Studs Terkel (May 16, 1912 - October 31, 2008)
Born: 16th May, 1912
Died: 31st October, 2008
Nationality: American
Profession/Occupation: Journalist
Region: New York City, New York, Chicago, Illinois
Notable works: "Division Street: America", "American Dreams, Lost and Found", "Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression", "Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do", "Race: How Blacks and Whites Think and Feel About the American Obsession", "Studs's Place", "The Wax Museum", "Good War, The"

Studs Terkel Facts

Biography

Studs Terkel, byname of Louis Terkel, (born May 16, 1912, New York City, New York, U.S.--died October 31, 2008, Chicago, Illinois), American author and oral historian who chronicled the lives of Americans from the Great Depression to the early 21st century.

After spending his early childhood in New York City, Terkel moved with his family to Chicago at age nine. His parents ran the Wells-Grand Hotel, a rooming house that brought him into contact with the wide range of working-class people who would later inspire his early oral history collections.

Despite the Great Depression, Terkel managed to finish his schooling at the University of Chicago Law School. Terkel failed his first bar examination and decided not to pursue a career in law. In the 1930s, while holding down a job with the Works Progress Adminstration (WPA) Federal Writers' Project, he embarked on a somewhat successful career as a radio actor, usually playing the tough-talking villain. His acting jobs led to other radio spots, including news commentator, sportscaster, and disc jockey. It was as a young actor that he adopted his lifelong nickname, "Studs," from Chicago-born author James T. Farrell's Studs Lonigan trilogy.

In 1945 Terkel inaugurated The Wax Museum, a radio program that brought out his knack for engaging people in impromptu interviews. Studs's Place, Terkel's nationally broadcast television show, ran from 1949 to 1952. The program comprised songs and stories and used a fictional bar as its backdrop. Its cancellation was due to Terkel's leftist leanings, which got him blacklisted in the early 1950s. He returned to radio in 1952 with a daily talk show on the Chicago fine arts station WFMT; his show, which went by a few different names over the years, ran through January 1, 1998. Though the program was originally intended as a forum for music, Terkel's famous interviews came to dominate his broadcasts.

In the late 1960s, Terkel began to use a tape recorder to chronicle his conversations with people outside his radio show. In 1967 he published Division Street: America, a book consisting of 70 conversations he had recorded with people in the Chicago area. He later wrote that the tape recorder

can be used to capture the voice of a celebrity...It can be used to capture the thoughts of the non-celebrated--on the steps of a public housing project, in a frame bungalow, in a furnished apartment, in a parked car--and these "statistics" become persons, each one unique. I am constantly astonished. (Working)

Division Street was a best seller and was followed by Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression (1970). Two other books expanded the genre: Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do (1974) and American Dreams, Lost and Found (1980). Both poignantly reveal that, at times, many Americans felt demoralized and disillusioned by their lots in life. Working was made into a stage musical.

Terkel's Pulitzer Prize-winning The Good War (1984) is an oral history of World War II that presents reminiscences of people, both famous and relatively unknown, who experienced it overseas and at home. Talking to Myself: A Memoir of My Times (1977) was the first of Terkel's autobiographies; the second, Touch and Go, was released 30 years later.

In 1992 Terkel published the daring Race: How Blacks and Whites Think and Feel About the American Obsession. Perhaps even more than his earlier books and in light of the fact that the United States was feeling the pinch of a recession when the book was released, this oral history exposed a deep sense of disenchantment and even resentment among the interviewees. Despite the less-than-optimistic current that pervades Race, it provides a unique perspective on an emotionally charged issue.

Terkel stayed socially engaged and politically active throughout his life, continuing even at an advanced age to grant interviews, to speak at political and literary events, and to promote his books. His later works include Will the Circle Be Unbroken?: Reflections on Death, Rebirth, and Hunger for a Faith (2001), a collection of peoples' thoughts on death, and And They All Sang: Reflections of an Eclectic Disk Jockey (2005), which gathered Terkel's WFMT interviews with musicians ranging from a 22-year-old Bob Dylan to Big Bill Broonzy. P.S.: Further Thoughts from a Lifetime of Listening (2008) was published days after Terkel's death.

Top 28 Studs Terkel quotes

Chicago is not the most corrupt American city. It's the most theatrically corrupt.
American
Chicago
City
Corrupt
Most
All the other books ask, 'What's it like?' What was World War II like for the young kid at Normandy, or what is work like for a woman having a job for the first time in her life? What's it like to be black or white?
Ask
Black
Black or white
Books
First
First time
Having
Her
Job
Kid
Life
Like
Other
Time
But once you become active in something, something happens to you. You get excited and suddenly you realize you count.
Active
Become
Count
Excited
Get
Happens
Once
Realize
Something
Suddenly
You
I always love to quote Albert Einstein because nobody dares contradict him.
Albert
Albert einstein
Always
Because
Contradict
Dares
Einstein
Him
Love
Nobody
I hope for peace and sanity - it's the same thing.
Hope
Peace
Same
Same thing
Sanity
Thing
I hope that memory is valued - that we do not lose memory.
Hope
I hope that
Lose
Memory
Valued
I think it's realistic to have hope. One can be a perverse idealist and say the easiest thing: 'I despair. The world's no good.' That's a perverse idealist. It's practical to hope, because the hope is for us to survive as a human species. That's very realistic.
Because
Despair
Easiest
Easiest thing
Good
Hope
Human
Human species
I think
Idealist
Perverse
Practical
Realistic
Say
I thought, if ever there were a time to write a book about hope, it's now.
About
Book
Ever
Hope
Now
Thought
Time
Were
Write
I want a language that speaks the truth.
Language
Speaks
Truth
Want
I want people to talk to one another no matter what their difference of opinion might be.
Another
Difference
Matter
Might
Opinion
People
Talk
Want
I want to praise activists through the years. I praise those of the past as well, to have them honored.
Activists
Honored
Past
Praise
Them
Those
Through
Want
Well
Years
I want, of course, peace, grace, and beauty. How do you do that? You work for it.
Beauty
Course
Grace
How
Peace
Want
Work
You
I'm not up on the Internet, but I hear that is a democratic possibility. People can connect with each other. I think people are ready for something, but there is no leadership to offer it to them. People are ready to say, 'Yes, we are part of a world.'
Connect
Democratic
Each
Hear
I think
Internet
Leadership
Offer
Other
Part
People
Possibility
Ready
Say
I've always felt, in all my books, that there's a deep decency in the American people and a native intelligence - providing they have the facts, providing they have the information.
Always
American
American people
Books
Decency
Deep
Facts
Felt
Information
Intelligence
Native
People
Providing
If solace is any sort of succor to someone, that is sufficient. I believe in the faith of people, whatever faith they may have.
Any
Believe
Faith
I believe
I believe in
May
People
Solace
Someone
Sort
Sufficient
Whatever
Nonetheless, do I have respect for people who believe in the hereafter? Of course I do. I might add, perhaps even a touch of envy too, because of the solace.
Add
Because
Believe
Course
Envy
Even
Hereafter
Might
Nonetheless
People
Perhaps
Respect
Solace
Too
People are ready to say, 'Yes, we are ready for single-payer health insurance.' We are the only industrialized country in the world that does not have national health insurance. We are the richest in wealth and the poorest in health of all the industrial nations.
Country
Does
Health
Health insurance
Industrial
Industrialized
Insurance
National
Nations
Only
People
Poorest
Ready
Richest
Religion obviously played a role in this book and the previous book, too.
Book
Obviously
Played
Previous
Religion
Role
Too
So people are ready. I feel hopeful in that sense.
Feel
Hopeful
I feel
People
Ready
Sense
Someone who does an act. In a democratic society, you're supposed to be an activist; that is, you participate. It could be a letter written to an editor.
Act
Activist
Could
Democratic
Democratic society
Does
Editor
Letter
Participate
Society
Someone
Supposed
Who
Written
That's what we're missing. We're missing argument. We're missing debate. We're missing colloquy. We're missing all sorts of things. Instead, we're accepting.
Accepting
Argument
Debate
Instead
Missing
Sort
Things
That's why I wrote this book: to show how these people can imbue us with hope. I read somewhere that when a person takes part in community action, his health improves. Something happens to him or to her biologically. It's like a tonic.
Action
Biologically
Book
Community
Community action
Happens
Health
Her
Him
His
Hope
How
Improves
Like
We are the most powerful nation in the world, but we're not the only nation in the world. We are not the only people in the world. We are an important people, the wealthiest, the most powerful and, to a great extent, generous. But we are part of the world.
Extent
Generous
Great
Great extent
Important
Important people
Most
Most powerful
Nation
Only
Part
People
Powerful
Powerful nation
We use the word 'hope' perhaps more often than any other word in the vocabulary: 'I hope it's a nice day.' 'Hopefully, you're doing well.' 'So how are things going along? Pretty good. Going to be good tomorrow? Hope so.'
Along
Any
Day
Doing
Going
Good
Hope
Hopefully
How
More
Nice
Often
Other
Perhaps
When you become part of something, in some way you count. It could be a march; it could be a rally, even a brief one. You're part of something, and you suddenly realize you count. To count is very important.
Become
Brief
Could
Count
Even
Important
March
Part
Rally
Realize
Some
Something
Suddenly
Very
Why are we born? We're born eventually to die, of course. But what happens between the time we're born and we die? We're born to live. One is a realist if one hopes.
Between
Born
Course
Die
Eventually
Happens
Hopes
Live
Realist
Time
Why
With optimism, you look upon the sunny side of things. People say, 'Studs, you're an optimist.' I never said I was an optimist. I have hope because what's the alternative to hope? Despair? If you have despair, you might as well put your head in the oven.
Alternative
Because
Despair
Head
Hope
Look
Might
Never
Optimism
Optimist
Oven
People
People say
Put
You happen to be talking to an agnostic. You know what an agnostic is? A cowardly atheist.
Agnostic
Atheist
Cowardly
Happen
Know
Talking
You

Studs Terkel essays

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