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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 the perspective. We'll journey through the centuries alongside Afghan mystical poets. We'll turn the radio dial to hear songs of love and liberation. We'll meet the queen who built the first primary school for girls in the country. And we'll take a closer look at Afghanistan's centuries-long experiment to create a unified nation.
The Mystery of Inflation

The Mystery of Inflation


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.
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.
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.
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 solutions. What the so-called "Kerner Commission" concluded — shocking to many Americans – was that the fires in America's cities could be traced back to inequality, white racism, and police brutality. This week, the Kerner Commission's report and its consequences, nearly six decades later.
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.
Do Not Pass Go

Do Not Pass Go


There's more to Monopoly than you might think. It's one of the best-selling board games in history — despite huge economic instability, sales actually went up during the pandemic — and it's been an iconic part of American life at other pivotal moments: a cheap pastime during the Great Depression; a reminder of home for soldiers during WWII; and an American export during its rise as a global superpower. It endured even as it reflected some of the ongoing inequities in American society, from segregation and redlining to capitalism run rampant. That's because Monopoly is also built on powerful American lore – the idea that anyone, with just a little bit of cash, can rise from rags to riches.Writer Mary Pilon, the author of The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World's Favorite Board Game, describes Monopoly as "the Great American Dream in a board game – or, nightmare." This week: how a critique of capitalism grew from a seed of an idea in a rebellious young woman's mind into a game legendary for its celebration of wealth at all costs. And behind that legend — there's a lie.
When Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, the door opened on one of those rare opportunities to tip the balance of the highest court in the U.S. It was the opportunity that one particular voting bloc had been waiting for: evangelical Christians. Now, we await a ruling in a case that has the potential to overturn Roe v. Wade – an outcome evangelical Christians have spent decades voting and lobbying for. So how did this religious group become such a powerful force in U.S. politics? In this episode, we examine how white evangelicalism in particular became linked to conservative political issues...beginning with a roaming Irish pastor in the 1800s.
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 one of the most successful grassroots campaigns of the past century.
By Accident of Birth

By Accident of Birth


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 denied citizenship to Chinese immigrants. Though Wong Kim Ark had been born in the U.S. and lived his whole life there, the agent said he was not a citizen. Wong was moved from steamer to steamer for months. But he was able to contact representatives from the Chinese Six Companies, a consortium of Chinese business owners that often hired legal representation for people subject to discrimination. His subsequent legal battles culminated in the 1897 Supreme Court case United States. v. Wong Kim Ark: a case that would forever change the path of American immigration law, and play a pivotal role in the ongoing battle over who gets to be a citizen of the United States.
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 highly-organized groups with paramilitary capabilities, but it hasn't always been this way. This week, we trace the rise of the modern white power movement.
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 modernize written and spoken Chinese, sometimes risking their lives to do so. Their work simplified Chinese, standardized it, and took it from an inaccessible language built for the elite to a modern language for the masses. It was a struggle that spanned generations, changed the fate of millions of people, and helped create the powerful modern nation-state of China.
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 potent cloud of moral righteousness and racial panic that one historian later called "the physicians' crusade." And so began the century of criminalization.In the first episode of a two-part series, we're telling the story of that century: how doctors put themselves at the center of legal battles over abortion, first to criminalize — and then to legalize.
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.
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 document itself and the way it's been interpreted have affected generations of Americans — and how those effects are far from ended.
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 worldwide movement against predatory capitalism and foreign domination. So in this episode, we're going back to the first Cinco de Mayo and exploring how it helped shape the future on both sides of the border.
The New Gilded Age

The New Gilded Age


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.
Force of Nature (2021)

Force of Nature (2021)


Rivers on fire, acid rain falling from the sky, species going extinct, oil spills, polluted air, and undrinkable water: For so long, we didn't think of our planet as a place to preserve. And then, in the 1960s and 70s, that changed. Democrats and Republicans, with overwhelming public support, came together to pass a sweeping legislative agenda around environmental protection. In today's episode, what led to Earth Day, and what Earth Day led to.
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.
What's the role of government in society? What do we mean when we talk about individual responsibility? What makes us free? 'Neoliberalism' might feel like a squishy term that's hard to define and understand. But this ideology, founded by a group of men in the Swiss Alps, is a political project that has dominated our economic system for decades. In the name of free-market fundamentals, the forces behind neoliberalism act like an invisible hand, shaping almost every aspect of our lives.
Comments (270)

Laura Burns

Doctors have also put themselves at the center of birth - too dangerous, painful and slow, to leave it to women's bodies.

Jun 2nd

Christa NR

so annoying how the recording skips forward and back at times... Definitely seems part of the recording is actually missing :( I notice this happens on other episodes too, but worse on this one.

May 21st


Wow, I missed this the first time it aired and I'm so glad I caught it this time! Truly mind blowing and yet makes so much sense 🤯 #TIL #NPRthroughline #npr @nprthroughline

Apr 17th


background music was really annoying. turned it of after 10 min and moved on to another episode.

Feb 7th


This was so refreshing, thanks for sharing it 😊 @throughlinenpr

Jan 31st


There's a 't' in Putin 🤨

Jan 28th

Jeanie Mummert Kent

this episode is an absolute gift. thank you 😊

Jan 26th

Roxanne Weaver

I love Throughline and am fascinated by dreams so was excited to listen to this episode. It was good but the accompanying music was really distracting and kept me from focusing on what the guest was saying.

Jan 21st

V J Forsythe

Y'all did her justice. Thank you. I loved Jennifer Burns' book. Thank you for picking her as the author to interview for this understanding of Rand.

Dec 16th

Todd Palazzolo

I'm not subscribed to this garbage propaganda channel so why are episodes automatically downloaded into my cast box account?

Dec 16th

Samantha Helzer

Can y’all do an episode about Brasil and there government today ?

Dec 15th

Dylan Gao

this kind of operation really taint the image of america

Nov 13th

Torrance Damgaard

Brian is a dumbass. How is he even credible to be having this conversation? Everything he says to contradict them, is just metaphorical and doesn't have any real meaning. Speaks like a politician. Smh

Sep 14th

New Jawn

My dad and mom grew up as children during the Depression. They forever saw money and security so differently than those born afterward.

Aug 12th
Reply (1)

Andrew H.

The sound design is so good here. I felt myself getting tense during the scene setting sound bytes.

Aug 5th

Drew Anderson

I'm sure they thought it was a really cool idea, but 15 seconds of silence is not a great choice for effect on a podcast lol

Aug 2nd

Wimarshana Wijesuriya

This is definitely the best podcast out there!!!! Huge fan from Sri-Lanka of all places.

Jul 31st

Drew Anderson

interestingly enough, Romero never intended for Night of the living dead to have racial commentary. The part of Ben was written with no particular race in mind, and the actor who played him simply had the best acting chops of the men who auditioned.

Jul 24th

Andre D'Elena

Is it just me or are free market capitalists all delusional twats? Love the guy who walks up to someone who's just been shot in the leg and is all like, hey, you are sooooo lucky! It could've been right between the eyes!

Jul 21st

Lori C.

This pandemic started about 18 months ago and this episode was really early. it was just said that this pandemic could pull people together. too bad it did nothing of the kind in the USA. if it had, who knows how different the outcome could have been.

Jul 12th
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