03

On June 15, 1904, a steamship called the General Slocum left the pier on East Third Street in New York City just after 9 AM. The boat was filled with more than 1,300 residents of the Lower East Side. Many of the …

Last Witness: Surviving the Tulsa Race Riot

May 31st, 2018

22:01

On May 31, 1921, six-year-old Olivia Hooker was home with her family when a group of white men launched an attack on the Greenwood section of Tulsa, …

Fly Girls

May 3rd, 2018

25:47

In the early 1940s, the U.S. Air Force faced a dilemma. Thousands of new airplanes were coming off assembly lines and needed to be delivered to military bases nationwide, yet most of America’s pilots were overseas …

Strange Fruit, Revisited

April 19th, 2018

18:00

Over the past few years, there’s been a movement to tear down the Confederate monuments dotted all over the south. At the same time, there are some new monuments going up. On April 26, the nation’s first lynching …

Crime Pays

April 6th, 2018

23:19

There’s a program in Richmond, CA that has a controversial method of reducing gun violence in their city: paying criminals to not commit crimes. …

The Green Book

March 22nd, 2018

20:40

The 1950s were the golden age of the American road trip. But of course freedom of movement didn’t apply to all Americans. Jim Crow was the law in the …

Deported: Weasel’s Diary

March 8th, 2018

33:31

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 …

Nine Months Before Rosa Parks

February 28th, 2018

11:45

You’ve heard of Rosa Parks, but do you know about Claudette Colvin?

On March 2, 1955, when Claudette was 15 years old, she refused to give up her …

A Voicemail Valentine

February 14th, 2018

14:26

Nowadays we’re very accustomed to recording and hearing the sound of our own voices. But in the 1930s many people were doing it for the first time. And a surprising trend began. People started sending their voices to …

The Story of Jane

January 19th, 2018

14:28

Abortion is one of the most divisive issues in American life and politics. 45 years after Roe vs. Wade – our country is still split.

It’s easy to …

The Dropped Wrench

December 23rd, 2017

40:31

Every day, we go about our lives doing thousands of routine, mundane tasks. And sometimes, we make mistakes. Human error. It happens all the time.

It just doesn’t always happen in a nuclear missile silo.

A …

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

November 21st, 2017

34:18

Majd Abdulghani is a teenager living in Saudi Arabia, one of the most restrictive countries for women in the world. She wants to be a scientist. Her …

Under the Radar

November 2nd, 2017

15:46

16 years after recording his teenage diary, Juan now lives in Colorado. He has a house, a good job, and three American kids. But…he’s still …

Juan’s Story, Live at the Moth

October 23rd, 2017

30:09

Juan crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally as a teen, and settled with his family in Texas. In 1996, he recorded an audio diary for our Teenage Diaries project. In this week’s episode, listen to Juan’s Teenage Diary, …

The Two Lives of Asa Carter

October 5th, 2017

33:02

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

The Education of Little Tree, by Forrest Carter, is an …

The Last Place

September 21st, 2017

30:31

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 in…the Last Place? In this episode, we bring you audio diaries from a retirement home.

The Working Tapes of Studs Terkel (Hour Special)

September 3rd, 2017

58:26

For Labor Day, we’re bringing you a special, one hour episode of our series The Working Tapes of Studs Terkel.

In 1974, oral historian Studs Terkel published a book with an unwieldy title: “Working: People talk about …

Willie McGee and The Traveling Electric Chair

August 17th, 2017

30:40

In 1945, Willie McGee was accused of raping a white woman. The all-white jury took less than three minutes to find him guilty and McGee was sentenced to death. Over the next six years, the case went through three trials …

Miss Subways

July 27th, 2017

10:54

Most beauty pageants promote the fantasy of the ideal woman. But for 35 years, one contest in New York City celebrated the everyday working girl.

Each month starting in 1941, a young woman was elected “Miss Subways,” …

Mexico ’68 and the Tlatelolco Massacre

June 27th, 2017

26:04

In 1968, Mexico City was preparing to host the Olympics. It was the first time that a Latin American country would host the Games, and the government …

The Rubber Room

June 2nd, 2017

31:39

The New York City public school system is huge. More than a million students, all being taught by 75,000 teachers. Except, a few hundred of those …

The Oddest Town in America

May 19th, 2017

11:30

This month, the big tent is finally coming down. After 146 years, Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey are closing the ‘Greatest Show on Earth.’ The elephants have already retired to a farm in central florida. Where …

Radio Diaries Live at the Moth

May 4th, 2017

25:45

When our friends at the storytelling show, The Moth, heard Melissa Rodriguez’s audio diary, they invited her to tell a story live on stage, in a special show in Brooklyn.

For Mother’s day, we’re bringing you Melissa’s …

The Gospel Ranger

April 13th, 2017

17:17

This is the story of a song, “Ain’t No Grave Gonna Hold My Body Down,” written by a 12-year-old boy on his deathbed. A boy who – instead of dying – …

Remembering Robben Island

March 31st, 2017

11:29

Nelson Mandela famously spent 27 years in prison for fighting against apartheid in South Africa. He was sentenced to life in 1964 for treason, along with 7 others. One of them was Ahmed Kathrada who died this week. He …

The Vietnam Tapes of Michael A. Baronowski

March 16th, 2017

24:46

In 1966, a young Marine took a reel-to-reel tape recorder with him into the Vietnam War. For two months, Michael A. Baronowski made tapes of his …

Weasel’s Diary, Revisited

March 2nd, 2017

34:06

An estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants live in the United States. Over the past month, the Trump Administration has unveiled plans to arrest and deport large numbers of them. Under Obama, close to 3 million …

The Last Civil War Widows

February 13th, 2017

13:43

Daisy Anderson and Alberta Martin lived what seemed like parallel lives. Both had grown up poor, children of sharecroppers in the South. Daisy in Tennessee; Alberta in Alabama. Both women got married in their early …

The Border Wall (Updated)

February 2nd, 2017

16:37

One week into his Presidency, Donald Trump signed an executive order to begin building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Trump says it will be, “an …

Strange Fruit (Updated)

January 19th, 2017

18:13

Finding artists willing to perform at Donald Trump’s inauguration proved harder than expected. Elton John, Celine Dion, Garth Brooks, Ice-T, and Kiss were among those reportedly invited. They all declined. Then there …

Busman’s Holiday

December 20th, 2016

20:26

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 …

The Working Tapes – Part 4

December 6th, 2016

12:13

March of the Bonus Army

November 22nd, 2016

16:54

Author James Baldwin once wrote, “I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason: I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

Criticism — and dissent — are patriotic. In …

The Song that Crossed Party Lines

November 4th, 2016

15:36

This election season, our country seems more politically divided than ever. The race has been so ugly that it’s hard to even imagine a time when …

The Working Tapes – Part 3

October 25th, 2016

18:18

A private eye, a jockey, a hotel piano player….voices from 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 for …

The Working Tapes – Part 2

October 12th, 2016

18:53

A Chicago police officer, a female advertising executive, a gravedigger……voices from The Working Tapes.

In the early 1970’s, author Studs Terkel …

The Working Tapes – Part 1

September 30th, 2016

17:39

An auto union worker, a switchboard telephone operator, a press agent…

The Working Tapes – A Preview

September 24th, 2016

12:43

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

The result …

From Flint to Rio

July 27th, 2016

26:14

2012 marked the first year that women boxers were allowed to compete in the Summer Olympics. Our audio diary followed Claressa Shields, a 17-year-old …

Contenders: The Veep

July 14th, 2016

11:21

Harry S. Truman once wrote that the President of the United States is a “glorified public relations man who spends his time flattering, kissing and kicking people to get them to do what they are supposed to do anyway.”

Contenders: Say it Like You Mean it

July 7th, 2016

20:14

Throughout American history, one of the most important job qualifications for the office of President has been knowing how to talk. You have to be …

Contenders: Women Who Fought for the White House

June 24th, 2016

28:04

If Hillary Clinton wins in November, she will become the first female President in American history. But she is not the first woman to seek this office. Today, we look back at three of the most groundbreaking female …

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

June 1st, 2016

33:15

Majd Abdulghani is a teenager living in Saudi Arabia, one of the most restrictive countries for women in the world. She wants to be a scientist. Her …

A Mother, Then and Now

April 28th, 2016

41:51

In celebration of Mother’s Day and Radio Diaries’ 20th anniversary this month, we’re revisiting Melissa’s story. As an 18 year old, Melissa recorded …

Radio Diaries Turns 20!

April 8th, 2016

21:30

20 years ago, NPR’s All Things Considered began running our occasional series, Teenage Diaries… which then grew up to become Radio Diaries. Today on the podcast, we check in with our very first diarist, Amanda Brand.

The Man in the Zoo

March 25th, 2016

12:51

In 1906, New York’s Bronx Zoo was the largest zoo in the world. That year, the zoo introduced a new exhibit that would quickly became its most …

Claudette Colvin: “A Teenage Rosa Parks”

March 2nd, 2016

11:45

Nine months before Rosa Parks, a 15-year-old girl refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a segregated bus in Montgomery, AL.

Identical Strangers

February 18th, 2016

17:35

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 …

Frankie’s Second Chance (Updated)

February 5th, 2016

30:34

As a teenager, Frankie was a high school football star whose picture was in his hometown newspaper every week. Years after graduating, Frankie was …

Friday Night Lights

January 22nd, 2016

18:44

“In the seventh grade, I was real little, probably weighed 75 pounds. Everybody used to pick on me all the time. They picked on me and beat the crap out of me everyday…Then one day, my ninth grade year, I decided to …

The Ski Troops of WWII

January 7th, 2016

24:14

The 10th Mountain Division fought in World War II for only four months, but it had one of the highest casualty rates of the war. The division started out as an experiment to train skiers and climbers to fight in the …

From Prison to President

December 24th, 2015

20:04

Four years after Nelson Mandela was released from prison, he became president of South Africa. And yet, those 4 years were among the bloodiest and …

The Last Place

December 3rd, 2015

30:31

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 …

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

November 19th, 2015

17:10

November 23, 1936 was a good day for recorded music. Two men – an ocean apart – sat before a microphone and began to play. One was a cello prodigy who had performed for the Queen of Spain; the other played guitar and …

The Story of ‘Ballad for Americans’

November 5th, 2015

13:09

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

Serving 9-5: Diaries from Prison Guards

October 22nd, 2015

24:03

Polk Youth Institution in Butner, North Carolina is a prison for young men between the ages of 19-25. For our series Prison Diaries, I gave tape …

The Man Who Put the ‘P’ in NPR

October 8th, 2015

21:46

One of the best mission statements we’ve ever read is the original NPR mission, which was written in 1969 by Bill Siemering. Bill is an amazing guy who, at the age of 80, continues to help create radio stations and …

Crime Pays

September 11th, 2015

22:10

This month’s podcast is about what it takes to get people to change. We focus on a group of people that might be the hardest to change – or at least they’ve had the most money thrown at them in hopes of change: …

Strange Fruit

August 6th, 2015

17:05

“Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck, for the rain to gather, for the wind to suck, for the sun to rot, for a tree to drop. Here is a strange and …

Mandela’s Prison Years

July 9th, 2015

17:51

While Mandela and other political leaders languished in prison, the government cracked down. It seemed that resistance to apartheid had been crushed. …

A Visit to the Memory Palace

June 18th, 2015

11:50

Big, happy announcement: The Memory Palace is the newest member of Radiotopia!

To celebrate, we bring you an episode from The Memory Palace, by Nate DiMeo. It’s the story of Guglielmo Marconi, sometimes called the …

Matthew and the Judge

June 5th, 2015

20:05

We gave both Judge Jeremiah, a Rhode Island juvenile court judge, and Matthew, a 16-year-old repeat offender, tape recorders. Judge Jeremiah released …

Seeing the Forrest Through the Little Trees

May 22nd, 2015

33:02

The Education of Little Tree is an iconic best-selling book, with a message about living in harmony with nature, and compassion for people of all kinds. But there’s a very different story behind the book. It begins with …

The Traveling Electric Chair

May 7th, 2015

30:40

Bridgette McGee grew up knowing nothing about her grandfather, Willie McGee. Now she is on a quest to unearth everything she can about his life – and his death.

In 1945, Willie McGee was accused of raping a white …

From Bullets to Balance Sheets

April 25th, 2015

10:55

As a teenager, Kamari Ridgle was a drug dealer and drive-by shooter until a near-death experience led him to his true love…accounting.

Let us know what you think of the Radio Diaries Podcast. Take this 5-minute survey …

The Square Deal

April 2nd, 2015

18:38

When George F. Johnson died, the nation witnessed one of the largest funerals in U.S. history. What did Johnson do? He made shoes. Lots of them. 100 years ago, the Endicott Johnson Corporation, headquartered in upstate …

Fly Girls

March 19th, 2015

25:09

In the early 1940s, the US Airforce faced a dilemma. Thousands of new airplanes were coming off assembly lines and needed to be delivered to military bases nationwide, yet most of America’s pilots were overseas fighting …

Claudette Colvin – A “Teenage Rosa Parks”

March 5th, 2015

11:45

What makes a hero? Why do we remember some stories and not others?

Consider Claudette Colvin. She was a 15-year-old girl in the segregated city of …

First Kiss

February 12th, 2015

20:39

Josh Cutler has Tourette’s syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes uncontrollable tics and involuntary verbal outbursts. In this episode, …

The Greatest Songwriter You’ve Never Heard Of

February 3rd, 2015

17:20

You probably don’t know her name, but you definitely know her songs. Rose Marie McCoy passed away recently at the age of 92. On this episode of the Radio Diaries Podcast, we’re remembering Rose and her music.

George Wallace and the Legacy of a Sentence

January 23rd, 2015

12:52

If you’ve seen the movie Selma, our new podcast features two people who are important characters in the film: Representative John Lewis, the civil rights leader who was brutally beaten while crossing the Edmund Pettus …

The View from the 79th Floor

January 8th, 2015

16:39

On July 28, 1945 an Army bomber pilot on a routine ferry mission found himself lost in the fog over Manhattan. A dictation machine in a nearby office …

Miss Subways

December 22nd, 2014

10:56

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

Each month starting in 1941, a young woman was elected “Miss Subways,” and …

Last Man on the Mountain – Updated

December 11th, 2014

16:23

A few years ago, we produced a story about the greatest underdog we’d ever met: Jimmy Weekley.

Jimmy was the last remaining resident of Pigeonroost …

Busman’s Holiday

November 13th, 2014

20:07

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 …

Weasel’s Diary, Revisited

November 7th, 2014

34:12

Jose William Huezo Soriano – aka Weasel – is a 26-year-old Los Angeles resident who gets deported to his parents’ home country of El Salvador, which …

When Ground Zero was Radio Row

October 17th, 2014

16:24

For more than four decades, the area around Cortlandt Street in lower Manhattan was the largest collection of radio and electronics stores in the …

When Borders Move

October 6th, 2014

15:55

What happens when, instead of people crossing the border, the border crosses the people? In this episode of the Radio Diaries Podcast, two stories from the U.S.-Mexico border.

Working, Then and Now

September 1st, 2014

14:42

In the early 1970s, radio host and oral historian Studs Terkel went around the country, tape recorder in hand, interviewing people about their jobs. …

Strange Fruit – Voices of a Lynching

August 25th, 2014

17:05

The images coming out of Ferguson, MO this summer have reminded us of another upsetting image of race in America. It’s a photograph that was taken just a few hours from Ferguson, but eight decades ago…and it inspired …

The Gospel Ranger

July 17th, 2014

17:11

This is the story of a song, “Ain’t No Grave Gonna Hold My Body Down,” written by a 12-year-old boy on his deathbed. A boy who – instead of dying – …

“Halfrican” Revisited

June 23rd, 2014

21:32

When Jeff Rogers was 16 years old he started referring to himself as a “halfrican.” Jeff has a black father and a white mother. And like many …

Walter the Seltzerman – It’s Not Easy Being Last

June 2nd, 2014

14:57

Back in 1919, Walter Backerman’s grandfather delivered seltzer by horse and wagon on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Today, Walter continues to deliver seltzer around the streets of New York. Some customers, like Mildred …

Video Podcast: Help Kickstart Our New Season

May 28th, 2014

2:30

Check out our Kickstarter video. (Ira Glass has a cameo!) If we reach our goal, we will bring you a new season of Radio Diaries starting in September 2014. We’ll also be putting out the Radio Diaries Podcast twice as …

The Long Shadow of Forrest Carter

May 12th, 2014

18:19

Asa Carter was a speechwriter for Alabama Governor George Wallace. He penned one of the most infamous speeches of the era… Wallace’s Segregation Now, Segregation Forever address. Forrest Carter was a Cherokee writer who …

The Day Nelson Mandela Became Nelson Mandela

April 20th, 2014

19:50

The moment Nelson Mandela really became Nelson Mandela was on April 20th, 1964 – fifty years ago today. It happened when he stood up in a stuffy South African courtroom and gave a speech.

50 years is a long time. It’s …

Frankie’s Teenage Diary, Revisited

March 20th, 2014

32:21

As a teenager, Frankie Lewchuck recorded an audio diary about his family in rural Alabama. 16 years later, he recorded a follow up story for the …

Willie McGee and the Traveling Electric Chair

February 18th, 2014

30:40

On the night of May 7th, 1951, in the small town of Laurel, Mississippi, close to a thousand people gathered around the courthouse. They came to witness an execution. Willie McGee was a young black man who had been …

Teenage Diaries Revisited 1-Hour Special

January 13th, 2014

58:48

Back in the 1990s, Radio Diaries producer Joe Richman gave tape recorders to a handful of teens and asked them to report on their own lives. Now, 16 …

A Guitar, A Cello, and the Day that Changed Music

December 20th, 2013

17:10

What would it sound like if one of the world’s greatest classical cellists, and the most legendary blues guitarist of all time…jammed together?

Mandela: An Audio History

December 5th, 2013

1:01:05

An award-winning radio series documenting the struggle against apartheid through intimate first-person accounts of Nelson Mandela himself, as well as those who fought with him, and against him. Hosted by Archbishop …

The Last Man on the Mountain

November 14th, 2013

17:15

In the 1990s, Arch Coal began mountaintop removal mining in a corner of West Virginia called Pigeonroost Hollow. There used to be dozens of houses in …

The View From the 79th Floor

October 16th, 2013

16:39

On July 28, 1945 an army bomber pilot on a routine ferry mission found himself lost in the fog over Manhattan. Stories from the day a plane crashed …

Teenage Diaries Revisited: Juan

August 19th, 2013

31:39

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 …

Burma ’88: Buried History

August 8th, 2013

15:43

25 years ago, university students in Burma sparked a countrywide uprising. They called for a nationwide strike on 8/8/88, a date they chose for its …

Teenage Diaries Revisited: Melissa

June 12th, 2013

42:16

As an 18-year-old raised in the foster care system, Melissa took NPR listeners along when she gave birth to her son Issaiah. Over the past 16 years …

Teenage Diaries Revisited: Josh

May 30th, 2013

42:38

In high school, Josh documented his life with Tourette’s Syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes uncontrollable tics and involuntary verbal …

Teenage Diaries Revisited: Amanda

May 17th, 2013

19:55

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. 16 years later, Amanda goes back to her parents to find …

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