Division Street

America

A landmark reissue of Studs Terkel’s classic microcosm of America, with a new foreword by the Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and co-creator of the Division Street Revisited podcast

“Remarkable. . . . Division Street astonishes, dismays, exhilarates.” —The New York Times

When Division Street, Studs Terkel’s first book of oral history, was published in 1967 (it was commissioned by New Press founding director André Schiffrin), Terkel’s reputation as America’s foremost oral historian was established overnight.

Approaching Chicagoans as emblematic of the nation at large, Terkel set out with his tape recorder and spent a year talking to people about the place and time they lived in. The freewheeling conversations touched on race, family, education, work, prospects for the future—all topics that remain deeply contentious today. The more than seventy subjects included a Black woman who attended the 1963 March on Washington, a tool-and-die maker, a baker from Budapest, a closeted gay actor, and a successful but cynical ad man. As Tom Wolfe wrote, Studs was “one of those rare thinkers who is actually willing to go out and talk to the incredible people of this country.”

Although the interviewees were very different, most shared the hope for a good life for their children and the wish for a less divided and more just America, an America that would fulfill its promises. The real Chicago street referenced in the title takes on a metaphorical meaning as a symbol of the acute social divides of the 1960s—and highlights the continued relevance of Terkel’s work in our polarized times.

Now, over fifty years later, Melissa Harris and Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Mary Schmich have created the remarkable Division Street Revisited podcast, coming in January 2025, in which they have found and interviewed descendants of Terkel’s original subjects in seven rich episodes. The result is a moving and thought-provoking intergenerational conversation. Schmich’s foreword to the reissue highlights the evolution of the themes and issues Terkel explored. The extraordinary podcast—and the new edition of Division Street—together demonstrate Studs Terkel’s prescience and the enduring importance of his work.

Praise

“Totally absorbing.”
The New Yorker
“A cross-section of all that is contained in humanity.”
Chicago Tribune
“Reports not only multitudes divided, but the division in ourselves . . . as exciting as a good novel.”
—Nelson Algren
“Remarkable. . . . Division Street astonishes, dismays, exhilarates.”
The New York Times

News and Reviews

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In March 1970, Maya Angelou sat down with Studs Terkel for a radio interview about her memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

Books by Studs Terkel

Hard Times
An Illustrated Oral History of the Great Depression

Studs Terkel

And They All Sang
Adventures of an Eclectic Disc Jockey

Studs Terkel

P.S.
Further Thoughts from a Lifetime of Listening

Studs Terkel

Working
People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do

Studs Terkel

Goodreads Reviews