'Letter from America' Examines the United States Through a British Lens

The Takeaway
Our discussion about BBC broadcaster Alistair Cooke and his iconic radio program, Letter from America, continues with journalist  Alvin Hall. The BBC, in conjunction with Boston University, recently unveiled an archive of Cooke's program, which broadcast every week from 1946 to 2004.   Hall notes Cooke's admiration for jazz, the ultimate American art form. In one program about Duke Ellington, Cooke said of Ellington's death, "I don't have to believe it if I don't want to."   "You could tell by his voice and how he talked about Duke Ellington that there was more there than just an understanding of the music," Hall explains. "There was an admiration for this man." Reflecting on his series of programs about Cooke and "Letter from America," Hall says, "I could do a journey across the United States and choose different topics and show America how much it has changed, and hasn't changed." Hall looked specifically at Cooke's programs from the 1940s, '50s, and '60s, and explains that, "When Alistair begins to talk about the power that black people were gaining during the Civil Rights Movement, the one thing that he said that really struck me was how small some of the steps were… They were monumental, we felt at the time," Hall says, "but they were really small."