The Road to Now-logo

The Road to Now

History Podcasts >

The Road to Now is a series of interviews and conversations that trace the historical roots of today’s events. Hosted by Bob Crawford of the Avett Brothers & Dr. Benjamin Sawyer of Middle Tennessee State University, this podcast brings pressing questions and exceptional guests to the table to explain how our shared and personal past has shaped the road that brought us to where we are now.

The Road to Now is a series of interviews and conversations that trace the historical roots of today’s events. Hosted by Bob Crawford of the Avett Brothers & Dr. Benjamin Sawyer of Middle Tennessee State University, this podcast brings pressing questions and exceptional guests to the table to explain how our shared and personal past has shaped the road that brought us to where we are now.
More Information


Nashville, TN


The Road to Now is a series of interviews and conversations that trace the historical roots of today’s events. Hosted by Bob Crawford of the Avett Brothers & Dr. Benjamin Sawyer of Middle Tennessee State University, this podcast brings pressing questions and exceptional guests to the table to explain how our shared and personal past has shaped the road that brought us to where we are now.








#129 RTN Third Anniversary Party w/ Matt Negrin

On May 18 2016, Ben and Bob launched the first three episodes of their new podcast called The Road To Now. One of the guests in those episodes was a young journalist named Matt Negrin, who Bob met during a visit to the set of Bloomberg’s With All Due Respect. In the three years since, Matt Negrin has moved from Bloomberg Politics to Comedy Central, where he is currently Senior Producer at The Daily Show. Even more impressive, Matt has become the all-time record holder for appearances on RTN...


#128 A Frail League of Friendship: The Articles of Confederation w/ Greg Jackson

In 1776, the US declared independence. Eleven years later, in 1787, delegates from 12 states (we’re looking at YOU Rhode Island) got together in Philadelphia and wrote the Constitution. In between those triumphant moments, there was the Articles of Confederation, that “firm league of friendship” that most Americans probably know primarily as something they had to memorize for a history test. HOWEVER The Articles of Confederation, while certainly not a highlight of the American experiment,...


RTN Theology #9: Burying White Privilege: Resurrecting a Badass Christianity w/ Miguel De La Torre

In this episode of RTN Theology, Bob talks with Christian social ethicist-activist, author, and Professor at Iliff School of Theology, Dr. Miguel De La Torre. Bob and Miguel discuss liberation theology and the connection between the theology shared by slaveholders during the antebellum and Civil War periods with the theology professed by many prominent evangelical leaders like Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell Jr. Del La Torre’s 36th book, Burying White Privilege, was based on his article...


#127 The History of Privacy in Modern America w/ Sarah Igo

The data collection practices of companies such as facebook, google and amazon have led many Americans to wonder if privacy is dead. Though these companies are relatively new, this is far from the first time that Americans have felt their privacy to be under attack. In this episode, we speak with Vanderbilt University’s Sarah Igo to learn about the ways that Americans have understood privacy from the advent of “instant photography” in the 1890s to the rise of the internet in the 21st...


#126 The Origins of American Immigration Policy w/ Hidetaka Hirota

Hidetaka Hirota joins Bob and Ben for a conversation about the history of immigration law in the United States and the ways that government officials have decided who could and could not enter the United States. Hidetaka discusses the creation of Federal immigration law and the ways that looking at state immigration policies in the early to mid-19th century can help us understand the Immigration and Chinese Exclusion Acts of 1882. Dr. Hidetaka Hirota is Assistant Professor of History at...


RTN Voices #1: The Life & Times of Rufus Allan Sevier (RTN April Fools Episode)

This episode launched April 1, 2019. It's an April Fools trick, but we hope you enjoy it anyway! Rufus Allan Sevier was born on December 7, 1916 in the mountains of eastern Tennessee. More than a century later Rufus is in incredible health and is one of the few people alive today who vividly remembers life before the Great Depression. His personal story, however, diverges in significant ways from the historical narrative most of us learned in history class, and provides new insights into...


RTN Theology #8 Elizabeth Seton and Catholics in Early America w/ Catherine O'Donnell

Bob speaks with Arizona State University Associate Professor of History Catherine O’Donnell about the prejudice Catholics endured in the years leading up to the American Revolution and how they gained the respect of George Washington as he sought French assistance in the cause. Catherine also discusses her recent work Elizabeth Seton: American Saint (Cornell University Press, 2018) and how Seaton went from Catholic convert to the first American Saint. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris...


#125 When the Irish Invaded Canada w/ Chris Klein

In 1866, the Fenian Brotherhood, comprised primarily of Irish Civil War veterans, led a series of attacks on Canadian provinces just across the border from the United States. Their goal: seize Canadian territory and exchange it for Irish independence. Similar raids continued until 1871, and although they were ultimately unsuccessful, they are part of a greater story of the American Civil War, Irish Independence, and trans-Atlantic immigration to the United States in the mid-19th Century. In...


#124 Political Coalitions from 1990 to 2019 w/ Amy Walter

Amy Walter has been covering Congress and Congressional races since the early 1990s. In this episode, Amy joins Bob to talk about the political issues and strategies that took us from the era of Bill Clinton & Newt Gingrich to today, the reasons that modern politics is so divisive, and the potential coalitions that could impact the 2020 elections and beyond. Bob and then follow up with a conversation about what Amy taught them and what they see as the biggest issues that our leaders need to...


#123 How to Tell a Good Story w/ Jakob Lewis

Jakob Lewis knows how to tell a good story. As the host and producer of the podcast Neighbors, Jakob built a nation-wide audience by talking to those around him and turning them into compelling stories that captured the essence of daily life. In his newest venture, Vox Familia, he is taking his skills to help families tell their own stories. In this episode of The Road to Now, Ben sits down with Jakob to talk about what he’s learned about the ways that the personal narrative intersects with...


#122 The Arctic w/ Heidi Bohaker & Alison Smith

When most of us think of the earth, we imagine going “north” as going “up.” Modern maps, however, obscure many geographic realities, including the existence of an Arctic world, which unites the US, Canada, Russia, Norway, Greenland and other countries into a distinct geographic sphere. In this episode, Bob and Ben are joined by historians Heidi Bohaker and Alison Smith to discuss their work developing a course on the history of the Arctic at the University of Toronto. The conversation covers...


RTN Theology #7 Remembering Walter B. Jones: Living by Faith and by Truth

In this episode of RTN Theology hosts Bob Crawford and Keith Larson share personal reflections on the life of North Carolina 3rd District Congressman Walter B. Jones who passed away on February 10th, 2019. Jones served Eastern North Carolina in Congress and the State Legislature for over 34 years. He became a household name in the run up to the war in Iraq when he led a campaign to change the name of French fries to Freedom Fries. A couple of years into the war, he attended a funeral for a...


#121 Gender and History w/ Lisa Fine

Bob and Ben talk with Lisa Fine about the ways that viewing history through the lens of gender can help us understand the past. Lisa explains the origins of women’s history, the impact that gender theory had on the field of history, and why it’s important to think about both masculinity and femininity when considering gender. This is the third installment in our methodology series, which also includes RTN #119 Karl Marx and History and Historical Narratives and Power (available on our...


#120 The History of Influenza w/ John Barry

The influenza strain that hit the world in 1918 killed between 50 and 100 million people. It was not the first flu to have such an impact on humanity, and it also may not be the last. In this episode we talk with John Barry about his research on the history of influenza, the current state of preparedness, and the unexpected ways that influenza has shaped modern history. John Barry is the author of multiple award-winning books including the New York Times Best Seller The Great Influenza:...


#119 Karl Marx and History

When Americans think of Karl Marx, they probably think of the self-proclaimed Marxist governments whose rivalry with the US & Western Europe defined the 20th Century. Marx, however, formulated a theory of historical change and social relationships under capitalism that was more productive than the Communist governments of the 20th Century. In this episode, Bob and Ben talk about how Marx viewed history, what we can learn from it, and the ways Marx’s theory has both contributed to, and...


#118 The GI Bill and the Legacy of Racial Discrimination w/ Louis Woods

Most Americans grow up learning about the civil rights movement from a very young age, but the stories we tell about the March on Washington, Dr. King’s speeches, and the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of 1964-65 leave out the very real ways that the Jim Crow system continues to shape our world today. In this episode of The Road to Now, Ben’s friend and colleague Louis Woods joins us to explain how federal policies in the 20th century, and particularly the GI Bill, excluded Black...


#117 American Slavery w/ Edward Baptist

Slavery was an integral part of the American republic from the moment of independence until the abolition of the so-called “peculiar institution” with the ratification of the 13th Amendment in 1865. The social and economic impact of the slave system, however, are much larger in terms of both time and geography. In this episode, Bob and Ben speak with Edward Baptist about slavery’s origins, its evolution, and how enslaved people’s work laid the foundation for modern capitalism. He also shares...


#116 What is the Middle Class? w/ Scott Wasserman

Most Americans identify themselves as middle class. But what does that mean? Bob & Ben talk with The Bell Policy Center’s Scott Wasserman to talk about the challenges facing American workers, the difference between “middle class” and “working class,” and the differences between the economy today and that of the 20th century. The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network. For more on this and all our other episodes, visit


#115 The 1970s w/ Jefferson Cowie

The 1970s was a pivotal decade in American history. In a ten-year span, the United States admitted defeat in Vietnam, saw a President resign in shame, and came face to face with many of the atrocities it had committed abroad. American citizens also faced a score of economic problems, including “stagflation,” an energy crisis, and the realization that many of them would end the decade worse off than they had been when it began. In today’s episode we reflect on what happened in the 1970s, and...


#114 Making the Government Talk: US Covert Operations and Freedom of Information w/ Peter Kornbluh

Peter Kornbluh has spent his life working to shed light on US covert operations abroad. Along with his colleagues at the National Security Archive, Peter has helped to declassify documents related to the Bay of Pigs (1961) and Cuban Missile Crisis (1962), the coup against Chile’s democratically elected government (1973) and the Iran-Contra Scandal (1980s). As it turns out, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operatives and many prominent politicians have a lot to hide. In this episode, Bob...