Radio Diaries & Radiotopia presents
First-person diaries, sound portraits, and hidden chapters of history from Peabody Award-winning producer Joe Richman and the Radio Diaries team. From teenagers to octogenarians, prisoners to prison guards, bra saleswomen to lighthouse keepers. The extraordinary stories of ordinary life. Radio Diaries is a proud member of Radiotopia, from PRX. Learn more at radiotopia.fm
June 10, 2021
From the Archive: Josh's Diary
Twenty-five years ago, Josh Cutler was a 16-year old living with Tourette’s Syndrome, a brain disorder that often causes physical and verbal tics. For several months, he recorded cassette tapes of everything from conversations with his parents and classmates, to prank calls. This is his diary, which chronicles his attempts to live a normal teenage life with a brain that often betrays him. Josh’s diary first aired as part of the Teenage Diaries series on NPR in 1996. **** Radio Diaries is a proud member of Radiotopia, a network of creators who are able to follow their curiosity and tell the stories they care about the most. Show your support for Radiotopia during our Spring Fundraiser. Donate today at
May 27, 2021
The Tulsa Race Massacre, 100 Years Later
On May 31, 1921, white mobs attacked a prosperous Black neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma, known as “Black Wall Street.” As many as three hundred people were killed, and more than a thousand homes and businesses were destroyed. Olivia Hooker was six years old at the time. She remembers watching white men with torches come through her family’s backyard, and hiding under a table with her siblings. Radio Diaries interviewed Olivia Hooker about the massacre in 2018. Six months later, she passed away at age 103. Today, to mark the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre, we revisit our interview with Olivia Hooker and speak with Kavin Ross about why the story of the massacre was buried for decades. **** Radio Diaries is a proud member of Radiotopia, a network of creators who are able to follow their curiosity and tell the stories they care about the most. Show your support for Radiotopia during our Spring Fundraiser. Donate today at
May 13, 2021
Juan, 25 Years Later
This week we continue celebrating Radio Diaries’ 25th anniversary by catching up with Juan from the Teenage Diaries series, which first aired on NPR in 1996. Juan was 17 when we first gave him a tape recorder and asked him to record his life for a few months. He and his family had recently come to the U.S. from Mexico, and they were living in a trailer home just half a block from the Rio Grande in Texas. Now, 25 years later, Juan lives in Colorado, where he owns his own company and has three kids. On this episode we air his original diary and more recent conversations where he reflects on life as an undocumented person, and the complexities of the American Dream. CW: Juan’s original diary contains a description of a dead body. **** Radio Diaries is a small non-profit organization. We make this show with support from listeners like you. You can hear all our stories, sign up for our newsletter, and donate on our website www.radiodiaries.org. Thank you for a quarter century of support.
April 30, 2021
25 Years of Radio Diaries
This week marks a very special anniversary for Radio Diaries. It’s been 25 years since we first started giving people tape recorders to report on their own lives. To celebrate, we recently checked in with our very first diarist, Amanda. Amanda was 17 when we first gave her a clunky cassette recorder and asked her to record her life for a few months. Her story about coming out of the closet as gay and clashing with her Catholic parents was part of a series called Teenage Diaries that aired on NPR in 1996. Now, 25 years later, Amanda is married with kids, and her relationship with her parents has evolved. On this episode we air her original diary and more recent conversations with her parents and her new family. **** Radio Diaries is a small non-profit organization. We make this show with support from listeners like you. You can hear all our stories, sign up for our newsletter, and donate on our website www.radiodiaries.org. Thank you for a quarter century of support.
April 15, 2021
One day in 1947, NYC bus driver William Cimillo showed up to his daily bus route, but instead of turning left, he turned right. Over the next week, he traveled 1,300 miles in his municipal bus, ending up in Hollywood, Florida. The bus had broken down, he’d run out of money, and had no way of getting home. Plus, he was now the most wanted bus driver in the country. This story originally aired on This American Life. Go to www.radiodiaries.org to find more stories and sign up for our monthly newsletter. *** We have music this week from Podington Bear and “Detour” by Patti Page. Radio Diaries has support this week from AcornTV. Use code “diaries” to get your first 30 days free.
April 1, 2021
The Last Place: Diary of a Retirement Home
For the past year, most nursing homes and assisted living facilities have been in lockdown. Residents have been kept apart—not just from their families, but from each other. They ate meals alone in their rooms, met new grandchildren on Zoom, and some were alone when they died. Today many retirement homes are starting to open up again. But the fact is, many people grow more isolated as they age. Even in normal times. Friends and partners pass away, family members and kids get distracted by their own lives. To many of us, nursing homes are a place where we too might end up—they’re a bit of mystery that we visit from time to time, a world apart. Years ago, I got to know residents at Presbyterian Homes in Evanston, Illinois. And I gave a few of them tape recorders to keep audio diaries of their lives in retirement. Today on the show, The Last Place, diary of a retirement home. *** Sponsored by Warby Parker. Try 5 pairs of glasses at home for free. Go to www.warbyparker.com/diaries Music this week from Blue Dot Sessions and “When I Grow Too Old to Dream” by Nat King Cole.
March 18, 2021
Soon after he entered office, President Biden issued an executive order allowing transgender people to serve in the military. It was the latest in a long series of shifts in who can serve and who can't. Women only recently were able to serve in certain ranks. And it wasn’t until 1993, that congress lifted a ban against women flying in combat. But women actually started flying military aircraft much earlier than that, 5 decades earlier. During World War II. They were known as the Women Airforce Service Pilots… the WASPs. Music this week from Blue Dot Sessions, “Flying” by the Beatles, and “Come Josephine in My Flying Machine,” performed by Blanche Ring in 1910. *** Sponsors: Warby Parker - Try 5 pairs of glasses at home for free. www.warbyparker.com/diaries\ GreenChef - Get $90 off meal kits plus free shipping www.greenchef.com/90diaries
March 4, 2021
Burma '88: Buried History
On August 8, 1988 — a date chosen for its numerological power — university students in Burma sparked an uprising against the military dictatorship. They’d been living under military rule their entires lives. And they had had enough. The uprising ultimately failed, but it planted the seeds of democracy. It was the moment Aung San Suu Kyi first appeared on the political scene, and became the icon of the democracy movement. Today on the podcast: we take you back to the summer of 1988, a moment in Burma when change seemed possible. Music this week from Bang on a Can, Kyaw, Kyaw Naing, and Blue Dot Sessions.
February 14, 2021
Living with Dying
One year ago, on Valentine’s Day 2020, Peter Fodera’s heart broke. It stopped working. He collapsed in the middle of teaching a dance class. Someone performed CPR, someone called an ambulance. EMT’s showed up and he lay motionless. He technically died that day. But later at the hospital, Peter’s heart started beating again. On the anniversary of Peter’s brief death, he sat down with his daughter Juliana who has Noonan Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder. While Peter’s experience of dying and coming back to life may seem miraculous to some of us, it doesn’t to Juliana. By her count, she’s died 21 times. Music this week from Podington Bear, Blue Dot Sessions, Man Man, and Gotan Project.
February 5, 2021
Teen Contender: Then & Now
In 2012, Claressa Shields was a 16-year-old boxer in Flint, Michigan. She had an audacious dream: to be the Muhammad Ali of womens boxing. We gave her tape recorder to keep an audio diary as she fought to make it onto the first ever women’s Olympic boxing team. Claressa is now 25 and fights professionally. With two gold medals and four world championships, she’s achieved her boxing dreams. But with boxing shut down during COVID, she has turned her attention to a different kind of dream. She bought a house. Today on the podcast, we hear Claressa’s original audio diary and bring you an update. Teen Contender won a Peabody Award in 2012. The follow up story aired on This American Life as part of their 25th anniversary special.
January 16, 2021
America Vs. America
After the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, we've all been trying to grapple with an event that feels so different from anything we’ve experienced before in this country. But this attack wasn’t the first time the Capitol has been violently breached. History books mention 1814 — when the British army set fire to the Capitol. Less well known is what happened on March 1st, 1954. That’s when four young Puerto Rican New Yorkers launched an attack in the chamber of the House of Representatives. **** Support this week from GreenChef, the first USDA-certified organic meal kit company. Use code diaries90 for $90 off and free shipping.
December 17, 2020
Love from Six Feet Apart (Revisited)
Robert and Wendy Jackson have been socially distancing under the same roof for 8 months. Robert is 71 and had a kidney transplant four years ago. His immune system is severely compromised. His wife, Wendy, is a pediatric emergency room doctor. When the pandemic hit in March, the couple made the difficult decision to live together…six feet apart. We also revisit the audio diary of 11-year-old Francesca Montanaro, who was going to school at her dad’s pizza shop in the Bronx. Music from Blue Dot Sessions and “Nunca Es Suficiente” by Natalia Lafourcade and Los Ángeles Azules. *** Support from AcornTV which is now streaming “A Suitable Boy” from the BBC. Use code “DIARIES” to get a free 30-day trial.
December 4, 2020
Love at First Quarantine, The Sequel
When the pandemic hit back in March, Gali Beeri and Joshua Boliver decided to quarantine together, after their very first date. Today on the show, we check back in with them — eight months later — to see how a new relationship weathers a pandemic. Their story is part of our series Hunker Down Diaries, stories of people in unexpected situations during the pandemic. You can listen to the whole series on past episodes of the Radio Diaries Podcast. Music from Blue Dot Sessions, Yo La Tengo, and “Blaze & Sybil's Lullaby” by Alia Shawkat & Ben Dickey. **** Support this week from Imagined Life, a podcast from Wondery.
November 20, 2020
Centenarians (Still) in Lockdown
It’s been 9 months since Joe Newman (107) and Anita Sampson (100) recorded their story about surviving the 1918 pandemic, getting older, and staying in love during lockdown. We’re thrilled to announce they just won a Third Coast Award! We share their story and check in with them in Sarasota, Florida where COVID cases are surging. **** Support this week from AcornTV and their new series “A Suitable Boy” from the BBC.
November 2, 2020
How to Lose an Election: A History
Presidential campaigns are essentially dramas, and we’re in the final act of this one. The curtain is about to come down.For the past century, the moment of closure has come in the form of one simple act: the public concession. From William Jennings Bryan to Adlai Stevenson to John McCain to Al Gore and Hillary Clinton…. A History of How To Lose An Election. **** We have support from Imagined Life, a podcast from Wondery. And Source Material, a new show from Vice.
October 1, 2020
When Nazis Took Manhattan
In an election season when the words "Will you condemn white supremacy" are considered a gotcha question at a presidential debate, it seems like a good time to look back at another moment in American history when race and ethnic division took center stage. On February 20th, 1939, 20,000 people streamed into Madison Square Garden in New York City. Outside, the marquee was lit up with the evening's main event: a "Pro-American rally." Inside, on the stage, there was a 30-foot tall banner of George Washington, sandwiched between American flags...and two huge swastikas. Today’s episode is a special collaboration with The Memory Palace and producer Nate DiMeo. Special thanks to Marshall Curry, whose film “A Night To Remember” inspired this story. Music from Blue Dot Sessions.
September 10, 2020
March of the Bonus Army
In the summer of 1932, a group of World War I veterans in Portland, Oregon hopped a freight train and started riding the rails to Washington DC. They were demanding immediate payment of a cash bonus the government had promised them after the war – but delayed until 1945. More than 20,000 veterans and their families arrived in the nation’s capital. They established a tent city and vowed to stay until their demands were met. But, in a historic confrontation, General Douglas MacArthur’s Army troops routed the veterans and burned their camp to the ground. This is the story of the Bonus Army. See photos of the Bonus Army on our website.
August 27, 2020
The Forgotten Story of Clinton Melton
This summer, videos of Black people killed by police officers have sparked outrage and protests across the country. 65 years ago, it was a photograph that shocked the nation. The image of 14-year-old Emmett Till. Till had traveled from Chicago to the Mississippi Delta to visit family, when he was kidnapped, horribly beaten and killed by white men after allegedly flirting with a white woman. His body was later found in the Tallahatchie river. Today, Emmett Till’s death is considered the spark that ignited the burgeoning Civil Rights movement. But few people know there was another brazen murder of a Black man that happened just three months later, in a neighboring town in the Delta. Today on the Radio Diaries Podcast, we tell the forgotten story of Clinton Melton. *** Music by Blue Dot Sessions.
August 6, 2020
The Infamous Words of George Wallace
A law and order politician who rails against anarchists protesting in the streets and the lying mainstream media? It may sound familiar, but we’re actually going back more than five decades on the show today, when Alabama Governor and four time presidential candidate George Wallace was perfecting the politics of resentment and race baiting. A lot of people have commented on the similarities between that time and now. Congressman John Lewis was one of them.
July 13, 2020
The Final Frontline
The Kearns family funeral business was founded in New York City in the year 1900. Over 120 years, the family has seen a lot of history. Patrick Kearns and Paul Kearns-Stanley are the owners. After 4 months, they finally had a chance to reflect on the COVID-19 pandemic, and how it's looked from their corner of New York. They sat down together on a recent evening — at the end of a long work day — in their funeral home in Queens. This is our final installment of Hunker Down Diaries, at least for now. If you’ve enjoyed the series, tell a friend! And tag us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Music this week from Blue Dot Sessions and “Hunker Down” by Big Dudee Roo.