Jean Shepherd (1921-1999) was a fantastic story-teller who spun finely woven tales on the radio from the late 1940s into the 1990s. The stories were seemingly off-the-cuff improvisations about life as a kid in a steel town in Indiana, his time in the army, etc. The stories were often funny, but they were also filled with rich detail, quirky and vivid characters, and philosophical insight. He was an accomplished writer as well. In later years, one of his stories was made into the movie A Christmas Story that is replayed over and over during the holidays. The movie sells him short, I think. His material is better with him delivering it as a monologue over the airwaves and leaving our imagination to color in the details.
On a few occasions he would talk about significant events—he did following the death of President Kennedy. He was also a participant in the March on Washington, which he talked about on the air the next day. I have included audio clips here in three parts of this radio show. It’s a perspective that is interesting and a little different than what we are used to hearing. His excitement about the events is clear. His comments about understanding history really ring true to me too. In any case, if you can forgive my rough audio editing, and you have half an hour, I think you’ll find it worthwhile to listen all three parts.
The Choices Program is marking the 50th anniversary of the March by releasing a Teaching with the News lesson that explores the role of young people in the civil rights movement, including Representative John Lewis (D-GA). We had the good fortune to film him recently and have included him in the lesson.