Episodes
We live in divided times, when the answer to the question 'what is reality?' depends on who you ask. Almost all the information we take in is to some extent edited and curated, and the line between entertainment and reality has become increasingly blurred. Nowhere is that more obvious than the world of reality television. The genre feeds off our most potent feelings – love, hope, anxiety, loneliness – and turns them into profit... and presidents. So in this episode, we're going to filter...
Published 09/29/22
Published 09/29/22
Over one million Uyghur people have been detained in camps in China, according to estimates, subjected to torture, forced labor, religious restrictions, and even forced sterilization. Last month, the United Nations released a report saying that China's treatment of Uyghurs could be considered "crimes against humanity." The vast majority of this minority ethnic group is Muslim, living for centuries at a crossroads of culture and empire along what was once the Silk Road. This week, we explore...
Published 09/22/22
In American history, schools have not just been places to learn the ABCs – they're places where socialization happens and cultural norms are developed. Arguments over how and what those norms are and how they're communicated tend to flare up during moments of cultural anxiety. Sesame Street was part of a larger movement in the late 1960s to reach lower income, less privileged and more "urban" audiences. It was part of LBJ's Great Society agenda. But Sesame Street is a TV show - not a...
Published 09/15/22
From BTS to Squid Game to high-end beauty standards, South Korea reigns as a global exporter of pop culture and entertainment. How does a country go from a war-decimated state just 70 years ago, to a major driver of global soft power? Through war, occupation, economic crisis, and national strategy, comes a global phenomenon - the Korean wave.
Published 09/08/22
It's been over a century since a self-described socialist was a viable candidate for president of the United States. And that first socialist candidate, Eugene V. Debs, didn't just capture significant votes, he created a new and enduring populist politics deep in the American grain. This week, the story of Eugene V. Debs and the creation of American socialism.
Published 09/01/22
Unseen, they stalk their targets from thousands of feet in the air. Operators are piloting them from military bases halfway across the world. At any moment, they could launch a strike that comes without warning. The attack drone was supposed to be a symbol of the era of precision warfare — a way to wage wars with fewer casualties on both sides. It's a technology that's been honed since it was first dreamed up during World War 1. But are drones actually precise enough? Do drones desensitize us...
Published 08/25/22
How did a small group of Islamic students go from local vigilantes to one of the most infamous and enigmatic forces in the world? The Taliban is a name that has haunted the American imagination since 2001. The scenes of the group's brutality repeatedly played in the Western media, while true, perhaps obscure our ability to see the complex origins of the Taliban and how they impact the lives of Afghans. It's a shadow that reaches across the vast ancient Afghan homeland, the reputation of the...
Published 08/18/22
Afghanistan has, for centuries, been at the center of the world. Long before the U.S. invasion — before the U.S. was even a nation — countless civilizations intersected there, weaving together a colorful tapestry of foods, languages, ethnicities and visions of what Afghanistan was and could be. The story of Afghanistan is too often told from the perspective of outsiders who tried to invade it (and always failed) earning it the nickname "Graveyard of Empires." In this episode, we're shifting...
Published 08/11/22
Gas. Meat. Flights. Houses. The price of things have gone up by as much as nine percent since last year. The same amount of money gets you less stuff. It's inflation: a concept that's easy to feel but hard to understand. Its causes are complex, but it isn't some kind of naturally-occurring phenomenon — and neither are the ways in which governments try to fight it.
Published 08/04/22
Is history always political? Who gets to decide? What happens when you challenge common narratives? In this episode, Throughline's Rund Abdelfatah and Ramtin Arablouei explore these questions with Nikole Hannah-Jones, an investigative journalist at the New York Times and the creator of the 1619 Project.
Published 07/28/22
At the start of the 20th century, only the most privileged could afford to go to college. Today, millions of students pursue higher ed — and owe $1.7 trillion in debt.
Published 07/21/22
Things in the U.S. feel tense right now. Two years after a police officer killed George Floyd outside a Minneapolis corner store, videos of police violence still appear regularly – and protests follow. Maybe the closest parallel to what's happening today is the so-called "long hot summer" of 1967, when more than 150 cities across the country experienced civil unrest. That year, President Lyndon Johnson appointed a commission to diagnose the root causes of the problem and to suggest...
Published 07/14/22
School District 28 is located in one of the most racially and ethnically diverse places in the U.S.: Queens, N.Y. But the neighborhood served by this school district has two sides – a Northside and a Southside. To put it simply, the Southside is Black and the farther north you go, the fewer Black people you see. But it wasn't always like this.
Published 07/07/22
Monopoly is a game legendary for its celebration of American capitalism, but its creator envisioned something much different. This week, the surprising story of Monopoly's origins.
Published 06/30/22
White evangelical Christians represent a powerful voting bloc in the Republican Party. This week, we explore their rise.
Published 06/23/22
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...
Published 06/16/22
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...
Published 06/09/22
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...
Published 06/02/22
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...
Published 05/26/22
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 a...
Published 05/19/22
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.
Published 05/17/22
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...
Published 05/12/22
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...
Published 05/05/22
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.
Published 04/28/22