Episodes
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
What damage does disinformation cause our body politic? On this episode of Now & Then, “Disinformation and Democracy,” Heather Cox Richardson and Joanne Freeman trace the history of disinformation in America, with an emphasis on how technology has fueled the rise of misleading and outright false political news. They discuss the role of the partisan press in shaping early American disinformation, the development of the telegraph in 19th century information warfare, and the rise of GOP-led...
Published 12/07/21
As we come out of Thanksgiving and welcome in Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, and New Years, we revisit Heather Cox Richardson and Joanne Freeman’s look at the American debates that accompanied the creations of July 4th, Columbus Day, and Election Day. Why do Americans celebrate? Why do we fight about our holidays? And what role have economics, popular culture, and governmental politics contoured our national festivities? NOTE: This episode was originally released on July 6th, 2021. Join CAFE...
Published 11/30/21
How have Americans fought over Thanksgiving? And what can the holiday tell us about democracy and national styles of celebration? On this episode of Now & Then, “Thanksgiving Wars,” Heather Cox Richardson and Joanne Freeman explore past debates over the holiday, from early congressional disputes during the Washington administration, to writer Sarah Josephus Hale’s advocacy to make Thanksgiving a national holiday, to the various 20th-century battles over the cultural placement of...
Published 11/23/21
How have American experiences of work changed throughout our history? On this episode of Now & Then, “Mill ‘Girls,’ Company Men, & the Great Resignation,” Heather Cox Richardson and Joanne Freeman discuss the evolution of American work, from the emergence of industrial labor, to the development of welfare capitalism, to the current “Great Resignation” and shifting contemporary expectations for labor. How has work reflected American democracy? How has the nature of national labor...
Published 11/16/21
What’s the history of associations and powerful internal groups in American life? On this episode of Now & Then, “Associations: From the Masons to the Mob,” Heather Cox Richardson and Joanne Freeman discuss the popularity of the Freemasons and other secret clubs among the early national elite, the growth of political machines like Tammany Hall during the 1800s, and the development of organized crime during Prohibition. Then, Elie Honig, the host of Up Against the Mob and a former mafia...
Published 11/09/21
On this episode of Now & Then, “Democracy Is In the Mail,” Heather Cox Richardson and Joanne Freeman talk about the development of the post office in American culture. They explain why the Framers believed so deeply in a government-backed mail service, trace how Western expansion changed the culture and organizational structure of the Post Office Department, and recount the 1970 postal strike and the impact of the resultant Postal Reorganization Plan. How has the mail bolstered democracy?...
Published 11/02/21
This week, Heather and Joanne appeared on the food podcast Gastropod, hosted by journalists Cynthia Graber and Nicky Twilley, to discuss the history of Halloween candy, trick-or-treating, and poison candy paranoia. Listen and subscribe to Gastropod at gastropod.com or wherever you get podcasts! Happy Halloween! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Published 10/29/21
On this episode of Now & Then, “Voting Rights: The Big Picture,” Heather Cox Richardson and Joanne Freeman talk about the history of voter suppression with Carol Anderson, professor of African American Studies at Emory University and author of One Person No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy and The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America. The trio discuss the concept of the “consent of the governed” during the founding period, the emergence of Jim Crow...
Published 10/26/21
On this episode of Now & Then, “The Rise of Bully Politics,” Heather Cox Richardson and Joanne Freeman revisit the 1980 presidential election between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. They reflect on how the rancorous contest signaled a rise in partisan aggression and dominance politics in American life. They also tie the type of bullying that emerged in full force in 1980 back to the 1850s and the violence that preceded the Civil War. How did Reagan’s extreme comments during the campaign...
Published 10/19/21
On this episode of Now & Then, “Speakers of the House: Velvet Gloves and Iron Fists,” Heather Cox Richardson and Joanne Freeman revisit significant Speakers of the House and the development of the role in American politics. They reflect on legendary Speakers Henry Clay, Thomas Brackett Reed, and Tip O’Neill. In the process, they examine how Speakers leverage their influence over the legislative process and the culture of congress. How did the Speakership become such a crucial role in...
Published 10/12/21
On this episode of Now & Then, “Split Party Politics,” Heather Cox Richardson and Joanne Freeman discuss cycles of in-fighting, tension and collapse in American political parties. They begin with the Federalists and their ill-fated Hartford Convention, explain the reconstitution of both the Democrats and Republicans during the early 1880s, and talk through the current political battles and demographic shifts affecting the Republican Party. Why do political parties collapse? How does...
Published 10/05/21
On this episode of Now & Then, “Government Debt Roulette,” Heather Cox Richardson and Joanne Freeman discuss the dynamics of the current political battle over raising the debt ceiling. Then, they offer an overview of debt in American history, from Alexander Hamilton’s belief in using debt to build the country, to how President Lincoln offset Civil War debt, to the politicization of the debt ceiling by Republicans over the last 30 years. What can debt accomplish? What can debt damage? And...
Published 09/28/21
On this episode of Now & Then, “New York, New York,” Heather Cox Richardson and Joanne Freeman discuss the 20th anniversary of September 11th, 2001 attacks and the larger role of New York over the course of American history. How did the Dutch help lend the Big Apple its economic and cultural identity? Why isn’t New York the U.S. capital? How did newspapers transform NYC’s political power? Why are there so many apocalyptic movies set in New York? And what has made the city such a resilient...
Published 09/21/21
On this episode of Now & Then, “Abortion: Whose Choice?” Heather and Joanne discuss Texas’ Senate Bill 8, one of several controversial new “heartbeat” laws that limit access to abortion. They also talk about the history of abortion from the colonial period to the present: the surprising availability of abortion until the mid-19th century, the physician-led campaign to ban abortion, and the GOP’s decision in the early 1970s to embrace the “pro-life” movement. Who gets to decide the future...
Published 09/14/21
On this episode of Now & Then, “Climate Control,” Heather and Joanne discuss the climate crisis and moments of political conflict over the environment throughout American history. They talk about the impact of climate on colonists, the 19th-century origins of the National Park Service, the causes and effects of the Dust Bowl, and the post-World War II emergence of the environmental movement — from Rachel Carson, to nuclear fall-out fears, to the formation of the Environmental Protection...
Published 09/07/21
On this episode of Now & Then, “Attacking and Defending Voting Rights,” Heather and Joanne discuss the history of American voting rights and the antecedents to the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021. They look at New Jersey’s surprising history of female voting, the violence of the Know-Nothing Party, and the long congressional struggle to secure full suffrage for all Americans. Who has worked to deny the vote to marginalized populations? Which laws have been most effective...
Published 08/31/21
On this episode of Now & Then, “Afghanistan & American Styles of War,” Heather and Joanne discuss the withdrawal from Afghanistan and the history of how America creates narratives around wars. They look at the divergent framings of the War of 1812, the Spanish-American War, and World War II. How does a democratic society based on consent utilize force? Which wars receive widespread approval? And how do concepts of national interest affect collective identity and the quest for...
Published 08/24/21
On this episode of Now & Then, “Treason(ish),” Heather and Joanne discuss the competing political narratives over accountability and punishment for the January 6th insurrection. They look back at past moments of conflict and examine the disparate ways in which former combatants integrated into American society: the Loyalists after the Revolutionary War, the Confederates after the Civil War, and a group of Nazi scientists who joined the American quest to reach the moon.  Join CAFE Insider...
Published 08/17/21
On this special episode of Now & Then, “A Backstage Peek,” listeners can hear Heather and Joanne’s conversations that are usually part of the CAFE Insider membership. “Backstage” is a special weekly bonus portion of the podcast where the hosts offer personal reflections on their historical scholarship and behind-the-scenes anecdotes of how each Now & Then episode comes together.  In the first installment, released in conjunction with last week’s episode, “Projecting America at the...
Published 08/10/21
On this episode of Now & Then, “Projecting America at the Olympics,” Heather and Joanne frame the current Tokyo Olympics alongside historical examples of American cultural diplomacy. They trace efforts to appeal to France in the Revolutionary Period, the rise of World’s Fairs, and the controversies that accompanied Jesse Owens’ 1936 Olympics dominance in Berlin and the 1968 Black Power salute by medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos. What do these earlier negotiations say about American...
Published 08/03/21