Episodes
Published 05/24/22
What have been the gravest threats to a free press over the nation’s history? And how can the past tell us how to safeguard our access to information today?  On this second episode in a three-part series on free speech, Heather and Joanne discuss the 1837 murder of abolitionist journalist Elijah P. Lovejoy, the role of Joseph Pulitzer in the creation of the independent press, and the rise and fall of the Fairness Doctrine.  Join CAFE Insider to listen to “Backstage,” where Heather and...
Published 05/24/22
How has the federal government limited and protected free speech rights over the course of American history? How have citizens responded when Washington has limited their speech rights? And what can Elon Musk’s commentary on online free speech tell us about the difficult lines between free speech, disinformation, and political power?  In this first installment of a three-episode series on free speech, censorship, and so-called cancel culture, Heather Cox Richardson and Joanne Freeman explore...
Published 05/17/22
Heather and Joanne are off this week, so we’re showcasing an episode from another Vox Media Podcast Network show: “How the 1918 Flu Pandemic Ended,” from The Weeds. Hosts Dara Lind and Dylan Matthews often explore the roots of our current political issues, from healthcare, to immigration, to housing.   In this installment, originally aired in January, host and Senior Vox Correspondent Dylan Matthews talks with historian John Barry, who wrote an authoritative account of the 1918 flu pandemic,...
Published 05/10/22
How has America historically defined physical disabilities? How have disability rights activists achieved hard-fought wins? And how does the current debate over mask mandates and pandemic restrictions leave out those with disabilities or chronic illness?  Heather and Joanne discuss the impact of pensions for disabled war veterans in the Revolutionary and Civil War periods, the interlocking histories of racism, sexism, and ableism, and the impact of the 1970s disability rights...
Published 05/03/22
How have Jewish Americans fought for their identities? And how have other American groups used Jews to define themselves? White House celebrations of the recent Passover holiday have sparked conversations over how Jewish identity interacts with broader American self-definitions.   Heather and Joanne discuss the early American contention that indigenous Americans were the Lost Tribes of Israel, the controversy over Ulysses S. Grant’s treatment of Jewish Americans during the Civil War, and the...
Published 04/26/22
Who should support the needy in American society? The news is filled with controversies over the use and misuse of philanthropy, from Mackenzie Scott’s giving drive, to Elon Musk tax avoidance claims, to GoFundMe campaigns.  Heather and Joanne look at historical debates over philanthropy, from colonial community support and “warning out” laws, to Carnegie’s “Gospel of Wealth,” to the relationship between nonprofits and President Johnson’s Great Society. Join CAFE Insider to listen to...
Published 04/19/22
State lawmakers have proposed almost 250 anti-LGBTQ laws in 2022 alone. Why are we seeing such a virulent political backlash to sexual identity? And what can the current vitriol tell us about the entwinement of sexual orientation and politics in American history?  Heather and Joanne discuss the history of categorizing sexual preference, from the relative fluidity of early American sexual choices, to the rise of “Boston Marriages” and New York’s gay culture, to the McCarthy-led 1950s Lavender...
Published 04/12/22
Senate Republicans have attacked Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson for her past public defense work. How have defense attorneys elicited criticism and praise through American history? Why is the right to counsel so important to democracy?  Heather and Joanne discuss past moments of transition for legal counsel, from John Adams’s representation of British soldiers implicated in the Boston Massacre, to Clarence Darrow’s plea for the lives of Leopold and Loeb, to the impact of the...
Published 04/05/22
The State Department and President Biden have both declared that Russian President Vladimir Putin has committed war crimes in Ukraine. What are the rules of war? What constitutes a war crime? And what consequences might Putin face for the brutality of his invasion? Heather and Joanne look back at the centuries-long quest by world leaders and humanitarians to regulate violence in wartime, from General George Washington’s rules of civility during the Revolutionary War, to Abraham Lincoln’s use...
Published 03/29/22
What information should a president keep secret? Recently, we’ve seen revelations about former President Trump’s removal of classified materials and a tense exchange about the Biden administration’s handling of intel on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  Heather and Joanne connect these current controversies to historical debates about the balance between statecraft and transparency, from President Adams’ disclosure of the XYZ Affair, to President Grant’s ill-fated play to annex San Domingo, to...
Published 03/22/22
Stories of remarkable heroism by women in Ukraine have captured the imagination of the world over the past few weeks. How have women warriors shaped conversations over gender, violence, and heroism over the course of United States history?  Heather and Joanne discuss the Revolutionary War figures Molly Pitcher and Deborah Sampson, Harriet Tubman’s Civil War spying raids, and Ukrainian sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko’s 1942 tour of the U.S.  Join CAFE Insider to listen to “Backstage,” where...
Published 03/15/22
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has become a symbol of democracy around the world. What does this mean for the United States? This week, Heather and Joanne look at past foreign and international figures who’ve fought fervently for democratic values and have compelled and challenged Americans.  Heather and Joanne discuss how Zelensky’s current battle against Russia evokes the quests of the French-born Revolutionary War hero Lafayette, the Latin American liberator Simón Bolívar, and...
Published 03/08/22
Historian Heather Cox Richardson sat down with President Biden last week in the immediate aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson to serve on the Supreme Court.  Heather posted the interview on her Facebook and Substack profiles and is sharing it here for the CAFE and Vox Media audience.  Listen to this timely conversation between a historian and a president during a time of great upheaval, and as always, send us your thoughts and questions to...
Published 03/04/22
How do small and extreme groups take over the American political conversation? In this final installment of a three-part series on educating citizens, Heather and Joanne look at how reactionary movements utilize bullying tactics to wrest control from the majority. Heather and Joanne offer a comparison between the path to secession at the start of the Civil War, the rise of American Nazi-sympathizing groups in the 1930s, and the current reactionary movements around COVID-19 protocols and the...
Published 03/01/22
How do small and extreme groups take over the American political conversation? In this final installment of a three-part series on educating citizens, Heather and Joanne look at how reactionary movements utilize bullying tactics to wrest control from the majority. Heather and Joanne offer a comparison between the path to secession at the start of the Civil War, the rise of American Nazi-sympathizing groups in the 1930s, and the current reactionary movements around COVID-19 protocols and the...
Published 02/22/22
Why have public schools become a setting for heated political debates? In this second installment of a special three-part series, Heather and Joanne weigh in on the current nationwide tensions over censorship and parental control in American public schools. Heather and Joanne look back on the founding concepts of American education, the rise of school reformers in the late 19th century, and the development of segregation academies during the 1960s.  Join CAFE Insider to listen to...
Published 02/15/22
Book bans are back. What’s causing this resurgence? What have similar acts of censorship meant throughout American history? And how should concerned citizens respond? In this first installment of a special three-part series, “Bans, Schools, & Power: Book Panics,” Heather Cox Richardson and Joanne Freeman discuss three past book panics: the political uproar over Hinton Helper’s 1857 The Impending Crisis of the South, the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial over the teaching of evolution, and the 1966...
Published 02/08/22
What has money meant in American society? On this episode of Now & Then, “The Culture of Cash,” Heather Cox Richardson and Joanne Freeman look at the culture of American currency & capital. They examine attempts in the early republic to create a viable national coinage system, the introduction of greenbacks during the Civil War, the success of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1933 bank holiday, and the songs and films that defined national conversations about money in the 20th...
Published 02/01/22
In a special episode of CAFE Insider, former U.S. Attorneys Preet Bharara and Joyce Vance discuss Justice Stephen Breyer’s retirement from the Supreme Court, and reflect on his legacy. President Biden now faces the tough question of nominating Breyer’s replacement. Who will it be? What will the confirmation process look like? And what does it mean for the Court? To listen to the full episode for free, head to cafe.com/breyer and sign up to receive an email with the link to the show. Stay...
Published 01/27/22
What kinds of events have inspired Americans to become activists? On this episode of Now & Then, “When Americans Can’t Turn Away,” Heather Cox Richardson and Joanne Freeman highlight moments where everyday people have spoken up to defend their rights and those of their neighbors. Heather and Joanne look at the catalyzing effects of the 1779 Battle of New Haven, John Quincy Adams’s 1840s crusade against the Gag Rule, and the 1946 blinding of Black World War II veteran Isaac Woodard. What...
Published 01/25/22
How should the American government take responsibility for past actions that have caused significant harm? On this episode of Now & Then, “Restitution & Reparations,” Heather Cox Richardson and Joanne Freeman discuss the tangled history of restitution, with a specific focus on how the federal government wronged certain classes of people. They talk through the early debates over slavery reparations, the late-19th century indemnity payments to Italian and Mexican victims of vigilante...
Published 01/18/22
How have outsider legislators changed American history? On this episode of Now & Then, “The Lure of Political Outsiders,” Heather Cox Richardson and Joanne Freeman discuss the history of the eccentric and anti-establishment members of Congress, from the frontier politics of Jackson-era Tennessee Representative Davy Crockett, to the conspiratorial works of post-Civil War Illinois Representative Ignatius Donnelly, to the headstrong socialism of World War I-era Wisconsin Representative...
Published 01/11/22
Who are the most relevant and inspiring heroes from American history? On this year-end episode of Now & Then, “Historians Have Their Heroes,” Heather Cox Richardson and Joanne Freeman discuss their definitions of American heroism and the figures–from Ida B. Wells, to Sitting Bull, to Pete Seeger–who they most admire. What attributes do these political and cultural leaders share? What is the point of having heroes? And how can we honor those who most deserve recognition?  This week,...
Published 12/21/21
How have religion and morality shaped the United States? On this episode of Now & Then, “God & Morality in American Politics,” Heather Cox Richardson and Joanne Freeman discuss how politicians and reformers have interacted with faith systems, from Thomas Jefferson’s push for religious liberty, to the 19th-century move for a Christian constitutional amendment, to the rise of the Moral Majority and the religious right. What are the roots of recent calls to bring religion into our...
Published 12/14/21