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Hear NPR's First On-Air Original Broadcast From 1971

Monday, May 3, 2021, marks the 50th anniversary of NPR's first on-air original broadcast. In the last half century, NPR and Member stations have been essential, trusted sources for local events and cultural programming featuring music, local history, education and the arts. To mark this milestone, we're reflecting on — and renewing — our commitment to serve an audience that reflects America and to Hear Every Voice.

All Things Considered debuted on May 3, 1971. The same day, over 20,000 protesters gathered in Washington, DC, to demonstrate against the Vietnam War. All Things Considered documented all sides of the antiwar protest with a visceral 24-minute sound portrait, taking listeners to the heart of America's agonies over the war in Vietnam. Against an aural backdrop of helicopters, motorcycle engines and police sirens, NPR reporters recorded the voices of protesters, police officers, veterans and office workers on the streets of Washington.

The inaugural broadcast of All Things Considered was inducted into the Library of Congress on March 29, 2017. "For the sounds that we made on the first day to be right up there with Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I Have a Dream' speech or Neil Armstrong's first words spoken by a human being on the moon — that's very lofty company for us," Susan Stamberg, who began hosting the flagship show in 1972 and continued to do so for 14 years, said.

However, NPR is nothing without its trusted staff: "The real credit goes to [those] who made and make the ideas real everyday," Bill Siemering, NPR's first programming director, said. "The NPR staff's commitment to the highest standards of broadcast journalism are valued more now than ever."

Thousands of young people came to Washington, willing to risk being arrested in order to end the war. They went into the streets this morning to stop the government from functioning by clogging many Washington roads during this morning's rush hour. For many demonstrators, the mobile street tactics of civil disobedience are an expected spring event. But before today, many other young people who came to Washington had not been willing to oppose a state with their bodies. For these young Americans, today was a major test of their commitment to the ethical code of the young and the angry. It was their freedom ride — their Selma march — their May Day.

Next on All Things Considered, we thought we'd go a bit more into the fallout, as it were, from the demonstrations in Washington against the war. There are four of us here now — myself; Stephen Banker, who covered the story at the Pentagon; Jim Russell, who, from the Lincoln Memorial and therearounds, saw the action and watched the action on the bridges together with Trudy Rubin, who has been in Washington covering the story for the Christian Science Monitor.

In this age of unshorn locks, with shagginess transformed into a lifestyle of demonstrators and demonstrations, we've been looking into the plight of barbers around the country — they of the waiting shears — and the different methods they have found of coping, but not necessarily clipping, with the decline in business with today's popularity of long hairstyles in men. One of the more ingenious solutions is in Ames, Iowa. From station WOI in Ames, Wayne Olson. —Courtesy of Iowa Public Radio

It was a very busy day at the Supreme Court today, with decisions on the death penalty and pornography. The court refused to overturn the death penalty on two procedural matters.

In the first case, the appeal had contended that the jury's discretion to decide between life and death in capital cases violates the Constitution. In the second case, the appeal had argued that the Constitution requires a separation of the penalty phase from the main body of a trial. The court decided today that the Constitution does not prohibit either of these procedures.

We should emphasize that the court dealt only with these two rather narrow procedural matters in upholding the death penalty. It did not consider the question of whether the death penalty itself is constitutional. So the future of the 644 men and seven women now held in death rows in 33 states still remain in doubt.

The Pulitzer Prizes were announced in New York this afternoon. The jury gave no prize for a novel this year, but gave its drama award to Paul Zindel for his play, "The Effect Of Gamma Rays on Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds." The top journalism awards went to the Winston-Salem Journal and Sentinel for its coverage of environmental problems, and to the Washington Post correspondent, Jimmie Lee Hoagland, for coverage of apartheid in South Africa. The award for history went to James MacGregor Burns for "Roosevelt: The Soldier Of Freedom."

Continuing on All Things Considered, we might here try — we are going to try indeed to bring out, in terms of the victim, the agony of addiction. The isolation indeed, of a woman with no one to talk to. The woman's [26 years old]. She has a 12-year-old daughter. She used to be a nurse, and our reporter, Gwen Hudley, knows her as Janice.

With us here is Gwen Hudley, who did the profile on Janice, the woman, the former nurse, the mother, the [26-year-old] who is trying to climb out of her addiction with heroin. And, Gwen, listening to Buchanan on his guitar, it almost sounds like Janice. Sometimes it sounds like her saying that she's sick of me, that she's tired of me, and bam.

Bouncing around the country these days — dropping into museums, campuses, coffee houses, whatever they do find — is a remarkable combination of the poet Allen Ginsberg and his father. Between them, Allen Ginsberg and his father are talking about antiwar movements, student activities, the Berrigan case, demonstrations — as have been occurring in Washington this week. And in the course of their wanderings, our man Fred Calland caught up with them. And he asked both Allen and his father, Louis Ginsberg, if drugs were both a source of violence, as well as a source of, perhaps, insight.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.