With all the Richard Branson space news recently, we thought we'd have an encore of one of our Space Program episodes! President Kennedy usually gets all the credit for inspiring American to reach for the moon. And President Nixon’s signature is on the ceremonial plaque laid there at the end of the Apollo 11 landing. But President Lyndon Johnson hardly ever gets credit for the American space program. The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Shesol joins us to explain LBJ’s pioneering efforts in the space race.
Professor Blake Scott Ball discusses his new book on the history of the Peanuts comic strip! Despite--or perhaps because of--its huge popular culture status, Peanuts enabled cartoonist Charles Schulz to offer political commentary on the most controversial topics of postwar American culture through the voices of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the whole Peanuts gang. Episode 423.
Every July, American Buzzkillers get inundated with chain emails, Facebook posts, and Tweets that spread more myths about the Declaration of Independence. No matter how many times they’ve been disproved, the seem to crop up every year. John Hancock signing his name so large that “King George can read it without his spectacles.” And “The Price They Paid” -- the undying email myth about what happened to the signers of the Declaration. We explain these, and a lot more!
Sometimes, Buzzkillers, the stars just seem to align. A whole bunch of writers, pundits, journalists, and aphorists can come up with roughly the same idea at roughly the same time. In terms of the history of quotations, that's the story of the aphorism and witticism, "life is just one damn thing after another." But it's easier to attribute such a quotation to Mark Twain, and that's what people have done. Did he ever say it? Listen and learn.
The Appalachian Trail has a long and winding place in American history and culture. Professor Philip D’Anieri takes us on a hike through the significant aspects of its history and explains what the trail's construction and development have meant for the country. Episode 422
The filibuster, and the practice of filibustering in the United States Senate, is a raging topic in American politics these days. And, of course, the abuse of history has been rampant when current politicians attack or defend the filibuster. Professor Sarah Binder (_the_ expert!) explains it to you Buzzkillers! Episode 421
Voting rights are being taken away in 2021. So we should listen again to Honest Abe. Right? But did he actually say, "...government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth"? Was it his phrase originally? The background of the quote will fascinate you, Listen and learn, Buzzkillers! Episode 420
Marjorie Taylor Greene has brought up the Nazi-Socialist thing to defame certain left-wing American politicians in 2021. Obviously, she doesn't know history. But why was Hitler’s fascist party named the “National-Socialist German Workers' Party”? And why are democratic socialists nowadays tarred with the “Nazi” brush by political circus clowns? Professor Nash helps us understand it all. Listen and learn! Episode 419
There’s so much talk these days about the radicalism of the Republican Party. Politics has often been nasty in American history, but when did this particular style of Republican extremism start? Professor Julian Zelizer from Princeton University shows us how Newt Gingrich helped create the new Republican party, and in the process, helped burn down American politics. Episode 418.
With the 100th anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre nearly here, it's time to listen to an encore presentation of this episode. 1865-1930 is often called the “nadir of African-American life.” Not only did African-Americans gain very little economic or social benefit from the end of slavery, but white Southerners also built up a system of race oppression that still stains America. Listen as Professor Phil Nash explains it all!
Dr. Lauren Turek gives us the history of American Christian evangelical influence on foreign affairs, as well as their direct efforts to change American foreign policy. It’s all so much deeper and more interesting than most people think! Listen to her explain their “evangelizing” in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe in the late twentieth century. Episode 417.
We scrutinize Reagan's famous quote "the nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help’” in today's episode. Where and when was it coined? What is its broader meaning, and why does Professor Buzzkill call it "moronic and childish"? Episode 416
In the early days of the Biden administration, the Harry Truman “quote” about socialism being a Republican scare word is flying around the internet. Rhetoric is so over-heated in American politics these days. But did “Buck Stops Here” Harry really say it? If so, when, where, and in what context? Time for an encore of this popular episode!
Otto and Elise Hampel were a working-class German couple who wrote postcards denouncing Hitler's government and left them in public places around Berlin during World War II. Professor Philip Nash explains their significance in a combined Man Crush Monday/Woman Crush Wednesday! Episode 415
Historical novelist Anna Lee Huber gives us a glimpse of what it's like to be a historical novelist. She discusses her famous Verity Kent series (set in Britain during the WWI period) and her Lady Derby series (set in 1830s Britain). It's a Fiction Friday and let's have fun!! Episode 414
Mary Ware Dennett was an American women's rights activist, pacifist, and pioneer in the areas of birth control, sex education, and women's suffrage. Yet, she is largely unknown to the general public. So, she’s our Woman Crush Wednesday this week! Listen as historian Sharon Spaulding explains Mary’s important life and work! Episode 413.
Major social and political forces led to the establishment of Mother's Day as a major and official holiday. This episode explains those forces, and also tells us who founded Mother's Day. Was it Julia Ward Howe with her famous "Appeal to Womanhood" Peace Proclamation in 1870? Or did Anna Marie Jarvis found it, honoring her own mother in 1908? And what did war and campaigns for international disarmament have to do with the history of Mother's Day? Episode 412
Joseph Esposito tells us about “the night America’s greatest scientist, writers, and scholars partied at the White House in April 1962." We discuss this glittering event, including the untold stories of controversy, protest, and personality clashes before, during, and after the famous dinner. It's a fascinating look at the workings of the social side of the Kennedy White House, and also how this dinner became mythologized in the Kennedy-Camelot legend. Episode 411.
This encore episode from 2019 explains how the National Rifle Association become one of the most controversial and divisive organizations in American history. The NRA was once a sportsmen’s group. Since the 1970s, however, it has taken a very strict view of the US Constitution’s Second Amendment, and has gone to extremes in its defense of gun ownership. We explain how and why this happened, and dispel historical and cultural myths along the way.
Income tax is a troubling issue in American politics and history. We explain its long and complicated history, and delve into the even more complicated history of how personal income tax has related to the question of equality and inequality in US society. Professor Nash tells us how the American government has raised funds for peacetime needs and, of course, times of war. It’s not a simple tale of taxes rising as the country grew and the US government grew. Taxation is perhaps the most difficult thing to explain in American governmental history, but we make it easy to understand.
Professor Adam Goodman explains the unknown history of deportation and of the fear that shapes immigrants' lives in the modern United States. He explains how federal, state, and local officials have targeted various groups for expulsion, from Chinese and Europeans at the turn of the twentieth century to Central Americans and Muslims today. A very timely show! Episode #410
It’s a rare thing indeed to find someone in history who stands up and rebels against almost all the things she finds oppressive in society. Such a woman was Qiu Jin, the Chinese revolutionary whose short but dramatic life has led her to be called “China’s Joan of Arc.” She rebelled not only against the strictures placed on her as an individual, but also against the broader restrictions and repression against women in Chinese society in politics and society in the early 20th century. A great woman for a Woman Crush Wednesday!
Professor Linda Colley gives us the first full integrative, as well as literary, examination of the written constitution globally. Tracing their rise to the mid-eighteenth century and the emergence of hybrid warfare (cross-continental battles waged on land and at sea), constitutions addressed a growing concern for rulers during the Enlightenment: popular support. Episode #409.
The number of different images and different sayings or phrases printed on t-shirts exploded in the early 70s. And one of the most striking was the t-shirt from the women’s rights movement which said, "A Woman Needs a Man Like a Fish Needs a Bicycle," most famously worn by the feminist champion, Gloria Steinem. Did she coin the saying? We explain the history behind that great phrase.
Professor Mar Hicks joins us to talk about gender and employment in the emerging field of computing in Britain, and all the historical myths that surround them. In 1944, Britain led the world in electronic computing. By 1974, the British computer industry was all but extinct. We examine why this happened in the tense post-war world, as Britain was losing its role as a global leader and innovator. Professor Hicks calls this a story of gendered technocracy, and it undercut Britain's flexibility in the technology age. Listen and learn, Buzzkillers!