‘The Fire’ That Transformed A Philadelphia Community

In 1985, after a long standoff, Philadelphia municipal authorities dropped a bomb on a residential row house. It was the headquarters of a African-American radical group called MOVE. The resulting fire killed 11 people, destroyed 61 homes and tore apart a community.

In a new film showing at the AFI Docs festival, director Jason Osder chronicles the years of tension between police, MOVE and neighbors that ended in tragedy.

Osder talks with NPR’s Neal Conan about his film Let the Fire Burn.  [Listen to complete story on NPR.]

Jimmy Scott: NPR Interview
Talk Of The Nation
Jimmy Scott: NPR Interview

The eloquent, effortless jazz singer Jimmy Scott has died. He was 88. Seriously, if you haven’t heard him sing “Someone to Watch Over Me,” then you really should. Here’s a 2005 interview with Talk of the Nation’s Neal Conan. 

[The war] left such deep scars in so many - in such a profound way. And I would say that’s why it was just really moving because so many women and men - has - lost their lives just for us to be able to have celebrated the independence.

So you know, I was asked a question once, you know, you don’t think that it happened really fast, since the peace agreement? And I was like, are you serious? Are you kidding me? I mean, this has just been such a long journey. And to be able to finally say, you know, we can celebrate this independence, so much bloodshed has taken place.

And I would say that’s why, you know, so many people have turned out - not just 50 or 60 or 70 percent. I mean literally, almost 100 percent, 90-something percent people said enough is enough; no more war, no more bloodshed. We need to rebuild, you know, our new country. And so that’s why it’s just really touching.

And so that’s why it’s just really touching.

—  Super Model Alek Wek on the South Sudan’s recent declaration of Independence. 
It’s been an honor talking to you every day. I counted them up… 5,000 hours. There is still so much to talk about, but that’s gonna have to be enough. So, in a minute or so, I will go back to where I started in public radio. I will be one of you.

-Neal Conan, signing off of Talk of the Nation during it’s final broadcast on June 27, 2013

If you missed it, catch the final broadcast here:

It’s Zora Neale Hurston’s 123rd birthday today – check out this lovely Google doodle in her honor.

As well as writing her novels and stories, Hurston spent years doing anthropological field work in the American South, Jamaica and Haiti. During the Great Depression, she joined the Works Progress Administration and began documenting folklife in her home state of Florida.

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Gabriel Brown playing guitar as Rochelle French and Zora Neale Hurston listen: Eatonville, Florida (1935). Image via

Writer Rebecca Bengal traced Hurston’s tracks through Florida in 2010, telling NPR’s Michel Martin that Hurston’s home town of Eatonville still retains traces of the town Hurston once knew: “It’s a small town. There’s a few places to eat. There’s a lovely lake. There’s bungalows. I mean, it’s very quiet seeming. You definitely feel like you’ve stepped, if not completely back in time, into a little bit of another world.”

Stetson Kennedy was Hurston’s coworker and traveling companion on her Florida expedition – he spoke to NPR’s StoryCorps about the experience in 2005.  Kennedy told NPR’s Neal Conan that they couldn’t travel together without falling afoul of Jim Crow laws, “So we sent her ahead, as her boss, as a scout to identify talent, and we’d follow up with this machine, as we mentioned. She – I recalled earlier, Alan Lomax, the pre-eminent musicologist whose entire collection the Library of Congress has recently acquired – Alan told me that in ‘35, Zora took him to Eatonville and the good old boys were driving through on the way to work and looking like they were going to make trouble, and so she said, 'Alan, I’m going to have to paint you black.’ And he swears she actually painted his hands and face black to avoid trouble.”


Audio Postcard 5 Airwaves

Radio waves streaming in from across the ocean, telegraph poles flying by. Americana in my head. For several years now, I’ve been listening to Neal Conan’s Talk of the Nation on NPR almost every day. His aged tranquil voice filling my room with long-form stories allowing for pauses, geeking it out with the Political Junkie and Science Friday. Today he signed off for the last time, leaving more than a two hour gap on my highways.