PRX and Radiotopia Listens for Black History Month
This Black History Month, take a journey through American history with PRX and Radiotopia shows. Featuring everything from colonial history to modern day, hear stories of black men, women and children who have helped to shape our country — and the ways race relations shaped their experiences, too.
The Memory Palace, “Open Road”
The cover of the 1948 edition of the Negro Motorist Green Book features a drawing of a dapper gentleman with a woman standing next to him, her hair curled under her Sunday-best hat. The two of them are going to take a trip across the country in the car they own, avoiding racism and segregation with the Green Book.
Sidedoor, “This One’s for Dilla”
Even if you’ve never heard his name, you’ve probably heard his sound. J Dilla was a prolific hip-hop artist who collaborated with many hip-hop greats. In this episode, the story of J Dilla’s life and legacy, told via those who knew him best and some surprising objects on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Radio Diaries, “Strange Fruit”
British singer Rebecca Ferguson said she would consider performing at Donald Trump’s inauguration if she were allowed to sing the song “Strange Fruit.” On this episode: the story behind the song. It begins with three men in a jail cell in Marion, Indiana. It ends with two deaths, one life spared and a photograph that has become the most iconic image of lynching in America. (Content warning: this story contains disturbing and graphic descriptions of the lynching.)
Reveal, “Voting Rights — and Wrongs”
The 2016 presidential election was the first since the Supreme Court struck down voter rights protections that had been in place since the Civil Rights Era. Since that 2013 decision, states across the country have rushed to pass new laws that make it harder to vote. Reveal examines whether these laws are fighting fraud or simply keeping people of color from voting.
99% Invisible, “Soul City”
In the late 1960s, a civil rights leader named Floyd B. McKissick, at one time the head of the Congress on Racial Equality proposed an idea for a new town. He would call it Soul City, and it would be built for and by black people — a land of black opportunity in rural North Carolina. McKissick imagined that Soul City would attract black families wanting to get out of northern ghettos.
Out of the Blocks, “Out of the Blocks with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra”
Out of the Blocks collaborated with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra for a special concert series. The concerts featured Baltimore teenagers sharing beautiful, honest stories about their lives. Wendel Patrick composed original scores for each story. And the BSO performed Wendel’s scores live, while the stories aired on the sound system in the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.
Love + Radio, “The Silver Dollar”
Daryl Davis is a boogie woogie pianist who’s played with Bill Clinton, Bruce Hornsby and Chuck Berry. That’s his profession. But extreme racism is his obsession. Davis wrote a book about his experiences with the Klan, called Klan-Destine Relationships.
On Being with Krista Tippet, “Ta-Nehisi Coates — Imagining a New America”
Ta-Nehisi Coates is a poetic journalist and a defining voice of our times. He spoke with Krista as part of the 2017 Chicago Humanities Festival before an audience of over 1,500 people, black and white, young and old.
The Memory Palace, “Notes on a Plaque, Still Imagined”
This episode was re-released in April 2017, when the city of New Orleans began the process of removing four monuments to the confederacy and post-Civil War era — starting with an obelisk erected in 1891 honoring members of the Crescent City White League, who suppressed the black vote through violence and intimidation.
How to Be Amazing with Michael Ian Black, “Baratunde Thurston”
Baratunde Thurston grew up in a poor, drug-plagued neighborhood in D.C., then spent years in the elite private school Sidwell Friends before being accepted at Harvard. Having straddled these two worlds, Thurston was perfectly positioned to write the book on race in America, the New York Times bestseller How to Be Black.
The Memory Palace, “Hercules”
Hercules was a real, live man. His name shows up in tax records among a list of taxable property. In a census of slaves conducted in 1787, he is listed as a cook. He is mentioned in a handful of diaries and letters. There is a portrait that people think is him. And the reason we have all this evidence that Hercules was real is that George Washington owned him.
The Kitchen Sisters Present, “Black Chef, White House: African American Cooks in the President’s Kitchen”
Hidden Kitchens turns its focus on the president’s kitchen and some of the first cooks to feed the Founding Fathers — Hercules and James Hemings — the enslaved chefs of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. These stories begin a long connection of presidents and their African-American cooks, including the story of Zephyr Wright, President Lyndon Johnson’s cook.
Reveal, “Al Letson Reveals: The Color of Feminism”
From women’s 19th-century fight for the right to vote to the Women’s March this year, racism has affected feminist movements. In this podcast special, Al Letson recalls the #BlackWomenAtWork stories that went viral last spring and talks with Kimberly Foster, the founder of For Harriet and a very frank video commentator, about her dream to “bring down the system.”
The Memory Palace, “The Wheel”
Robert Smalls and his seven men could just take the boat. They could. They’d have to be fast, getting to safety before anyone noticed there were no white faces onboard. But they could just take the boat. Hear the story of a daring escape from slavery at the height of the Civil War, and how that escape led to a seat in Congress.
Us & Them, “Community and Cops Talking Across the Divide”
High-profile confrontations between African-Americans and police officers have fueled tensions across the country. West Virginia is not a place where people are comfortable talking about these things. But in Trey’s hometown of Charleston, some of the key players are now bringing this tension out into the open.
Radio Diaries, “Claudette Colvin — A ‘Teenage Rosa Parks’ ”
Why do we remember some stories and not others? Claudette Colvin was a 15-year-old girl in segregated Montgomery, Alabama. On March 2, 1955, she refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger. Nine months later, Rosa Parks did the same thing. Parks became a symbol of the civil rights movement. But Claudette Colvin has largely been left out of the history books.
Us & Them, “Confederate Reckoning: When Will the Civil War End?”
The tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the summer made Us & Them wonder if it’s possible to reconcile different versions of history. This episode features two American foreign correspondents of color who’ve sought to answer this quandary. They fly from Kenya to New Orleans to report on the angry protests over the dismantling of Confederate monuments.
Ear Hustle, “Unwritten”
The color of your skin influences your life in prison, from sharing food to celebrating birthdays. Meet Andrew Sabatino (Drew Down) and Arthur Snowden (AR), two guys whose close friendship often challenges the unwritten rules of race relations on the inside.
How to Be Amazing with Michael Ian Black, “DeRay Mckesson”
Michael talks social justice and activism with the former teacher and current civil rights activist and organizer who has become one of the best-known faces and voices and vests of the Black Lives Matter movement. He’s one of the architects of Campaign Zero, a policy prescriptive designed to reduce police violence, and the host of the popular podcast “Pod Save the People.”
99% Invisible, “Dollhouses of St. Louis”
Back in the 1950s, St. Louis was segregated, and The Ville was one of the only African-American neighborhoods in the city. The community was prosperous. Black-owned businesses thrived and the neighborhood was filled with the lovely, ornate brick homes the city has become famous for.
Sidedoor, “Enslaved and Muslim in Early America”
Today, the U.S. population is about 1 percent Muslim, but in the late 1700s that number was likely closer to 5 percent. Who were these early Muslim Americans, and why didn’t we all learn about them in school? In this episode, the search for American history’s missing Muslims and the autobiography of Omar ibn Said, an enslaved Muslim man in North Carolina.
The Memory Palace, “In Line”
If you were black and you went to the Monroe County Courthouse in Canton, Mississippi, to register to vote in 1964 — and 72 percent of the population of the county was black — you had to pass a complicated literacy test. Hear the story of 265 black men and women who waited in line on one day in 1964 to try to gain the right to cast their ballots.
Us & Them, “Shack! — A Civil Rights Story”
At a time when the president of the United States questions the patriotism of African-American football players protesting social injustice, Us & Them presents the civil rights struggle of another African American who, nearly 50 years ago, broke a color barrier in the NFL — James “Shack” Harris, the first black player in history of NFL to earn a job as starting quarterback.
Criminal, “In Plain Sight”
In 1849, abolitionist and attorney Wendell Phillips wrote: “We should look in vain through the most trying times of our revolutionary history for an incident of courage and noble daring to equal that of the escape of William and Ellen Craft …” But almost 170 years later, William and Ellen Craft aren’t well known anymore. In this episode, the story of this couple’s incredible escape.
On Being with Krista Tippett, “John Lewis — Love in Action”
On Being takes in the extraordinary wisdom of Congressman John Lewis on what happened in Selma on Bloody Sunday and beyond — and how it might inform common life today. A rare look inside the civil rights leaders’ spiritual confrontation with themselves — and their intricate art of “love in action.”
Radio Diaries, “The Last Civil War Widows”
Daisy Anderson and Alberta Martin lived what seemed like parallel lives. Both grew up poor, children of sharecroppers in the South. Both got married in their early 20s, to men who were near 80. And both of their husbands had served in the Civil War. But as it happens, they’d served on opposite sides. Daisy and Alberta were two of the last surviving Civil War widows.
The Outside Podcast, “The XX Factor: Vanessa Garrison Walks the Walk”
In 2012, Vanessa Garrison co-founded GirlTrek, an organization with a simple goal: get black women walking for 30 minutes a day. Now 100,000 walkers strong, GirlTrek is a national force. The story of GirlTrek is about health, justice, power and survival. But mostly it’s the story of trying to change your community, and the world, through something as simple as going for a walk.
99% Invisible, “Turf Wars of East New York”
Neighborhoods are constantly changing, but it tends to be people with money and power who get to decide the shape of things to come. New York City has an especially long history of this, with change driven by landlords and real-estate investors. And in the 1960s, the neighborhood of East New York became a nexus of what has since become known as white flight.
Reveal, “Decoding Discrimination in America’s Temp Industry”
Business is booming for staffing agencies across the country — the temporary jobs sector is one of our fastest-growing industries in terms of employment. But there’s another side to the temp world: a blatant system of racial discrimination that evokes practices of America’s pre-civil rights era.
The Memory Palace, “We’ve Forgotten James Powell”
We remember the riots. We remember the destruction, the fire. But we’ve forgotten the match. James Powell, 15 years old. Odessa Bradford. Perfecto Bandalan. Eugene Williams. Robert Bandy. In this episode of The Memory Palace, take a few minutes to remember their names.
HerMoney with Jean Chatzky, “Race, Resilience And Money With Stacey Tisdale
Back in June, HerMoney sat down with Stacey Tisdale and Gloria Steinem for a discussion on race, money and power. The thing is, that episode barely scratched the surface. And some of you wrote to HerMoney — including Whitney, who you’ll meet in Mailbag — and said: “More, please.” HerMoney agreed. So they sat down again with Stacey to pick up where they left off.
The Kitchen Sisters Present, “A Secret Civil Rights Kitchen: Georgia Gilmore and the Club from Nowhere”
In the 1950s, a group of Montgomery, Alabama, women baked goods to help fund the Montgomery bus boycott. Known as the Club from Nowhere, the group was led by Georgia Gilmore, one of the unsung heroes of the civil rights era. This story comes from “Can Do: Portraits of Black Visionaries, Seekers, and Entrepreneurs,” hosted by Alfre Woodard.