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.

Episodes

January 13, 2022 71 min
Bayard Rustin, the man behind the March on Washington, was one of the most consequential architects of the civil rights movement you may never have heard of. Rustin imagined how nonviolent civil resistance could be used to dismantle segregation in the United States. He organized around the idea for years and eventually introduced it to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But his identity as a gay man made him a target, obscured his rightful...
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When a mob of pro-Trump supporters violently stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 they also incited a defining moment in United States history. Now what? We revisit our conversation with historian Timothy Snyder about how we got here and what an insurrection could mean for the future of America.
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December 30, 2021 42 min
Today, electricity in the U.S. is a utility we notice only when it's suddenly unavailable. But over a hundred years ago, electricity in the homes of every American was a wild idea and the subject of a bitter fight over who would power, and profit from, the national grid. This week, the battle that electrified our world and the extreme measures that were taken to get there.
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December 28, 2021 48 min
What happens to police officers who use excessive force, tamper with evidence or sexually harass someone? In California, internal affairs investigations were kept secret from the public — until a recent transparency law unsealed thousands of files. Listen to the first episode of On Our Watch, a limited-run podcast from NPR and KQED that brings you into the rooms where officers are interrogated and witnesses are questioned to find o...
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December 23, 2021 64 min
American workers are reaching a breaking point. We're seeing a wave of resignations and labor strikes, and a supply chain that's cracking under the pressure. At the turn of the 20th century, one man faced a similar world and dreamt of something more – Eugene V. Debs.

He was a bold and irreverent labor organizer, and the first socialist candidate for president. He believed in welfare programs, early childhood education, and t...
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December 16, 2021 60 min
Are most modern problems caused by selfishness or a lack of it? Ayn Rand, a Russian American philosopher and writer, would say it's the latter — that selfishness is not a vice but a virtue — and that capitalism is the ideal system. Everyone from Donald Trump to Alan Greenspan to Brad Pitt have sung Ayn Rand's praises. The Library of Congress named her novel, Atlas Shrugged, the second most influential book in the U.S. after...
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December 9, 2021 54 min
As the end of the 20th century approached, Radiohead took to the recording studio to capture the sound of a society that felt like it was fraying at the edges. Many people had high hopes for the new millennium, but for others a low hum of anxiety lurked just beneath the surface as the world changed rapidly and fears of a Y2K meltdown loomed.

Amidst all the unease, the famed British band began recording their highly anticipated follo...
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December 2, 2021 57 min
The Arab Spring erupted eleven years ago when a wave of "pro-democracy" protests spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa. The effects of the uprisings reverberated around the world as regimes fell in some countries, and civil war began in others. This week, we remember the years leading up to the Arab Spring, and its lasting impact on three people who lived through it.
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November 25, 2021 40 min
Uncontrollable western wildfires and a hidden family history — two puzzles that can only be solved with knowledge buried in the past. Indigenous people in Montana fight fire with fire, drawing on the unique relationships their ancestors had to one of the West's greatest threats today. And a young woman grapples with the secret that binds her family together, but also tears them apart. This week, we bring you stories produced by...
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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, which is set to be released as a book later this year.

The U.S. is steeped in wars over history. Historical narratives fuel p...
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November 11, 2021 55 min
In 1927, the most destructive river flood in U.S. history inundated seven states, displaced more than half a million people for months, and caused about $1 billion dollars in property damages. And like many national emergencies it exposed a stark question that the country still struggles to answer - what is the political calculus used to decide who bears the ultimate responsibility in a crisis, especially when it comes to the most ...
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November 9, 2021 44 min
Rund and Ramtin speak to sci-fi writer and Princeton historian, Haris Durrani, about why the lore of Dune still proves so relevant and the ways in which the 2021 film succeeds and fails to convey its messages.

"Dreams are messages from the deep." Those are the first words that appear on the screen in Denis Villeneuve's 2021 film, Dune, a cinematic adaptation of the iconic 1965 sci-fi book by Frank Herbert. The book cont...
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November 3, 2021 61 min
Unseen, they stalk their targets from thousands of feet in the air. Operators are piloting them from military bases halfway across the world. At any moment, they could launch a strike that comes without warning. The attack drone was supposed to be a symbol of the era of precision warfare — a way to wage wars with fewer casualties on both sides. It's a technology that's been honed since it was first dreamed up during World W...
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October 27, 2021 51 min
Halloween — the night of ghost stories and trick-or-treating — has religious origins that span over two thousand years and over time, the Catholic Church, pagan groups, and even the brewing company Coors have played a role in shape-shifting the holiday. How did Halloween turn from a spiritual celebration to a multi-billion dollar industry? From the Great Famine of Ireland to the Simpsons, we present the many evolutions of Halloween...
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October 20, 2021 58 min
Astrology has existed for thousands of years and has roots that span the globe. But is it a science or a religion or just a kind of personality test? And why is it more popular than ever? This week, the story of how finding our fates in the stars moved from the fringes to the mainstream and became a multi-billion dollar industry.

[This episode originally aired on February 20, 2020]
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October 13, 2021 58 min
The global pandemic has spawned a different type of epidemic, one of an entirely different nature: a nostalgia outbreak. Longing for 'simpler times' and 'better days', many of us have been turning to 90s dance playlists, TV sitcoms, and sports highlights. We're looking for comfort and safety in the permanence of the past, or at least, what we think the past was. But, when it first appeared, nostalgia itself wasn...
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In a sense, 1521 is Mexico's 1619. A foundational moment that has for a long time been shaped by just one perspective, a European one. The story of how Hernán Cortés and his small army of conquistadors conquered the mighty Aztec Empire, in the heart of what's now modern Mexico City, has become a foundational myth of European dominance in the Americas. This is the story that for centuries was largely accepted as the truth. B...
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October 4, 2021 35 min
When Soul Train was first nationally syndicated in October 1971, there was nothing else like it on TV. It was the iconic Black music and dance show, a party every weekend that anyone could join from their living room. Our friends at It's Been A Minute with Sam Sanders break down the lasting influence of Soul Train on the culture and ask why there's never been a show like it since.
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September 29, 2021 43 min
The Constitution is like America's secular bible, our sacred founding document. In her play, What the Constitution Means to Me, Heidi Schreck goes through a process of discovering what the document 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 the Constitution and how it has been interpreted have affected not just her family but generatio...
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September 27, 2021 23 min
This week we're featuring an episode from Life Kit that focuses on myths surrounding autism, how to talk about it and how to help your autistic loved one live their most fulfilling life.
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