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Throughline

Author: 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.
87 Episodes
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James Baldwin's Fire

James Baldwin's Fire

2020-09-1746:127

In a moment when America is undertaking an uncomfortable reckoning with its racial inequality and violence, we wanted to look back at someone who concentrated on race in America his entire life. Considered to be one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, James Baldwin wrote incessantly about the societal issues that still exist today.
The Postal Service

The Postal Service

2020-09-1030:193

The US Postal Service has played a role throughout American history - from the Declaration of Independence to today's mail-in voting. It was conceived of by the founders as the way to create a united, informed and effective American democracy. But today, the postal service's future is in danger. How the postal service created the United States and the case for this pivotal institution.
The United States imprisons more people than any other country in the world, and a disproportionate number of those prisoners are Black. What are the origins of the U.S. criminal justice system and how did racism shape it? From the creation of the first penitentiaries in the 1800s, to the "tough-on-crime" prosecutors of the 1990s, how America created a culture of mass incarceration.
The banana is a staple of the American diet and has been for generations. But how did this exotic tropical fruit become so commonplace? How one Brooklyn-born entrepreneur ruthlessly created the modern banana industry and the infamous banana republics.
Today the foundations of philosophy are seen as a straight line from Western antiquity, built on thinkers such as Plato and Aristotle. But, between the 8th century and 14th century, the West was greatly overshadowed by the Islamic world and philosophy was in very different hands. This week, how one Medieval Islamic philosopher put his pen to paper and shaped the modern world.
There is more waste in the world today than at any time in history, and the responsibility for keeping the environment clean too often falls on individuals instead of manufacturers. But, why us? And why this feeling of responsibility? This week, how one organization changed the American public's relationship with waste and who is ultimately responsible for it.
America's Caste System

America's Caste System

2020-08-0639:1221

"Race" is often used as a fundamental way to understand American history. But what if "caste" is the more appropriate lens? In conversation with Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson, we examine the hidden system that has shaped our country.
A.D.A. Now!

A.D.A. Now!

2020-07-3001:03:0010

This month marks the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is considered the most important civil rights law since the 1960s. Through first-person stories, we look back at the making of this movement, the history of how disability came to be seen as a civil rights issue, and what the disability community is still fighting for 30 years later.
The Great Depression was a revolutionary spark for all kinds of things — health insurance, social safety nets, big government — all of which were in response to a national crisis. Through the personal accounts of four people who lived during the Great Depression, we look back at what life was like back then and what those stories can teach us about the last time the U.S. went through a national economic cataclysm.
Borinquén

Borinquén

2020-07-1601:07:285

Puerto Rico became a U.S. territory in 1898 and for much of the next fifty years Puerto Ricans fought fiercely about this status. Should they struggle for independence, or to be a U.S. state, or something in between? In this episode, we look at Puerto Rico's relationship with the mainland U.S. and the key figures who shaped the island's fate.
The Long Hot Summer

The Long Hot Summer

2020-07-0943:1213

Starting in 1965, summer after summer, America's cities burned. There was civil unrest in more than 150 cities across the country. So in 1967, Lyndon Johnson appointed a commission to diagnose the root causes of the problem and to suggest solutions. What the so called "Kerner Commission" returned with was hotly anticipated and shocking to many Americans. This week, how that report and the reaction to it continues to shape American life.
Mecca Under Siege

Mecca Under Siege

2020-07-0244:5411

Hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, is effectively canceled this year, due to concerns around the spread of the coronavirus. But, for two weeks in 1979, visits to the holy site were also upended when a group of Islamic militants seized Mecca, taking thousands of visitors hostage.
When a cook who carried typhoid fever refused to stop working, despite showing no symptoms, the authorities forcibly quarantined her for nearly three decades. Perfect villain or just a woman scapegoated because of her background? What the story of Typhoid Mary tells us about journalism, the powers of the state, and the tension between personal responsibility and personal liberty.
Why 2020 Isn't Quite 1968

Why 2020 Isn't Quite 1968

2020-06-1828:4015

Protests, racial divisions, political polarization, and a law-and-order president – it's easy to draw comparisons between 2020 and 1968. But, Adam Serwer, who covers politics at The Atlantic, says that a much better point of comparison actually starts a century earlier – 1868. This week, we share an episode we loved from It's Been A Minute with Sam Sanders that explores a moment when white Republicans fought for years for the rights of Black Americans, before abandoning them to pursue white voters.
Presidential Power

Presidential Power

2020-06-1152:5215

What can and can't the president do, and how do we know? When the framers of the U.S. constitution left vague the powers of the executive branch they opened the door to every president to decide how much power they could claim. This week, how the office of the presidency became more powerful than anything the Founding Fathers imagined possible.
American Police

American Police

2020-06-0401:04:3232

Black Americans being victimized and killed by the police is an epidemic. A truth many Americans are acknowledging since the murder of George Floyd, as protests have occurred in all fifty states calling for justice on his behalf. But this tension between African American communities and the police has existed for centuries. This week, the origins of American policing and how those origins put violent control of Black Americans at the heart of the system.
Hong Kong

Hong Kong

2020-05-2845:259

Last week, the Chinese government made the latest and perhaps the most serious move yet to crack down on Hong Kong's semi-autonomy. It's just the latest such effort by Beijing in the decades-long tensions between China and Hong Kong and it seems to take advantage of the quarantine calm that has subdued months of protests. But when did these tensions begin and what have Hong Kongers been fighting for?
Conspiracy

Conspiracy

2020-05-2142:509

Since the beginning of the pandemic, conspiracy theories about the coronavirus have exploded. But conspiracy theories themselves are nothing new - in fact, they're fundamental to American life. In this episode, how conspiracy theories helped to create the U.S. and became the currency of political opportunists.
The Mask

The Mask

2020-05-1441:229

The N95 respirator has become one of the most coveted items in the world, especially by medical professionals. But how did this seemingly simple mask become the lifesaving tool it is today? From bird beaks to wrapping paper to bras, we follow the curious history of one of the most important defenses in our fight against COVID-19.
Endless War

Endless War

2020-05-0736:199

North Korea's famous for being a black box, one of the most secretive and authoritarian countries in the world. It has a nuclear stockpile. A history of erratic behavior. And a particular fixation on antagonizing the outside world — especially the United States. This cycle of antagonism isn't an accident – the U.S. has played a formative role in the history of North Korea. And North Korea's leaders have been invoking that history from the very beginning.
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Comments (197)

redrose.blueviolet

amazing episode

Sep 19th
Reply

Alex Mercedes

glad to hear that educators are incorporating the pod into their lesson plans. it's an important part of a "solution"--if one exists. for better or worse, Throughline makes clear the deep roots of many of America's problems. we have our work cut out for us.

Sep 10th
Reply

Jayson Ballantine

Is the whole Throughline team on vacation, except the one intern whose job it is to recycle content?

Sep 3rd
Reply

Jayson Ballantine

What's it going to take to get fresh content?

Aug 27th
Reply

Roger Olsen

I really love this podcast and appreciate all the work you put into it. This episode was interesting but cringworthy for the unrelenting and frequent use of mostly female and occasionally male pronouns when referring to Jemima throughout the podcast. it is beyond irony, given the subject. I nearly turned it off a few times because of it. secondly, while convenient to reduce "Public Universal Friend" to "PUF" it felt too close to the offensive, British pejorative used against homosexuals or anyone acting "gay." There was an apology up front for occasionally slipping and using binary pronouns but seriously, have you actually listened to this again? I wondered if it was on purpose to test our "wokeness." Love you all and really, really love this podcast but this was a miss.

Aug 26th
Reply

mari arana

Nothing new here. Just more reinforcement to my belief that he is a seriously shitty man.

Aug 22nd
Reply

mari arana

It all comes down to money with these supposed religious people. Shocker!

Aug 22nd
Reply

Gentleman Crafter

I'm unclear why NPR, and in particular this Podcast, feel the need to encourage experts and contributors to be involved if they then feel the need to fade them out after a couple of seconds and then simply say what the expert was going to say. It is frustrating to know there is a credible source of information only to then have it snatched away so the host gets more talk-time. It smacks of narcissism and amateur broadcasting. If you are going to invite contributors, let them speak!

Aug 21st
Reply

Jayson Ballantine

Are you guys even trying anymore?

Aug 20th
Reply

Ian Highcock

It doesn't matter how good individual cops are. A cop's job is to police black, brown, indigenous, and poor white bodies. They can do it "politely" or they can do it brutally. It's still oppression either way.

Aug 20th
Reply (1)

Jayson Ballantine

Thanks for another rerun!

Aug 13th
Reply (1)

tara dan

ok .. so I just know about this podcast today and I am already hooked .. omg 3 episodes so far since the morning and now its 12:14 pm . thanks alot

Aug 10th
Reply

Jared Poulter

I love this podcast! I learn something new and fascinating with each episode! One suggestion: volume control. The main narrators tend to have higher volume then the people they interview are super quiet, when I listen at work I end up constantly adjusting the volume. With that said, still a fantastic podcast.

Jul 27th
Reply

Elizabeth Powell

Love love love this podcast. It seems like every single episode is engaging and informative. Just discovered it a week ago and since then I've been going through the episodes like nobody's business.

Jul 20th
Reply

Jayson Ballantine

Yet another rerun!

Jul 16th
Reply

Melissa Panisse

How nice will be to have new episodes instead repeating so often.

Jul 16th
Reply

Mohammad I. Nassiri

An an Iranian, I should say this episode was relatively comprehensive on this matter. good job

Jul 13th
Reply

Mohammad I. Nassiri

interesting

Jul 12th
Reply (1)

Nicolas Toro Arboleda

you guys are way too one sided. show us the opposing views too...

Jul 3rd
Reply (1)

Kenneth Sloboda

stop trying to make all cop's look racist and bad... the vast majority of cop's are very good people...

Jun 17th
Reply (3)
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