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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.
92 Episodes
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The Electoral College

The Electoral College

2020-10-1559:0913

What is it, why do we have it, and why hasn't it changed? Born from a rushed, fraught, imperfect process, the origins and evolution of the Electoral College might surprise you and make you think differently about not only this upcoming presidential election, but our democracy as a whole.
America has never been a country of one person, one vote. And that's by design. Our system was built by a select few, for a select few. We were never all supposed to get a say. In this series, we'll take a close look at voting in America, and how that's shaped what American democracy is, what it was meant to be, where it's failed, and what it might become.
Billie Holiday helped shape American popular music with her voice and unique style. But, one song in particular has become her greatest legacy — "Strange Fruit." The song paints an unflinching picture of racial violence, and it was an unexpected hit. But singing it brought serious consequences.
The Everlasting Problem

The Everlasting Problem

2020-10-0155:5111

Health insurance for millions of Americans is dependent on their jobs. But it's not like that everywhere. So, how did the U.S. end up with such a fragile system that leaves so many vulnerable or with no health insurance at all? On this episode, how a temporary solution created an everlasting problem.
The Evangelical Vote

The Evangelical Vote

2020-09-2401:04:2323

With the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the president is hoping to fill the seat with a more ideologically conservative justice. And evangelical Christians, who've become a powerful conservative voting bloc, have been waiting for this moment. But how and when did this religious group become so intertwined with today's political issues, especially abortion? In this episode, what it means to be an evangelical today and how that has changed over time.
James Baldwin's Fire

James Baldwin's Fire

2020-09-1746:1211

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

2020-09-1030:194

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

2020-08-0639:1223

"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!

2020-07-3001:03:0411

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

2020-07-1601:07:275

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

2020-06-1828:4016

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.
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Comments (205)

Chanaka Hettige

"Was there a time which Americans fled the country for a better life?" Yes of course, now! It's now!!

Oct 21st
Reply

Chanaka Hettige

Got to love how Americans repeat themselves since massacring Natives to now Continuing it on Colored and in between.

Oct 20th
Reply

Bob S

best short review of the history of the present day American health Care system.

Oct 13th
Reply

K Cardon

This is ridiculous. Totally one-sided and narrow-minded.

Oct 13th
Reply

Lora Schuringa

can't find your new show yet on cast box!

Oct 8th
Reply (1)

Chanaka Hettige

Guys, please don't share episodes from other podcasts but just mention it as a AD. It's almost always off when a regular podcast get replaced by a podcast we didn't sign up for.

Oct 2nd
Reply

redrose.blueviolet

amazing episode

Sep 19th
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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
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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
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