Civics & Coffee

Civics & Coffee

The people, events and topics of United States history, shared in the time it takes to enjoy a cup of coffee. Come hang with me as I nerd out a little on America's history.


September 30, 2023 33 mins

Joining me this week is Laurence Jurdem to discuss his newest book, The Rough Rider & the Professor: Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge, and the Friendship that Changed American History.

Dr. Jurdem is an Adjunct Professor of history at Fairfield University and Fordham College’s Lincoln Center campus. In this episode, we chat about the relationship between Lodge and Roosevelt and what their relationship tells us abo...

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Some presidential wives are more well known than others. Throughout the nineteenth century, there are a string of women who did not leave as lasting an impact to the role of First Lady or a voluminous set of journals and letters for historians to mine to craft a narrative of their lives. Abigail Powers Fillmore is one such presidential spouse. Even less is known about Fillmore's second wife, the wealthy widow Caroline McIntosh...

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September 16, 2023 17 mins

Join me this week as I dive into the life and career of Millard Fillmore.

The second "accidental president," Fillmore ascended to the office after the passing of Zachary Taylor. The two men, who had no relationship before Taylor's death, proved to have very different opinions on the issue of the day.

Fillmore is considered by many to be one of the worst presidents in history. Tune in to find out wh...

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September 9, 2023 16 mins

Welcome back to James Baldwin - Part Two!

Join me this week as I complete the story of Baldwin's life, including his ascension to the top of the literary world, his work during the Civil Rights Movement, and the legacy he left behind.

Thanks again to Ethan for making such a wonderful request.

For source material, transcripts, or to request your own topic, please visit the website at www.civicsandco...

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September 2, 2023 14 mins

I am back with another listener request!
 James Baldwin is one of the most well known authors of the twentieth century. Growing up in Harlem during the roaring twenties and depression riddled thirties, Baldwin knew from a young age he wanted to be a writer. But living with an overbearing stepfather made that dream something he had to fight for.
 Tune in this week as I dive into the first half of Baldwin's ...

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August 26, 2023 25 mins

Joining me this week is Professor of History at Brandeis University, Dr. Chad Williams. In this episode, we discuss his new book, The Wounded World: W.E.B. DuBois and the First World War.

The book traces DuBois' efforts to write a comprehensive biography of African American military service during the World War I and explores the reasons why DuBois' ultimately decided against publication. Dr. Williams provides a ...

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August 19, 2023 17 mins

Tensions were high in the run-up to the Civil War. Disagreements proliferated about the institution of slavery and just what should be done about it. And nowhere were disagreements and tempers high than inside the halls of Congress.

While many know about the caning of Charles Sumner, some may be surprised to learn that this was just one in a long line of violent acts conducted by members of Congress.

Tune in thi...

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August 12, 2023 15 mins

In 1854, a sleepy community on the north fork of Long Island was devastated by reports of a double murder.

James and Frances Wickham appeared to have everything a young couple could want: a beautiful home, comfortable wealth, and good health. So what happened?

Tune in this week to learn more about the Wickham Murders.

For transcripts and source material, please head to the website at www.civicsandcoffee...

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August 5, 2023 20 mins

Joining me this week is former managing editor of People magazine, Landon Jones, to discuss his latest book, Celebrity Nation.

Our conversation covers what brought Jones to the subject, what we can learn from American history by studying celebrity, and the dangers of celebrity culture.

To learn more about Landon, please visit his website at

For more information about the book and show...

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July 29, 2023 19 mins

Known for his military success, Zachary Taylor came to office as President of the United States at a critical moment in United States history. Despite being a leader on the battlefield, many historians argue he failed to deliver the same while president, propelling the country further on the path to war.

So just who was Zachary Taylor? Tune in to find out.

For show notes and transcripts, please visit the website...

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July 22, 2023 16 mins

I am back with another listener request! 

Anna Kingsley was a slave woman who went on to become property and slave owner  who won a monumental court case during a period when women and former slaves were given little, if any, agency or respect. 

Much of Anna's life remains a mystery, but what we do know is quite fascinating. Tune in this week as I dive into the life of Anna Kingsley. 

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July 15, 2023 16 mins

Sitting along the busy intersections of San Jose stands a grand mansion with a haunted past.

The Winchester Mystery House has been a top tourist destination for one hundred years and is known for its creepy design elements like the stairs to nowhere and doors that do not open. Most have heard the stories about how Sarah Winchester, a rich widow who lost her husband and daughter, visited a medium who told her to move west ...

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Join me this week as I interview historian, professor, and new author Dr. Stan Fisher about his book, Sustaining the Carrier War: The Deployment of U.S. Naval Air Power to the Pacific.

In his book, Dr. Fisher recounts the efforts the United States Navy made to improve capabilities in fighting a protracted war in the Pacific. He provides a human face to the conflict, focusing on the men (and women) who made sure planes wer...

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July 1, 2023 17 mins

One of the most well known newspaper in the world, The New York Times has been publishing the news since 1851. Despite the financial hurdles faced by many news organizations, the New York Times manages to stay afloat and has expanded into several other media formats.

So how did the New York Times come together? Who were its founders?

Tune in to find out. For source material, transcripts, and more information on ...

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June 24, 2023 17 mins

The first African American to earn a medical degree, James McCune Smith was a leader black intellectual, counting friends like Frederick Douglass and Henry Highland Garnet. He was known for both his scientific knowledge and his reformist activities during his lifetime and wrote extensively for Douglass' newspaper.

However, today most are unfamiliar with Smith or his accomplishments. So this week, I am focusing on Dr....

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The first to earn a medical degree in the United States, Elizabeth Blackwell broke barriers and carved a path for others to follow. Graduating at the top of her class, Blackwell would fight to create a medical practice and would spend her life championing medical education for other women.

So just who was Elizabeth Blackwell? Tune in to find out.

For transcripts and source material, please head to the website at...

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One of the best selling novels in history, Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin forcefully took on the institution of slavery and challenged citizens of the country to fight for abolition.

Beginning as a short story in an abolitionist newspaper, Uncle Tom's Cabin remains one of the most analyzed and studied novels. But how did the story come together? And who exactly was Harriet Beecher Stowe?

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June 3, 2023 17 mins

One of the most prolific authors of the nineteenth century, William Wells Brown remains a bit of a mystery.

A man born into slavery who clawed his way to freedom, Brown has quite the fascinating biography. An author, abolitionist, and member of the underground railroad, Brown can tell us a lot about nineteenth century America.

So just who was William Wells Brown? Tune in to find out.

Four course materi...

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In recent years, much has been written about the political theater involved in Supreme Court Justice confirmation hearings. Many Americans report feeling frustrated at both the question asked by Senators and the answers provided by future associate justices.

One long time listener asked that I review the history of supreme justice nominations and the confirmation process. Has it always been so polarizing and political? Ha...

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Earlier this year I attended to annual Society for Military History academic conference in San Diego. I was invited to participate in a panel on podcasting, aptly named Making Airwaves.

Fellow podcaster Philip Shackelford not only organized the panel, but recorded the discussion live - which I am releasing today. My sincerest gratitude goes to Philip who has his own show, The Modern Scholar Podcast, as well as Bill Alliso...

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