Illinois Archives - StoryCorps
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“We Knew We Were the Best.” Reflections from the First Black Marines of Montford Point

A group of Montford Point volunteers in their dress uniforms circa May, 1943. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In 1942, the U.S. allowed Black men to enlist in the Marine Corps for the first time. It was during World War II, and resulted in more than 19,000 Black recruits being sent to Montford Point, North Carolina for basic training.

These men fought for their country in the midst of the racism and prejudice they faced at home. They were essential to the war effort but did not recieve the same respect in uniform as their white counterparts. 

Many of those men are no longer with us, but their voices can be heard in the StoryCorps archive. One of those voices is that of Corporal Sidney Allen Francis,  a retired New York City police detective.  Sidney came to StoryCorps with his daughter, Candice, to talk about how his time at Montford Point shaped him.

William Pickens, Estel Roberts and Benjamin Jenkins at their StoryCorps interviews in Chicago, Illinois, New York, New York, and Dayton, Ohio in 2012, 2014, and 2010. By Leslee Dean, Mayra Sierra, and Virginia Lora for StoryCorps.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired February 24, 2024, on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday. 

 

 

Father and Doctor Reflect on a Life Cut Short by Cancer

Robert Robinson and Dr. John Fortunato met under incredibly difficult circumstances.

When Robert’s daughter, Angel, started rapidly losing weight, doctors incorrectly believed an eating disorder was to blame.

But on one visit to the hospital, Dr. Fortunato discovered a rare stomach tumor.

Angel, Robert and Serenity Robinson in Hawaii on January 22, 2023. Courtesy of Robert Robinson. 

Despite multiple rounds of treatment, Angel died at the age of 15 in August, 2023. One of their final wishes was that their story serve to help other patients be heard when seeking treatment. 

Serenity, Robert and Angel Robinson in Chicago, Illinois in September 2019. By Kylie Kreations, courtesy of Robert Robinson.

Robert and Dr. Fortunato have forged a lasting bond and continue to support each other in their efforts to honor Angel’s legacy.

They came to StoryCorps to reflect on the impact the experience had on both of them. 

Top Photo: Robert Robinson and Dr. John Fortunato at their StoryCorps interview in Chicago, Illinois on October 30, 2023. By Jeb Backe for StoryCorps.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired February 2, 2024, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

A Special Project To Keep Dad’s Memory Alive

Since he was in high school, Al Plumley could be found under the hood of a car, fixing it himself.

In high school, Al Plumley treasured his blue Mustang. Courtesy of Ashley Cosme.

When he raised his three daughters in Northern Indiana, he spent a lot of time teaching them about his passion for fixing up old cars.

Al Plumley (center) with his wife and daughters in 2021. Courtesy of Ashley Cosme.

Al died in October of 2021. His middle daughter, Ashley Cosme, came to StoryCorps with her husband, Nicholas, to talk about how they are keeping his memory alive.

Top Photo: Ashley and Nicholas Cosme at their StoryCorps interview in Chicago, Illinois on July 27, 2022. Taken for StoryCorps.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired Friday, August 5, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Her Name Bound Her to Her Family – and a Tragic Chapter of Ukraine’s History

Halyna Hrushetsky was born in Soviet Ukraine during World War II, but spent her earliest years in a German labor camp with her family. After the war ended, her parents wanted to avoid being repatriated to the Soviet Union. With the aid of the Red Cross, they moved the family to the French Alps.

Halyna spent much of her youth tending to the family’s French farm. Despite the idyllic setting, she noticed her mother always seemed afraid for her safety. Eventually, her mother told her about the Holodomor: a genocide inflicted through Soviet agricultural policies. Several million Ukrainian men, women and children starved in the famine, including three of Halyna’s sisters.

At StoryCorps, Halyna sat down with her daughter Oryna Hrushetsky-Schiffman to remember the moment she learned more about her Ukrainian roots.

Top Photo: Halyna Hrushetsky and Oryna Hrushetsky-Schiffman at their StoryCorps interview in Chicago Illinois on September 4, 2014. By Andre Perez for StoryCorps.

Originally aired February 25, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

A Mother And Daughter Remember The Power Of Grandma’s Hands

Madzimoyo Owusu grew up on the West Side of Chicago in the 1970s. When she was a young girl, she spent many of her days with her grandmother, who lived in the same three-story apartment building.

Decades later, In 2010, Madzimoyo came to StoryCorps with her daughter, Johannah, to honor the memory of the woman who helped shape her life…

Madzimoyo and her grandmother Elsie’s hands together, 1995 in Birmingham Alabama, courtesy of the Owusu family.
Top Photo: Johannah and Madzimoyo at their StoryCorps Recording on July 10th, 2010, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Photo by Jorge Rios for StoryCorps.

This interview was recorded in partnership with the Three Rivers Institute of Afrikan Art & Culture.

Originally aired November 19th, 2021 on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

Listen to Madzimoyo’s story on the StoryCorps Podcast.

Chicago Siblings Remember Brother Lost To COVID and the Love He Left Behind

Growing up in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago, Jorge and Jessica Valdivia looked up to their older brother, Mauricio. To many, he was a larger-than-life personality known to light up the room with his jokes and pranks. To his siblings, he was the rock of the family who always took the time to let them know they were loved.

Jorge remembers one Christmas when his parents couldn’t afford presents and Mauricio surprised him with his first Transformer, which he still has.

In April 2020, Mauricio, 52, died from COVID-19. He left behind his wife, their two sons, and a huge void in the lives of those who loved him most. Jorge and Jessica came to StoryCorps to share their favorite memories of Mauricio and what he meant to them.

Top Photo: The Valdivia siblings, from left to right: Eliseo Jr., Mauricio, Jessica and Jorge. Courtesy of Jorge Valdivia.

Bottom Photo: Jorge Valdivia holds the Optimus Prime Transformer that his late brother Mauricio got him one Christmas when they were young. Courtesy of Jorge Valdivia.

Originally aired February 5, 2021 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

A Funeral Director, First Responder And Father: ‘You’re Stronger Than You Feel’

Dan Flynn has a passion for helping people. 

As a funeral director in Santa Barbara, California, he’s supported many families during times of loss. But in response to COVID-19, Dan was compelled to help in a different kind of way. 

At StoryCorps, he spoke with his daughter Shannon about why he chose to serve at the epicenter of the pandemic, as a member of the national mortuary response team in New York City.

Their interview was recorded using StoryCorps Connect, our new platform that allows loved ones to record interviews while maintaining social distancing. 

Top photo: Dan Flynn and his daughter Shannon Doty for StoryCorps. Photos courtesy of Daniel Flynn and Shannon Doty.
Bottom photo: Dan Flynn attends a national mortuary response team training in 2013 in Albuquerque, NM. Photo courtesy of Dan Flynn.

Originally aired May 1, 2020 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

A Dad Tells His Daughter About The Risk That Led Him To The Love Of His Life

Eddie Chang had just finished his junior year in college and was spending some time at his friend’s house in Chicago, when he got reacquainted with his friend’s older sister, E.F. Wen.

Two years older than him, E.F. happened to be home for the summer. She was always the well-liked one around the community, and her playful, rebellious energy caught his eye.

What happened that week sparked a romance that would last them four decades — until E.F. died after a battle with colon cancer.

Eddie came to StoryCorps with their youngest daughter Tria to remember how it all started, and recount all that he still loves about his late wife.

Top Photo: Tria Chang and Eddie Chang at their StoryCorps interview in San Francisco on May 6th, 2017. By Yosmay del Mazo for StoryCorps.
Middle Photo: Eddie Chang and E.F. Wen. Circa 1973
Bottom Photo: From left to right: Eddie Chang, E.F. Wen, Vanessa Chang, Tria Chang, & Meesha Chang. 1993 at Smith College.

Originally aired February 14, 2020 on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

A Father, His Daughter, and the Choice to Start a Family as “an Act of Hope”

Jessica Kibblewhite grew up the daughter of an astronomer, Edward Kibblewhite. Among his inventions: a system that allows scientists to take clearer pictures of stars.

When Jessica and her husband were having a hard time deciding whether to have a child, she brought her dad to StoryCorps in Chicago to ask him for advice. Essentially, she hoped he might help her do the same thing his invention does: see more clearly.

Top photo: Edward Kibblewhite and Jessica Kibblewhite at their StoryCorps interview in Chicago, IL on October 27, 2018. By Rocio Santos for StoryCorps.

Originally aired December 13th 2019, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

Adopted Woman Finds Siblings, Learns Family Secret

Lisa Bouler Daniels grew up knowing she was adopted; and as an adult, she began searching for her birth family.

By the time she found them, both her birth mother and her adoptive mother had passed away. But she did track down her biological brother: Benjamin Chambers.

And the story of her adoption unearthed a family secret that had been kept quiet for decades.

Photo: Benjamin Chambers and Lisa Bouler Daniels at the Chicago StoryBooth in December 2018. Rocio Santos/StoryCorps.

Originally aired April 26, 2019, on NPR’s Morning Edition.