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Throughline is a time machine. Each episode, we travel beyond the headlines to answer the question, "How did we get here?" We use sound and stories to bring history to life and put you into the middle of it. From ancient civilizations to forgotten figures, we take you directly to the moments that shaped our world. Throughline is hosted by Peabody Award-winning journalists Rund Abdelfatah and Ramtin Arablouei.

Subscribe to Throughline+. You'll be supporting the history-reframing, perspective-shifting, time-warping stories you can't get enough of - and you'll unlock access bonus episodes and sponsor-free listening. Learn more at plus.npr.org/throughline
303 Episodes
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The United States is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, yet over 10 percent of people – nearly 40 million – live in poverty. It's something we see, say, if we live near a tent encampment. And it's also something we feel. More than a third of people in the U.S. say they're worried about being able to pay their rent or mortgage. Medical bills and layoffs can change a family's economic status almost overnight.These issues are on the minds of Democrats and Republicans, city-dwellers and rural households. And in an election year, they're likely to be a major factor when people cast their votes for President.In this episode, we talk with Pulitzer Prize-winning author and sociologist Matthew Desmond, whose book Poverty, By America, helps explain why poverty persists in the United States, how it's holding all of us back, and what it means to be a poverty abolitionist.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
Birmingham, Alabama was one of the fiercest battlegrounds of the Civil Rights Movement. And in order to understand the struggle, you don't have to look any further than Rickwood Field, the oldest baseball stadium in the country. Over more than a century it's hosted Negro League baseball, a women's suffrage event, a Klan rally — and eventually, the first integrated sports team in Alabama.Today on the show, we're joined by host Roy Wood, Jr., to bring you the first episode of Road to Rickwood, an original series from WWNO, WRKF, and NPR telling the story of America's oldest ballpark.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
Today, the U.S. popular music industry is worth billions of dollars. And some of its deepest roots are in blackface minstrelsy and other racist genres. You may not have heard their names, but Black musicians like George Johnson, Ernest Hogan, and Mamie Smith were some of the country's first viral sensations, working within and pushing back against racist systems and tropes. Their work made a lasting imprint on American music — including some of the songs you might have on repeat right now.Corrections: A previous version of this episode incorrectly stated that Jim Crow was a real-life enslaved person. In fact, Jim Crow was a racist caricature of African Americans. A previous version of this episode incorrectly stated that Thomas Rice, also known as T.D. Rice or Daddy Rice, was the first person to bring blackface characterization to the American stage. In fact, he was one of several performers of this era who popularized and spread the use of blackface. A previous version of this episode incorrectly stated that African American minstrel troupes didn't start to perform until after the U.S. Civil War. In fact, an African American artist named William Henry Lane was performing in the 1840s.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
One day in late April 1958, a young economist named Madeleine Tress was approached by two men in suits at her office at the U.S. Department of Commerce. They took her to a private room, turned on a tape recorder, and demanded she respond to allegations that she was an "admitted homosexual." Two weeks later, she resigned.Madeleine was one of thousands of victims of a purge of gay and lesbian people ordered at the highest levels of the U.S. government: a program spurred by a panic that destroyed careers and lives and lasted more than forty years. Today, it's known as the "Lavender Scare."In a moment when LGBTQ+ rights are again in the public crosshairs, we tell the story of the Lavender Scare: its victims, its proponents, and a man who fought for decades to end it.To access bonus episodes and listen to Throughline sponsor-free, subscribe to Throughline+ via Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/throughline.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
A History of Zionism

A History of Zionism

2024-06-1356:0718

Since October 7th, the term Zionism has been everywhere in the news. It's been used to support Israel in what it calls its war against Hamas: a refrain to remind everyone why Israel exists and why it must be protected. Others have used Zionism to describe what they view as Israel's collective punishment of civilians in Gaza, and its appropriation of Palestinian territories — what they often call "settler colonialism."Zionism has been defined and redefined again and again, and the definitions are often built on competing historical interpretations. So unsurprisingly, we've received many requests from you, our audience, to explore the origins of Zionism. On today's episode, we go back to the late 19th century to meet the people who organized the modern Zionist movement.Correction: An earlier version of this episode incorrectly described Ze'ev Jabotinsky as a right-wing settler who helped form the paramilitary organization the Irgun. Jabotinsky was a conservative Zionist thinker whose ideas influenced some of the founders of the Irgun. While Jabotinsky did advocate Jewish settlement in Palestine, he himself lived mostly in Europe and died before Israel's founding.To access bonus episodes and listen to Throughline sponsor-free, subscribe to Throughline+ via Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/throughline.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
In 1923, an Indian American man named Bhagat Singh Thind told the U.S. Supreme Court that he was white, and therefore eligible to become a naturalized citizen. He based his claim on the fact that he was a member of India's highest caste and identified as an Aryan. His claims were supported by the so-called Indo-European language theory, a controversial idea at the time that says nearly half the world's population speak a language that originated in one place. Theories about who lived in that place inspired a racist ideology that contended that the original speakers of the language were a white supreme race that colonized Europe and Asia thousands of years ago. This was used by many to define whiteness and eventually led to one of the most horrific events in history. On this episode of Throughline, we unpack the myths around this powerful idea and explore the politics and promise of the mother tongue.To access bonus episodes and listen to Throughline sponsor-free, subscribe to Throughline+ via Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/throughline.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
The Rules of War

The Rules of War

2024-05-3056:386

International courts investigating alleged war crimes have made headlines often in recent months. An arrest warrant has been issued for Russian President Vladimir Putin; arrest warrants have also been requested for senior Hamas and Israeli officials, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.What are these courts, where did they come from, and how did they come to decide the rules of war?On today's episode, we travel from the battlefields of the U.S. Civil War, through the rubble of two world wars, to the hallways of the Hague, to trace modern attempts to define and prosecute war crimes.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
Welcome to the "Epic of Marcos." In this tale of a family that's larger than life, Ferdinand Marcos, the former dictator of the Philippines, is at the center. But the figures that surround him are just as important: Imelda, his wife and muse; Bongbong, his heir; and the United States, his faithful sidekick. The story of the Marcos family is a blueprint for authoritarianism, laying out clearly how melodrama, paranoia, love, betrayal and a hunger for power collide to create a myth capable of propelling a nation. Today on the show, the rise, fall, and resurrection of a dynasty — and what that means for democracy worldwide.To access bonus episodes and listen to Throughline sponsor-free, subscribe to Throughline+ via Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/throughline.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
The Mandela Effect

The Mandela Effect

2024-05-1659:484

For nearly thirty years, the South African government held a man it initially labeled prisoner number 46664, the anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela. But in 1994, Mandela transformed from the country's 'number one terrorist' into its first Black president, ushering in a new era of democracy. Today, though, many in South Africa see Mandela's party, the ANC, as corrupt and responsible for the country's problems. It's an ongoing political saga, with all sides attempting to weaponize parts of the past – especially Nelson Mandela's legacy. On today's episode, we tell Mandela's story: the man, the myth, and the cost of freedom.To access bonus episodes and listen to Throughline sponsor-free, subscribe to Throughline+ via Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/throughline.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
There's a powerful fantasy in American society: the fantasy of the ideal mother. This mother is devoted to her family above all else. She raises the kids, volunteers at the school, cleans the house, plans the birthday parties, cares for her own parents. She's a natural nurturer. And she's happy to do it all for free.Problem is? She's imaginary. And yet the idea of her permeates our culture, our economy, and our social policy – and it distorts them. The U.S. doesn't have universal health insurance or universal childcare. We don't have federally mandated paid family leave or a meaningful social safety net for when times get rough. Instead, we have this imaginary mother. We've structured our society as though she exists — but she doesn't. And we all pay the real-life price.Today on the show, we look at three myths that sustain the fantasy: the maternal instinct, the doting housewife, and the welfare queen. And we tell the stories of real-life people – some mothers, some not – who have fought for a much more generous vision of family, labor, and care.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
The Fourth Amendment is the part of the Bill of Rights that prohibits "unreasonable searches and seizures." But — what's unreasonable? That question has fueled a century's worth of court rulings that have dramatically expanded the power of individual police officers in the U.S. Today on the show, how an amendment that was supposed to limit government power has ended up enabling it.To access bonus episodes and listen to Throughline sponsor-free, subscribe to Throughline+ via Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/throughline.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
It's hot. A mother works outside, a baby strapped to her back. The two of them breathe in toxic dust, day after day. And they're just two of thousands, cramped so close together it's hard to move, all facing down the mountain of cobalt stone.Cobalt mining is one of the world's most dangerous jobs. And it's also one of the most essential: cobalt is what powers the batteries in your smartphone, your laptop, the electric car you felt good about buying. More than three-quarters of the world's cobalt supply lies in the Democratic Republic of Congo, whose abundant resources have drawn greed and grifters for centuries. Today on the show: the fight for control of those resources, and for the dignity of the people who produce them.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
Whether it's pesticides in your cereal or the door plug flying off your airplane, consumers today have plenty of reasons to feel like corporations might not have their best interests at heart. At a moment where we're seeing unprecedented product recalls, and when trust in the government is near historic lows, we're going to revisit a time when a generation of people felt empowered to demand accountability from both companies and elected leaders — and got results. Today on the show, the story of the U.S. consumer movement and its controversial leader: the once famous, now infamous Ralph Nader.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
The 14th Amendment

The 14th Amendment

2024-04-1152:295

Of all the amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the 14th is a big one. It's shaped all of our lives, whether we realize it or not: Roe v. Wade, Brown v. Board of Education, Bush v. Gore, plus other Supreme Court cases that legalized same-sex marriage, interracial marriage, access to birth control — they've all been built on the back of the 14th. The amendment was ratified after the Civil War, and it's packed full of lofty phrases like due process, equal protection, and liberty. But what do those words really guarantee us?Today on the show: how the 14th Amendment has remade America – and how America has remade the 14th.Clarification: A previous version of this episode did not make clear that the 14th amendment guarantees equal protection and due process to all people in the United States, regardless of citizenship.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
Tipping is a norm in the United States—and it's always been controversial. The practice took off after the Civil War, as employers sought cheap labor from formerly enslaved people: if tips were expected, companies could get away with paying laughably low wages. But the practice was always controversial, and has been vehemently challenged since it first came to the U.S. from Europe. We speak with Nina Martyris, a journalist who's written about the history of tipping in the United States, to find out how tipping—once deemed a "cancer in the breast of democracy"— went from being considered wholly un-American to becoming a deeply American custom.To access bonus episodes and listen to Throughline sponsor-free, subscribe to Throughline+ via Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/throughline.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
A History of Hezbollah

A History of Hezbollah

2024-03-2854:2012

Hezbollah is a Lebanese paramilitary organization and political party that's directly supported by the Islamic Republic of Iran. In the wake of the October 7, 2023 Hamas-led attack on Israel, and Israel's invasion of Gaza, Hezbollah and Israel have been exchanging missile fire across the border they share, causing growing fears of a regional conflict with the U.S. and Israel on one side and Iran along with its allies in Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Houthi rebels of Yemen on the other.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
The Great Textbook War

The Great Textbook War

2024-03-2152:189

What is school for? Over a hundred years ago, a man named Harold Rugg published a series of textbooks that encouraged students to confront the thorniest parts of U.S. history: to identify problems, and try and solve them. And it was just as controversial as the fights we're seeing today. In this episode: a media mogul, a textbook author, and a battle over what students should – or shouldn't – learn in school.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
What was the worst year to be alive on planet Earth? We make the case for 536 AD, which set off a cascade of catastrophes that is almost too horrible to imagine. A supervolcano. The disappearance of shadows. A failure of bread. Plague rats. Using evidence painstakingly gathered around the world - from Mongolian tree rings to Greenlandic ice cores to Mayan artifacts - we paint a portrait of what scientists and historians think went wrong, and what we think it felt like to be there in real time. (Spoiler: not so hot.) We hear a hymn for the dead from the ancient kingdom of Axum, the closest we can get to the sound of grief from a millennium and a half ago.The horrors of 536 make us wonder about the parallels and perpendiculars with our own time: does it make you feel any better knowing that your suffering is part of a global crisis? Or does it just make things worse?" This week we're sharing a bonus episode from Radiolab: Worst. Year. Ever. Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
In 2011, the world was shaken by the Arab Spring, a wave of "pro-democracy" protests that spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa. The effects of the uprisings reverberated around the world as regimes fell in some countries, and civil war began in others. This week, we revisit the years leading up to the Arab Spring and its lasting impact on three people who lived through it.To access bonus episodes and listen to Throughline sponsor-free, subscribe to Throughline+ via Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/throughline.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
For most of its early history, Israel was dominated by left-leaning, secular politicians. But today, the right is in power. Its politicians represent a movement that uses a religious framework to define Israel and its borders, and that has aggressively resisted a two-state solution with Palestinians. And its government – led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — is waging a war in Gaza which, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, has killed over 30,000 people, many of them children. The government launched the war in response to the October 7th, 2023 Hamas-led attack that, according to Israeli authorities, killed over 1,200 Israelis with an additional 250 being taken hostage.This is not the first time that tension has erupted into violence. But the dominance of right-wing thinkers in Israeli politics is pivotal to how the war has unfolded. On today's episode: the story of Israel's rightward shift.Correction: In a previous version of this episode, we said incorrectly that Benjamin Netanyahu was born in 1948. He was born in 1949.To access bonus episodes and listen to Throughline sponsor-free, subscribe to Throughline+ via Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/throughline.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
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Comments (305)

Alanna Geare

Flagrantly biased. You didn’t speak to a single anti Zionist, or include the antisemitism that fueled European support of the Zionist project. Really embarrassing episode for y’all

Jul 9th
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Annice Barber-petroff

I saved this when it came out, now this is my second listen. Thank you!

Jun 13th
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Wissam NASRALLAH

Good attempt but lacks historical nuance and integrity. The intro fails to highlight the provocations and the role of the PLO in the start of the Lebanese civil war. Furthermore, the shows failed to mention that: - Hezbollah invaded Beirut on May 7, 2008 where weapons were turned inwards. - Hezbollah hampered the investigation into the Beirut Port Explosion

Mar 31st
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Roxanne Weaver

I'm 9 minutes in and waiting for the actual episode to begin, while Throughline and Radiolab hosts gush on and on and on about how fantastic they all are. Couldn't they have done that before recording the episode...maybe just a quick 2 minute intro? I realize you're trying to share audiences with each other, but I think anyone that can skip over this drivel will, like I finally did at the 6 minute mark.

Mar 20th
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Arpita Sen Gupta

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Feb 24th
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Leah

That song is incredible

Feb 8th
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Louis Macareo

This was nauseating.

Feb 6th
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Habia Khet

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Feb 4th
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Rob Kosman

editing is too tight, it sound like he is speaking paragraphs on one breath, really hard to listen to....

Oct 15th
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Aakash Amanat

Throughline" is a concept that has been a fundamental component of storytelling and narrative structure for centuries. Whether you're an avid reader, a film enthusiast, or a writer yourself, understanding the throughline is crucial to creating and appreciating compelling narratives. https://www.fyple.co.uk/company/printing-mart-t76coh1/ In essence, the throughline represents the core thread or main storyline that runs through a story, connecting all the elements and events together. It's the spine of the narrative, the path that characters follow, and the central theme or message that the story conveys. A strong throughline is essential for engaging an audience and guiding them through the plot. https://www.mylocalservices.co.uk/Packaging+Mart-London-3211232.html

Sep 21st
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Roberto Ocampo

Prob one of my fave pod episode all time.

Aug 5th
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TH3N0RTHSID3

Great episode! The only thing I felt that you missed was covering the move to HBO. I would have been interested in learning thoughts from the original crew about that move and what consequences that has had for the show. Questions like "Did this move detract from the show's original mission?" would have been insightful.

Aug 4th
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squogg

The lack of creativity used to make this episode engaging kinda made me laugh. This was more of a conversation than the usual Throughline-style episode where you're captivated by the topic by way of storytelling, sound design and production.

Jul 19th
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squogg

Can't even begin to count how many times Molly Michelmore says, "Right?" She says it so much that Ramteen and Rund are doing it now too. So grating.

Apr 25th
Reply (1)

Ex muslim India

people feelings got hurt in smallest criticism or a cartoon about false prophet muhammad and it's hate manual quran(full of hatred towards non muslim, abuse cursus and threat non believers).. and they spread islamic terrorism , Our felings also got hurt, about Slaughtering of Cow. your victim card will not work.. your stupidity and hypocrisy will be openly exposed.. now we are agressive and assertive.. we will stand for us..we will snatch back our right.. and in-human crazy saitannic cult Islam will be shown it's right place gutter

Apr 6th
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squogg

This made me want to go to a club and dance myself silly. I miss that feeling of letting go of everything and just dancing the night away. Clearly need to get back to it. Thanks for the reminder :)

Mar 11th
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Marcus Watt

as a longtime researcher into this history, it really saddens me to see political correctness redeploy a narrative with Europeans as evil. the Mexica living in peaceful bliss. absurd

Feb 8th
Reply (1)

Hayley The best

this is brilliant.

Feb 6th
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squogg

I'm completely flabbergasted! I had no idea that the Stanford Prison Experiment was basically a sham. Hearing the audio of the experimenters coaxing the "guards" and lying to them in order to get the results they want is disgusting.

Jan 28th
Reply (1)

Shawna

such an important topic!!! thanks for talking about this!!!

Jan 14th
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