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Throughline podcast

Throughline

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  NPR  

The past is never past. Every headline has a history. Join us every week as we go back in time to understand the present. These are stories you can feel and sounds you can see from the moments that shaped our world.Subscribe to Throughline+. You'll be supporting the history-reframing, perspective-shifting, time-warping stories you can't get enough of - and you'll unlock access to our sponsor-free feed of the show. Learn more at plus.npr.org/throughline

The past is never past. Every headline has a history. Join us every week as we go back in time to understand the present. These are stories you can feel and sounds you can see from the moments that shaped our world.Subscribe to Throughline+. You'll be supporting the history-reframing, perspective-shifting, time-warping stories you can't get enough of - and you'll unlock access to our sponsor-free feed of the show. Learn more at plus.npr.org/throughline

 

#184

The Shadows of the Constitution (2020)

The Constitution is like America's secular Bible, our sacred founding document. As the Supreme Court debates the future of Roe v. Wade, many of us are looking more closely at the Constitution, trying to discern how it protects us. In her play, "What the Constitution Means to Me," Heidi Schreck goes through her own process of discovering what the Constitution is really about: who wrote it, who it was for, who it protected and who it didn't. Through Heidi's personal story, we learn how both the document itself and the way it's been interpreted have affected generations of Americans — and how those effects are far from ended. ... Read more

12 May 2022

43 MINS

43:01

12 May 2022


#183

Cinco de Mayo and the Rise of Modern Mexico

Does history have a border? That is the question at the heart of Cinco de Mayo, May 5th, a holiday that symbolizes Mexico's fight for autonomy, even as it's come to be associated with sales and cervezas and margaritas in the U.S. Cinco de Mayo is part of a much deeper story of two nations — Mexico and the U.S. — trying to define themselves at a time when old empires were crumbling and borders were in flux. A story that culminated in a revolution in Mexico that was at the forefront of a worldwide movement against predatory capitalism and foreign domination. So in this episode, we're going back to the first Cinco de Mayo and exploring how it helped shape the future on both sides of the border. ... Read more

05 May 2022

50 MINS

50:08

05 May 2022


#182

The New Gilded Age

Philanthropic foundations are a fundamental part of our society: they support media, the arts, education, medical research, and more. NPR, and even this show, is supported by many personal and family foundations. But it wasn't always that way. In this episode, we go back to the beginning — the Gilded Age. We trace the birth and evolution of what many today call "big philanthropy," and ask what all this private wealth means for the public good. ... Read more

28 Apr 2022

50 MINS

50:25

28 Apr 2022


#181

Force of Nature (2021)

Rivers on fire, acid rain falling from the sky, species going extinct, oil spills, polluted air, and undrinkable water: For so long, we didn't think of our planet as a place to preserve. And then, in the 1960s and 70s, that changed. Democrats and Republicans, with overwhelming public support, came together to pass a sweeping legislative agenda around environmental protection. In today's episode, what led to Earth Day, and what Earth Day led to. ... Read more

21 Apr 2022

49 MINS

49:28

21 Apr 2022


#180

The Everlasting Problem (2020)

Health insurance for millions of Americans is dependent on their jobs. But it's not like that everywhere. So how did the U.S. end up with such a fragile system that leaves so many vulnerable—or with no health insurance at all? On this episode, how a temporary solution created an everlasting problem. ... Read more

14 Apr 2022

55 MINS

55:24

14 Apr 2022


#179

Capitalism: What Makes Us Free? (2021)

What's the role of government in society? What do we mean when we talk about individual responsibility? What makes us free? 'Neoliberalism' might feel like a squishy term that's hard to define and understand. But this ideology, founded by a group of men in the Swiss Alps, is a political project that has dominated our economic system for decades. In the name of free-market fundamentals, the forces behind neoliberalism act like an invisible hand, shaping almost every aspect of our lives. ... Read more

07 Apr 2022

50 MINS

50:38

07 Apr 2022


#178

The Land of the Fee (2021)

Tipping is a norm in the United States—and it's always been controversial. The practice took off after the Civil War, as employers sought cheap labor from formerly enslaved people: if tips were expected, companies could get away with paying laughably low wages. But the practice was always controversial, and has been vehemently challenged since it first came to the U.S. from Europe. We speak with Nina Martyris, a journalist who's written about the history of tipping in the United States, to find out how tipping—once deemed a "cancer in the breast of democracy"— went from being considered wholly un-American to becoming a deeply American custom. ... Read more

31 Mar 2022

44 MINS

44:54

31 Mar 2022


#177

All Wars Are Fought Twice

"All wars are fought twice, the first time on the battlefield, the second time in memory," writes Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen. This week on Throughline, we want to pause the news cycle to think about not just how war is experienced or consumed, but how it's remembered. A refugee from the Vietnam War, Nguyen calls himself a scholar of memory — someone who studies how we remember events of the past, both as people and as nations. As the world watches the war in Ukraine — and with the U.S. departure from Afghanistan still fresh — we speak with Nguyen about national memory, selective forgetting, and the refugee stories that might ultimately help us move forward. ... Read more

24 Mar 2022

48 MINS

48:11

24 Mar 2022


#176

Our Own People (2021)

A Japanese American activist whose early political awakenings came while incarcerated in the concentration camps of World War II America, Kochiyama dedicated her life to social justice and liberation movements. One year after the spa shootings that killed eight people in Atlanta, Georgia — including six women of Asian descent — Throughline reflects on Kochiyama's ideas around the Asian American struggle, and what solidarity and intersectionality can mean for all struggles. ... Read more

17 Mar 2022

51 MINS

51:10

17 Mar 2022


#175

Ukraine's Dangerous Independence

Months before Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale military invasion of Ukraine, he published an essay on the Kremlin website called "On The Historical Unity of Russia and Ukraine." In it, he suggested that Ukrainians don't really have their own identity — and that they never have. Historian Serhii Plokhii says that couldn't be further from the truth. The histories of the two countries are deeply intertwined, but Ukrainian identity is unique. Today, we explore that identity: how it formed, its relationship to Russia, and how it helps us understand what's happening now. ... Read more

10 Mar 2022

44 MINS

44:00

10 Mar 2022


#174

Of Rats and Men

Rats. Love 'em or hate 'em, (though you probably hate 'em), they're part of our world. And during the pandemic, they've been out in full force: fewer humans outdoors means more space for rats. And it turns out, they're a lot like us: They've colonized the whole planet; they're incredibly adaptable; they go wherever the resources are. And, they share one-fourth of our genome—so when you're looking in the mirror, you're kinda seeing a rat staring back at you. So for this episode, we dove into the history of our rodent doppelgängers. What we found was a story that spans thousands of years and nearly every continent on Earth, from the fields of ancient Mongolia to the palaces of Victorian England to the laboratories of 20th century Maryland... and probably to a burrow near you. ... Read more

03 Mar 2022

51 MINS

51:25

03 Mar 2022


#173

There Are No Utopias

It may seem bleak, but Robin D.G Kelley's view of the world says there is no promise of liberation, only struggle. Kelley has spent his career bringing to life the stories of the Black labor organizers and anti-capitalists who are often left out of history books, from radical farmers in the South to Black unions during the Gilded Age. And he's come to a provocative conclusion: that the secret to capitalism's survival is racism. His scholarship uses historical connections between race and labor to directly challenge the premise that there can be any justice within America's current economic system — and to ask what that means for the people who seek it. This week on Throughline, a view of Black history you don't often hear in February. ... Read more

24 Feb 2022

49 MINS

49:14

24 Feb 2022


#172

Marcus Garvey: Pan-Africanist (2021)

Black people deserve nothing less than everything: This was Marcus Garvey's simple, uncompromising message. His speeches on Pan-Africanism — the vision of a world where all people of African origin, on every continent, were united, self-sufficient, and proud — made him a powerful Black voice in the 20th century. His steamship company, the Black Star Line, was supposed to take his followers to Africa, where he said they would find true liberation. His message resonated with leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcom X. But the civil rights establishment viewed Garvey with deep suspicion. And the Black Star Line never sailed. In today's episode, we examine Marcus Garvey's life and legacy, and how he became the towering, often-misunderstood figure that he is. ... Read more

17 Feb 2022

59 MINS

59:55

17 Feb 2022


#171

Pirates of the Senate

The fight over the filibuster brings up some deeper questions that we as a country are facing. How do we make space for disagreement without ending up at a stalemate? Can we use the tools given to us by previous generations without turning them into weapons? And how do we decide which parts of our system should be changed – and when it's time to change? The filibuster can hold legislation hostage, stop bills from ever reaching the Senate floor, and lead to hours-long speeches in Congress, but it can be hard to understand what a filibuster actually is, why we have it, and how it impacts the country. In this episode, we look at how the ongoing battle over the filibuster's future is in some ways a battle over its past. ... Read more

10 Feb 2022

52 MINS

52:32

10 Feb 2022


#170

A Story Of Us?

We've been seeing a lot of debate recently about how history should be taught. For example, some believe that the Civil War was about state rights while some argue that slavery played a large role in it. But what if we could all agree on one shared history? The past, as we know it, is a collection of billions of smaller stories that coalesce into the stories of families, communities, nations, and entire cultures. According to Tamim Ansary, narrative is the way we invent the past and the key to understanding history is understanding the stories we tell ourselves about three key areas: technology, environment, and language. With a world seemingly more connected than ever and still volatile with a constant sense of fracturing identities, Tamim contends that our shared history is a story we must invent. And the future of our species depends on our ability to develop a story we can all see ourselves in. ... Read more

03 Feb 2022

46 MINS

46:52

03 Feb 2022


#169

Russia's Longest Leader: Vladimir Putin (2019)

As tensions between Ukraine and Russia escalate, we decided to take a look at the man who has been running Russia for two decades: Vladimir Putin. How did a former KGB officer make his way up to the top seat — was it political prowess or was he just the recipient of a lot of good fortune? In this episode, we dive into the life of Vladimir Putin and try to understand how he became Russia's new "tsar." ... Read more

27 Jan 2022

34 MINS

34:05

27 Jan 2022


#168

Throughline Sleeps

Life can be tough. Every day brings new challenges. And in order to get through the waking hours we need rest. Good quality sleep. In this bonus episode, a companion to "The Way We Dream," we offer you a 30-minute audio journey into the deep. A smooth trip into the place where our minds are free from the confines of our self awareness, our dreams. ... Read more

25 Jan 2022

30 MINS

30:00

25 Jan 2022


#167

The Way We Dream

Our dreams can haunt us: literally. Recurring dreams about failing tests or running late are a common occurrence, but what are we to make of them? And are there hidden meanings in our dreams? Paleolithic hunter-gatherers may have painted their dreams onto caves, Julius Caesar's wife envisioned his assassination in a dream, and major works of art and music have been inspired by dreams. But with the scientific revolution came a different view of dreams, one in which they were dismissed as merely a meaningless biological reaction. Today, researchers are challenging that age-old assumption and finding new evidence that dreams are a vital way human beings process the world. In this episode, Sidarta Ribeiro takes us on a journey through the history of our understanding of dreams. ... Read more

20 Jan 2022

51 MINS

51:51

20 Jan 2022


#166

Bayard Rustin: The Man Behind the March on Washington (2021)

Bayard Rustin, the man behind the March on Washington, was one of the most consequential architects of the civil rights movement you may never have heard of. Rustin imagined how nonviolent civil resistance could be used to dismantle segregation in the United States. He organized around the idea for years and eventually introduced it to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But his identity as a gay man made him a target, obscured his rightful status and made him feel forced to choose, again and again, which aspect of his identity was most important. ... Read more

13 Jan 2022

1 HR 11 MINS

1:11:11

13 Jan 2022


#165

The Anatomy of Autocracy: Timothy Snyder (2021)

When a mob of pro-Trump supporters violently stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 they also incited a defining moment in United States history. Now what? We revisit our conversation with historian Timothy Snyder about how we got here and what an insurrection could mean for the future of America. ... Read more

06 Jan 2022

35 MINS

35:30

06 Jan 2022


#164

The Electrical Grid (2020)

Today, electricity in the U.S. is a utility we notice only when it's suddenly unavailable. But over a hundred years ago, electricity in the homes of every American was a wild idea and the subject of a bitter fight over who would power, and profit from, the national grid. This week, the battle that electrified our world and the extreme measures that were taken to get there. ... Read more

30 Dec 2021

42 MINS

42:58

30 Dec 2021


#163

Bonus: On Our Watch

What happens to police officers who use excessive force, tamper with evidence or sexually harass someone? In California, internal affairs investigations were kept secret from the public — until a recent transparency law unsealed thousands of files. Listen to the first episode of On Our Watch, a limited-run podcast from NPR and KQED that brings you into the rooms where officers are interrogated and witnesses are questioned to find out who the system of police accountability really serves, and who it protects. ... Read more

28 Dec 2021

48 MINS

48:29

28 Dec 2021


#162

American Socialist (2020)

American workers are reaching a breaking point. We're seeing a wave of resignations and labor strikes, and a supply chain that's cracking under the pressure. At the turn of the 20th century, one man faced a similar world and dreamt of something more – Eugene V. Debs.He was a bold and irreverent labor organizer, and the first socialist candidate for president. He believed in welfare programs, early childhood education, and the collective ownership of public resources. To him, there was nothing more American than standing up against oppression. When he spoke to the masses, people leaned in to listen. This week, the founder of American socialism and the legacy he left behind. ... Read more

23 Dec 2021

1 HR 04 MINS

1:04:40

23 Dec 2021


#161

The Monster of We

Are most modern problems caused by selfishness or a lack of it? Ayn Rand, a Russian American philosopher and writer, would say it's the latter — that selfishness is not a vice but a virtue — and that capitalism is the ideal system. Everyone from Donald Trump to Alan Greenspan to Brad Pitt have sung Ayn Rand's praises. The Library of Congress named her novel, Atlas Shrugged, the second most influential book in the U.S. after the Bible. Ayn Rand wasn't politically correct, she was belligerent and liked going against the grain. And although she lived by the doctrine of her own greatness, she was driven by the fear that she would never be good enough. In this episode, historian Jennifer Burns will guide us through Rand's evolution and how she eventually reshaped American politics, becoming what Burns calls "a gateway drug to life on the right." ... Read more

16 Dec 2021

1 HR 00 MINS

1:00:34

16 Dec 2021