Monologues from Hard Times by Studs Terkel (1970)

Pick one of the following monologues and read it as you listen to its recording online (if available).

Then write a report on your character to present in class next time. Find an excellent quote to share with us. If you want, you can even perform your presentation as this character.

See if your character answers the following questions:

  • What impact did the Depression have on you and your family?
  • What memories typified the experience for you?
  • Did you and your neighbors or co-workers take any action together to deal with the emergency?
  • Did New Deal programs help? If so, how?
  • Would you have made it without government help?
  • Could a catastrophe like the Depression ever happen in America again?

Limit your presentation to three or four minutes.

Monologue choices: (Audio Files)

  • Louis Banks: a hobo who describes how a white man saved him from alcoholism.
  • Ed Paulsen, a day worker, on unemployment and the search for jobs.
  • Cesar Chavez, a union organizer, on migrant farm workers and discrimination against Mexicans.
  • Harry Terrell, a farmer, on farm depression in Des Moines IA, farm holidays, and repossession.
  • Oscar Heleen, a farmer, on farm depression, farm holidays and repossession.
  • Bob Stinson, an auto worker, on the Flint sit-down strike of 1937 and the beginning of UAW-CIO.
  • Mike Widman, a labor organizer, on the 1940 Ford strike in Detroit.
  • William Benton, an advertising businessman who made money during the Depression.
  • Doc Graham, a gangster associate and quasi-legal entrepreneur.
  • Jerome Zerbe, a society photographer who wasn't affected by the Depression and worked with the wealthy.
  • Buddy Blankenship, a miner, on company stores, hard work, and black lung disease.
  • Peggy Terry,  a migrant farm worker, on being unemployed, bread lines, soup kitchens, and homeless camps. 
  • Phyllis Lorimer, a retired actress, on living with a chauffeur on NY Park Ave.
  • Eileen Barthe, a relief case worker, on the humiliation to the recipients of relief.
  • Jane Yoder, a suburban housewife, on discrimination against WPA recipients.
  • Evelyn Finn, a seamstress and labor organizer, who organized garment workers in New Orleans and St. Louis.
  • Sally Rand, a fan dancer who danced nude because she had no money for costumes.
  • Mrs. Willie Jeffries, an 80 year old African American woman who worked in a relief station trying to get money to bury the dead.
  • Emma Tiller, a cook who discusses how African Americans fed tramps when white people didnít.
  • Jose Yglesias, a novelist and journalist, on the wildcat strikes among cigar workers in Tampa.
  • Lewis Andreas, a pioneer in group medicine, on people at public health clinics.