American RadioWorks: The First Family of Radio

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Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt were the "first couple" of American radio. From the 1920s through FDR's fourth term, the president and first lady used this extraordinarily powerful new medium to win elections, combat the Great Depression and rally the nation to fight fascism.

Eleanor Roosevelt's radio work is almost entirely forgotten. But she was a radio star in her own right -- with commercial sponsors paying top dollar for her talents as a news commentator. The day of the bombing of Pearl Harbor is also the day that Eleanor Roosevelt, not FDR, spoke to the nation about the events. During her regularly scheduled national news/talk show, "Over Our Coffee Cups" on NBC, Eleanor Roosevelt told her audience, “We know what we have to face and we know that we are ready to face it … Whatever is asked of us, I am sure we can accomplish it. We are the free and unconquerable people of the United States of America.” 

It was an exceptional moment. As the nation plunged into war, Americans heard from the first lady, not the president. It speaks to the unprecedented public role Eleanor Roosevelt created for herself, and the remarkable political partnership she had forged with FDR.

In this episode of American RadioWorks, a look at the legacy that both FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt left behind in shaping today's political media. This documentary features rarely heard archival audio of their broadcasts, as well as oral histories and contemporary interviews to explore how the Roosevelts revolutionized political communication in America.

Airs:

  • Saturday, November 15 at 6am on 93.9FM and NJPR
  • Saturday, November 15 at 7am on AM 820
  • Saturday, November 15 at 2pm on AM 820
  • Saturday, November 15 at 9pm on NJPR
  • Sunday, November 16 at 8pm on AM 820

 Listen to "The First Family Of Radio" from American RadioWorks: