These are stories of persistence: A single mother who is trying to get some help. Campaigners who don’t know when to quit. A fight against segregation. Cafeteria workers who are trying to get the attention of management. A student who won’t take no for an answer. A Senator who won’t say yes. What’s amazing is that all of these stories about persistence intersect over time and space.
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This episode called for a transcript because some of the oral history tapes I used might be a challenge to hear in some spots, although I don’t think it will be needed in most cases. So why use these tapes in the first place? It’s the kind of stuff that wouldn’t likely make it on most radio shows. Nor would some of these interviews ever make it into an exhibit at the Minnesota History Center, for example. So I just like the idea of using some of these “scraps” in an audio format by mixing them with other voices. They are voices worth hearing.
A Single Mother’s Pivotal Moment
I met Faith on the 2004 presidential campaign for Dennis Kucinich. We spoke on my porch earlier this fall. Or was it late summer? Whatever it was, it was warm enough to sit on the porch. I grabbed the microphone when Faith started to tell me the story about the time she applied for a government program that was supposed to help young single mothers get on their feet. The powers that be told her that she had little hope of ever being successful and that this was the reason she wouldn’t qualify for a housing certificate that she desperately needed. Faith did more than be persistent. She got a handle on her view of things and that changed everything.
1964 – Do Something
The piece I share here was adapted from the one I submitted to the 2018 Sonic South competition held by the Southern Oral History Program at the University Of North Carolina. The idea was to use interviews from their archives to talk about persistence. The language used in these interviews sounded like persistence to me: “We kept going back…” They were done as part of the 50th Anniversary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee:
- Interview with Dunn, Arlene Wilgoren by Karlyn Forner, April 16, 2010 U-0447, in the Southern Oral History Program Collection #4007, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- Interview with Stoller, Nancy Elaine by David Cline, April 16, 2010 U-0456, in the Southern Oral History Program Collection #4007, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
In addition to these, you might be interested in hearing other interviews about SNCC. Here’s a link to several of them:
- U.017. The Long Civil Rights Movement: The South Since the 1960s: The 50th Anniversary of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)
There is also this article about the segregated cafeteria at the Arkansas State Capitol:
- Kirk, John. A. (Summer 2013). Capitol Offenses: Desegregating the Seat of Arkansas Government, 1964-1965. The Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Vol. LXXXII, No. 2, pp. 95-119.
While the piece I did about persistence was a quick sketch, this article takes you back to a moment that sparked protests and goes into a lot more detail about the legal arguments around segregation. You can access it here:
Kirk also co-authored a book about the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Arsnick, which you can find at the University of Arkansas Press.
Ms. Smith and Ms. Brooks of the Pine Room Part 1 & 2
This was another piece I submitted to the Sonic South competition using the following interviews:
- Interview with Elizabeth Brooks by Beverly Washington Jones, October 2, 1974 E-0058, in the Southern Oral History Program Collection #4007, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
- Interview with Elizabeth Brooks by Derek Williams, 13 August 1979 E-0060, in the Southern Oral History Program Collection #4007, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- Interview with Mary Smith by Valerie Quinney, April 10, 1974 E-0079, in the Southern Oral History Program Collection #4007, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- Interview with Ashley Davis by Russ Rymer, April 12, 1974 E-0062, in the Southern Oral History Program Collection #4007, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
There are tons more interviews on this topic, which you can find here:
This story about persistence has all of the ingredients of a Hollywood movie with the possible exception of the ending. It’s hard not to be inspired by Elizabeth Brooks. She had questions. Why were checks being shortened? Why was it impossible to get on permanent payroll? It’s funny that it should be considered to be brave to insist on answers to basic questions or to ask for basic fairness. But it was and I suspect it still can be. Can you think of a question that you keep to yourself because you don’t want to rock the boat? That’s what I mean. But even as the cafeteria workers stood up for themselves, Mary Smith worried about speaking poorly of management. As a woman, I identified with this. Maybe the guilt and co-dependency is based in something other than gender, but that’s how it feels to me.
Senator Paul Wellstone
Paul Wellstone comes up in this episode in a few different ways and is at the center of some great stories about persistence. It starts with a memorial we saw for him and his wife Sheila at the University of North Carolina where Brian and I attended the Sonic South listening event in May 2018. The memorial is near Lenoir Hall, where the cafeteria workers’ strike takes place. I wondered if Wellstone was a student there at the time and if he was, did he support the strike? Then I found this book that answered my question:
- Lofy, Bill. Paul Wellstone: the Life of a Passionate Progressive. University of Michigan Press, 2005.
Lofy talked about his book, “Paul Wellstone: The Life of a Passionate Progressive” at the Northshire Bookstore in Vermont. It was taped by C-SPAN.
- Paul Wellstone: The Life of a Passionate Progressive. C-SPAN.org, Northshire Bookstore, 19 Nov. 2005, www.c-span.org/video/?190742-1/paul-wellstone-life-passionate-progressive.
I also used clips from this interview where Wellstone mentions his time at UNC:
- Smith, Jerry. versocreative43. (2002, October). Paul Wellstone on grassroots leadership. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38DibExHKEk
The podcast Press Record was the first place I had ever heard of Silent Sam, a confederate monument that until recently occupied a prominent spot at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. While the statue was still there when Brian and I attended the Sonic South event in May 2018, it was later removed by protesters. The fate of Silent Sam is yet to be determined.
Speaking of great history podcasts, also check out John Biewen’s Scene on Radio. Season 2, Seeing White, “deconstructs the meaning of whiteness”, while season 3, Men, looks at sexism/patriarchy/misogyny. Coincidentally, This American Life recently featured Biewen who talked about the history that was never mentioned when he was growing up in Minnesota.
Funky President Kucinich
The best I can tell, the original Funky President Kucinich was produced by Shannon Larratt. At least that’s where the website Muzabra points and I believe that’s where I first found it. In 2003, for another project I called Dissection: Bush Addresses the Nation I added Paul Wellstone’s voice to the work. I also added the voices of Geroge W. Bush – from the speech he did announcing his intentions to invade Iraq – as well as Winona LaDuke and Michael Moore, which came from a rally they held with Ralph Nader and Phil Donahue at the Target Center in Minneapolis.
Leave A Message Project (LAMP)
In 2003, supporters of Dennis Kucinich for President were invited to leave a message on my answering machine. I wanted to know how they would like Senator John Kerry to distinguish himself from George W. Bush. A slightly longer version of the piece was played for the platform committee at the 2004 National Democratic Convention.
Music & Sound
- Scheming Weasel, Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
- Showdown, Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
- Tenebrous Brothers Carnival, Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0
- Faceoff, Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0