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Throughline

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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

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United States

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NPR

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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

Language:

English


Episodes

Do Not Pass Go

6/30/2022
There's more to Monopoly than you might think. It's one of the best-selling board games in history — despite huge economic instability, sales actually went up during the pandemic — and it's been an iconic part of American life at other pivotal moments: a cheap pastime during the Great Depression; a reminder of home for soldiers during WWII; and an American export during its rise as a global superpower. It endured even as it reflected some of the ongoing inequities in American society, from...

Duration:00:51:47

The Evangelical Vote (2019)

6/23/2022
When Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, the door opened on one of those rare opportunities to tip the balance of the highest court in the U.S. It was the opportunity that one particular voting bloc had been waiting for: evangelical Christians. Now, we await a ruling in a case that has the potential to overturn Roe v. Wade – an outcome evangelical Christians have spent decades voting and lobbying for. So how did this religious group become such a powerful force in U.S. politics?...

Duration:00:52:26

After Roe: A New Battlefield

6/16/2022
The Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade transformed the landscape of abortion rights overnight. For the doctors, lawyers, feminists, and others who had fought for nationwide legalization, Roe was the end of a long battle. But for the growing movement against abortion rights, it was the beginning of a new battle: to protect the fetus, challenge abortion providers, and ultimately overturn Roe. This is the story of how opponents of abortion rights banded together, built power, and launched...

Duration:00:53:03

By Accident of Birth

6/9/2022
In August of 1895, a ship called the SS Coptic approached the coast of Northern California. On that boat was a passenger from San Francisco, a young man named Wong Kim Ark who was returning home after visiting his wife and child in China. He'd taken trips like this before, and expected to come back to the city he was born in, to his life and friends. But when the ship docked, officials told him he couldn't get off. The customs agent barred him according to the Chinese Exclusion Act, which...

Duration:01:00:59

The Modern White Power Movement (2020)

6/2/2022
The recent shooting in Buffalo, New York, which authorities are investigating as a hate crime, has yet again highlighted the threat posed by domestic terrorism in the U.S. At the center are violent extremists – the most lethal and persistent of whom are white supremacists and anti-government militias. They're part of a deeply interconnected movement which, since the 1980s, has pursued a mission to topple the U.S government with guerrilla warfare. Today, this movement is made up of...

Duration:00:49:12

The Characters That Built China

5/26/2022
Today, China is a global superpower. But less than two hundred years ago, the nation was in a state of decline. After what became known as the 'century of humiliation' at the hands of Western imperialist powers, its very survival was in question. A movement arose to fight off foreign interference and preserve Chinese culture in the face of intense pressure from a rapidly-changing world. And the key to that movement was language. In this episode, we follow three key reformers who worked to...

Duration:00:49:20

Before Roe: The Physicians' Crusade

5/19/2022
Abortion wasn't always controversial. In fact, in colonial America it would have been considered a fairly common practice: a private decision made by women, and aided mostly by midwives. But in the mid-1800s, a small group of physicians set out to change that. Obstetrics was a new field, and they wanted it to be their domain—meaning, the domain of men and medicine. Led by a zealous young doctor named Horatio Storer, they launched a campaign to make abortion illegal in every state, spreading...

Duration:00:53:29

Bonus: The Forgotten Mothers of Civil Rights History

5/17/2022
MLK Jr., Malcolm X and James Baldwin are household names, but what about their mothers? This hour, author Anna Malaika Tubbs explores how these three women shaped American history.

Duration:00:50:07

The Shadows of the Constitution (2020)

5/12/2022
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...

Duration:00:43:59

Cinco de Mayo and the Rise of Modern Mexico

5/5/2022
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...

Duration:00:50:41

The New Gilded Age

4/28/2022
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.

Duration:00:51:06

Force of Nature (2021)

4/21/2022
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.

Duration:00:51:16

The Everlasting Problem (2020)

4/14/2022
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.

Duration:00:55:46

Capitalism: What Makes Us Free? (2021)

4/7/2022
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.

Duration:00:51:45

The Land of the Fee (2021)

3/31/2022
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...

Duration:00:45:25

All Wars Are Fought Twice

3/24/2022
"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 —...

Duration:00:48:59

Our Own People (2021)

3/17/2022
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.

Duration:00:51:43

Ukraine's Dangerous Independence

3/10/2022
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,...

Duration:00:43:56

Of Rats and Men

3/3/2022
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...

Duration:00:51:56

There Are No Utopias

2/24/2022
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...

Duration:00:49:07