Axelbank Reports History and Today

Axelbank Reports History and Today

"Axelbank Reports History and Today: Conversations with America’s top non-fiction authors and why their books matter right now" approaches our past and present in a way that makes anyone want to listen. National-award winning TV news reporter Evan Axelbank interviews writers of history and current events to explore how America works and how it has been shaped by both the powerful and the powerless. In conversational and engaging fashion, listeners learn about the most important events, themes and figures in American history. This podcast shows why we have no choice but to understand where we have been, to know where we are going.

Episodes

May 21, 2024 50 mins

On this episode, Adam Higginbotham brings us back to the moment that many say they will never forget, but also to a moment that is filled with misconception and myth. When the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded in 1986, seven astronauts lost their lives and NASA was confronted with its biggest failure. Higginbotham shows us how the space program chose to remember those lost, rebuild faith in its mission, and how NASA persisted as a ...

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Teddy Roosevelt is thought of as the quintessentially masculine American president. He is known for going to war, for fighting buffalo with his bare hands, and sailing down the River of Doubt. But as Edward O'Keefe, the CEO of the Teddy Roosevelt Presidential Library explains, TR is more a product of the women in his life than the men. His mother, sisters and wives played critical roles in his formative years, his early politi...

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Paul Sparrow argues that Franklin Roosevelt is the quintessential American president, not just of the 20th Century, but in all of American history. FDR's ability to rally the nation from the Great Depression, and then carry it into a devastating but essential World War showed not just his talent, but his understanding of the stakes the country faced. Sparrow argues that FDR is democracy's greatest champion, and that he be...

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What does it mean to have "free time" and is it ever enough? In "Free Time: The History of an Elusive Ideal," Dr. Gary Cross explains how free time is both precious and deceptive. Why are people on vacation already searching the web for their next one? What counts as free time? Does technology help or hurt our experience with time spent away from work? Dr. Cross joins us to answer these questions, and to explain...

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In "American Flygirl" Susan Tate Ankeny shows how a young girl with a fascination for flying became the first female Asian-American pilot to fly for the military. Hazel Ying Lee was born in Portland, but came of age at a time when the deck was stacked against people like her. Hazel never let discrimination or expectation shatter her dreams of flying for a living. She flew in China to defend her ancestral homeland from att...

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Though few remember it, James Swanson argues the Deerfield Massacre of 1704 played a critical role in the shaping of early America. He explains how Native tribes and French soldiers brutalized a small outpost of colonists in western Massachusetts and set off a continental effort to find the missing victims and establish forces to protect the colonies. The tale of large-scale kidnappings, battles over who land belongs to and fear of...

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Up until the very end of World War II, even Dwight Eisenhower did not grasp the extent of the devastation the Holocaust had inflicted to the Jewish people. It wasn’t until he was among the liberators at the Ohrdruf concentration camp where the Americans found thousands of dead bodies and starving Jews when Eisenhower finally had his full call to action. They weren’t just fighting fascism, they were fighting to make sure there would...

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Abraham Lincoln is often thought of as the president who kept the union together, or who contributed the legal basis for slaves to be freed in states in rebellion, but Harold Holzer, one of America's renowned Lincoln scholars, explains how Lincoln harnessed the power of immigrants to make both achievements possible. Holzer's new book, "Brought Forth on this Continent: Abraham Lincoln and American Immigration," t...

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The Founding Fathers are often thought of as the pathbreaking generation that fought with dignity, wrote with moral clarity, and bound the colonies together with one goal. Except, in their new edited collection, “A Republic of Scoundrels: The Schemers, Intriguers and Adventurers who Created a New American Nation,” historians David Head and Timothy Hemmis argue that's not what happened at all. They say that mixed in with those ...

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From costumes to professional football to a brand of high end ovens, "Vikings" have become a part of American pop culture. In "American Vikings: How the Norse Sailed into the Lands and Imaginations of America," historian Martyn Whittock explains why actual vikings set sail, what they were after, and why the potential for myths to be handed down to future generations was so pervasive. He shows how sailors in the ...

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How  did Ulysses S. Grant go from being surrounded by - and benefitting from - slaves to becoming one of the most instrumental American leaders responsible for its downfall? In "Soldier of Destiny," John Reeves shows how Grant's formative years with an anti-slavery father, the challenges of his alcoholism and his experience as a military leader during the Civil War led to his belief that emancipation was the only way...

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Aside from being famous and at the top of their crafts, Harry Truman and Pablo Picasso could hardly have been more different. Matthew Algeo explains how their one-off meeting was used by both men to further their goals in politics and art. In, "When Harry Met Pablo: Truman, Picasso and the Cold War Politics of Modern Art," Algeo explains how modern art became a leverage point in the fight against McCarthyism, and how art ...

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For decades, conservative elected officials, activists and think tanks have argued that college campuses are hostile to them and their ideas. In Dr. Lauren Lassabe Shepherd's book, "Resistance from the Right: Conservatives and Campus Wars," we see how that movement was sprouted, what its arguments are and how successful their efforts have been to craft education policy to fit their own goals. She shows how William F....

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Doug Melville was thrilled to be invited to the screening of a movie about the Tuskeegee Airmen, a movie that he assumed would feature the patriarch of his family tree, Ben O. Davis Jr. He was proud of his family's service to the storied branch of the Air Force, a group of aviators who had fought for their country even though they were ordered to be segregated. Instead, the movie featured only composites of the characters, and...

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November 7, 2023 54 mins

In 2021, there were 48,830 people in America who were killed by bullets fired from guns. Some of those deaths were purposeful, others accidental, and still others self-inflicted. The bullets were fired from a share of the 400 million guns owned by - or stolen from - Americans. In "Gun Country: Gun Capitalism, Culture and Control in Cold War America," Dr. Drew McKevitt argues that the choice to have that many guns is not s...

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October 10, 2023 45 mins

The story of the Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson years is one of both incredible struggle and of triumph for the United States. Between 1952 and 1968, America saw pointed racism, political divisions grow, a president assassinated and a war start. But it also saw the end of official segregation, the proof that the world understood nuclear war was not an option, and an expansion of medical care and of fair housing. Dr. Richard Aldous...

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Diesel isn't just a type of fuel. It is the name of a man who was at the center of one of the biggest stories of intrigue in the early 1900s. Rudolf Diesel was a German entrepreneur who author Douglas Brunt says was the "Elon Musk" of his day. In 1913, Brunt's body was found floating in the English Channel. Did he die naturally, did he commit suicide, or was he murdered? Some suspected the latter, given he seeme...

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An early architect of what became the Underground Railroad was a former slave named Thomas Smallwood. Never heard of him? You're not alone. Former New York Times and Baltimore Sun correspondent and author Scott Shane wants to change that. His book, "Flee North: A Forgotten Hero and the Fight for Freedom in Slavery's Borderland," describes how Smallwood used his bravery and sharp wit to confound slaveowners natio...

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Jackie Kennedy's life has almost always been told through the lens of her husband and in-laws. But in, "Jackie: Public, Private, Secret," J. Randy Taraborrelli explains for the first time how her own family paved the way for her to break new ground as First Lady, craft her husband's legacy, enter publishing, and lead a life shrouded in as much notoriety as it had secrecy. He shows how she both preserved history ...

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As another baseball season winds down, check out this episode with historian Adam Lazarus, who shows us how Ted Williams was drafted into the military during the Korean War. The unexpected drafting of the baseball mega-star led to his friendship with John Glenn, who was looking for a partner with whom to take flight. Their friendship spanned many decades, and as Lazarus reveals, may have been one of the most amazing in American his...

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