Throughline

Throughline

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. 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 to our sponsor-free feed of the show. Learn more at plus.npr.org/throughline

Episodes

June 22, 2022 52 min
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 re...
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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 opponen...
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June 8, 2022 59 min
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 cust...
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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...
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May 25, 2022 49 min
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 lang...
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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 launch...
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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.
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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 protecte...
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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 culm...
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April 27, 2022 50 min
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 me...
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April 20, 2022 49 min
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 w...
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April 13, 2022 55 min
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.
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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 neoliberalis...
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March 30, 2022 44 min
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...
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March 23, 2022 48 min
"All wars are fought twice, the first time on the battlefield, the second time in memory," writes Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen. This week on Throughline, we want to pause the news cycle to think about not just how war is experienced or consumed, but how it's remembered. A refugee from the Vietnam War, Nguyen calls himself a scholar of memory — someone who studies how we remember events of the past, bo...
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March 16, 2022 51 min
A Japanese American activist whose early political awakenings came while incarcerated in the concentration camps of World War II America, Kochiyama dedicated her life to social justice and liberation movements. One year after the spa shootings that killed eight people in Atlanta, Georgia — including six women of Asian descent — Throughline reflects on Kochiyama's ideas around the Asian American struggle, and what solidarity and...
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March 10, 2022 44 min
Months before Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale military invasion of Ukraine, he published an essay on the Kremlin website called "On The Historical Unity of Russia and Ukraine." In it, he suggested that Ukrainians don't really have their own identity — and that they never have. Historian Serhii Plokhii says that couldn't be further from the truth. The histories of the two countries are deeply intertwined, but Uk...
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March 3, 2022 51 min
Rats. Love 'em or hate 'em, (though you probably hate 'em), they're part of our world. And during the pandemic, they've been out in full force: fewer humans outdoors means more space for rats. And it turns out, they're a lot like us: They've colonized the whole planet; they're incredibly adaptable; they go wherever the resources are. And, they share one-fourth of our genome—so when you're looking...
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February 24, 2022 49 min
It may seem bleak, but Robin D.G Kelley's view of the world says there is no promise of liberation, only struggle. Kelley has spent his career bringing to life the stories of the Black labor organizers and anti-capitalists who are often left out of history books, from radical farmers in the South to Black unions during the Gilded Age. And he's come to a provocative conclusion: that the secret to capitalism's survival is...
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February 17, 2022 59 min
Black people deserve nothing less than everything: This was Marcus Garvey's simple, uncompromising message. His speeches on Pan-Africanism — the vision of a world where all people of African origin, on every continent, were united, self-sufficient, and proud — made him a powerful Black voice in the 20th century. His steamship company, the Black Star Line, was supposed to take his followers to Africa, where he said they would fi...
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