“Black Gotham” 19th Century African American New York

While many Americans are familiar with black slavery in the South, and its role in igniting one of the 19th century’s most brutal wars, less attention has been paid to the black experience in Northern cities like New York where many ex-slaves and “freedmen” lived.  A new book, Black Gotham by Carla Peterson, sheds some light on their story.

Posted in Americana, History, New York

“Deep-Down Irishness” (NPR 1989)

A survey look at what being Irish is all about deep down –from the “fairy faith” to its music, to Celtic myth, to sean nos and storytelling. Collected entirely in the West of Ireland down some very very back roads.

See also “Visions and Beliefs in the West Ireland,” which focuses on the spirituality and folkways of the Irish Gaeltacht.

Posted in History, Holidays-Season Specific, Immigrants and Ethnic Life, Music, Religion, Spirituality, Travel outside the USA Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“The Century in Sound: An American’s Perspective”

This is a 38-minute narration-free documentary of the 20th century using (other than my one minute spoken introduction) only archival sound, speeches and other audio artifacts of that talkative 100 years. The montage is of my own making and perspective as the American I happen to be, and hopefully, will take the listener of whatever provenance or vintage, on a real voyage.

It was prepared for worldwide broadcast on the Voice of America on New Year’s Eve 1999; it subsequently won the Grand Prize and the Gold Medal at the New York Festivals, and a Special VOA award. I was later flattered to learn it is often used in journalism classes.

A note on how to listen to it: all on one 38 minutes go, with the lights off. It’s fun to try identify the source of the sound you are hearing the first time around. Then check your impressions against the complete list of sound elements which I hope to post as a sidebar on this blog (when I learn how to do it.) You can also write me and request an email copy, no prob.

Posted in Americana, Arts, History, Holidays-Season Specific, Long form docs (15" and up)

Columbus: Man and Myths

Explorer. Hero. Genocidal Conqueror. Genius.  Inventor. Adventurer. Fool. Prophet.  All these names have been used to describe the “discoverer” of America.  But what do we really know about the man who sailed the ocean blue in 14 hundred and ninety two?  This long form doc, explores the many faces of Columbus as he has come down to us, and the enigma he represents within our own national history and character. (produced in conjunction with the 500th anniversary of 1492).

Posted in Americana, History, Long form docs (15" and up), Profile

Conflict Resolution: What it is and How it Works (VOA 1995)

In the mid-1990s, I was the initiator, designer and lead producer for a very ambitious series about the emerging field of conflict resolution and its applications. It covered everything from war, to marital discord to the role of the media in preventing or stoking discord, to the psychology of violence, peace and forgiveness. This 20 minute story was the first in the series (which also took me to South Central LA and South Africa, among many other places) that explained the field, and explored its potential range.

Posted in Health, History Tags: , , , , , , ,

Corruption in American Politics is Nothing New

Americans were shocked by the boldness of the graft and other crimes allegedly committed by indicted former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich and by the 20-plus politicians and others indicted for corruption in New Jersey recently. But corruption is nothing new in American politics, although the scope and definitions of corruption have changed over time.  This piece, which features Harvard University (and New Yorker Magazine writer) Jill Lepore and others, takes the long view.

Posted in Americana, History Tags: , , , , , ,

Death n’ Stuff at the “New York Times” Obit Desk

After articles about the President and “dog bites man,” the obituaries are among the most popular articles the New York Times features. Part news story, part profile, obits attempt to sum up a person’s life and significance, and no more. Indeed, how many “column inches” a person is expected in the paper to get when he dies is closely guarded knowledge at the Times.  In this story,   I crash the gates of Hell, and spend some time with the people who make the Obit Section work, and their overseers. As with many of my stories, Chopin is included at no extra charge.

Posted in History, New York, Profile

Gary, West Virginia: A Coal Town Flickers Out

At its peak, the town of Gary was completely alive with the sound of coal mining, lunchtime whistles, and the ethnic music that its immigrant laborers made during their rare off hours.  US Steel had built the town, and the workers were proud to be there, albeit under very difficult, even backbreaking and dangerous conditions. All that changed in the late 1980s, when the company closed the mines because Central American coal was cheaper to mine and ship. When I visited the town, there was 95 percent unemployment and wolves were roaming the streets because the town could no longer afford the streetlight electricity.

This is the first piece I did for “All Things Considered” and I was very proud when it was broadcast.

See also my story about Gary’s early 20th century ethnic life, and my many other stories about Appalachian mountain culture.

Posted in Americana, Health, History

Grassroots Group Helps Restore New York Estuary

Oysters may seem like humble shellfish, but ecologically, they tower above many other species. They are a tasty food source for a variety of creatures, including humans. But more importantly, oysters help to filter pollutants from coastal estuaries, places where fresh river waters and ocean salt waters co-mingle. Fourteen out of 20 of the world’s largest cities are built near estuaries, and urban pollution, development and other factors are now threatening these delicate ecosystems. In response, some grassroots groups, are using oyster beds to help restore and stabilize damaged estuaries. New York and New Jersey Baykeeper is one of them.

Original VOA posting of this story

Posted in History, New York, Science Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Grieving New Yorkers Search for Their Loved Ones (VOA 9/14/01)

I was living in Washington at the time of the September 11th 2001 attacks, but was able to get the first train into Manhattan when the island opened on the morning of September 12th. I worked 17 hours a day in the week following, chronicling the human impact of the World Trade Center attacks on the city I love and have always loved. This story was one of several I filed in those first days.

Posted in Americana, History, New York, Oral History-oid, Person on the Street Interviews, September 11th and Its Aftermath Tags: , , , , , , ,
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