There’s a long history in America of white people imagining black people’s lives - in novels, in movies, and sometimes in journalism. In 1969, Grace Halsell, a white journalist, published a book called Soul Sister .
It was her account of living as a “black woman” in the United States. Lyndon Johnson provided a blurb for the book, and it sold over a million copies.
Halsell was inspired by John Howard Griffin’s Black Like Me , which came out in 1961. That was inspired by an even earlier book in the 1940’s.
It’s hard to imagine any of these projects happening now. It seems like a kind of journalistic blackface. But Halsell’s book raises a lot of questions that are still relevant today - about race, and the limits of empathy.
This episode is a collaboration with .
The Long Haul: Busman's Holiday
Busman’s Holiday: When William Cimillo, a NYC bus driver went on a 1,300 mile detour to Florida.
This story originally aired on This American Life.
Our episode is part of a network-wide project to welcome , Radiotopia’s newest show, into the family.
This episode is sponsored by LightStream. To get a discount on a credit card consolidation loan, go to .
History Had Me Glued to the Seat
You know the story of Rosa Parks. But have you heard of Claudette Colvin?
Claudette grew up in the segregated city of Montgomery, Alabama. On March 2, 1955, when she was 15 years old, she refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger.
Nine months later, Rosa Parks did the exact same thing. Parks, of course, became a powerful symbol of the civil rights movement. But Claudette Colvin has largely been left out of the history books.
In 1956, about a year after Colvin refused to give up her seat, her attorney Fred Gray filed the landmark federal lawsuit Browder v. Gayle. This case ended segregation on public transportation in Alabama. Claudette Colvin was a star witness.
This is her story.
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 each other, through the postal service. It was literally: voice-mail.
We combed through a large collection of early voicemail at the , and we discovered that many of these audio letters have the same subject matter: love.
You can see photographs of the voice-o-graphs on our website:
My So-Called Lungs
Laura Rothenberg spent most of her life knowing she was going to die young.
She had cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder that affects the lungs. When she was born, the life expectancy for people with CF was around 18 years. (It's more than double that now.) Laura liked to say she went through her mid-life crisis when she was a teenager.
Joe met Laura when she was 19 and gave her a tape recorder. And for two years, she kept an audio diary of her battle with cystic fibrosis and her attempts to live a normal life - with lungs that often betrayed her.