Weekend Edition Sunday

Conceived as a cross between a Sunday newspaper and CBS' Sunday Morning with Charles KuraltWeekend Edition Sunday features interviews with newsmakers, artists, scientists, politicians, musicians, writers, theologians and historians. The program has covered news events from Nelson Mandela's 1990 release from a South African prison to the capture of Saddam Hussein.

Weekend Edition Sunday debuted on January 18, 1987, with host Susan Stamberg. Two years later, Liane Hansen took over the host chair, a position she held for 22 years. In that time, Hansen interviewed movers and shakers in politics, science, business and the arts. Her reporting travels took her from the slums of Cairo to the iron mines of Michigan's Upper Peninsula; from the oyster beds on the bayou in Houma, La., to Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park; and from the kitchens of Colonial Williamsburg, Va., to the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. In the fall of 2011, NPR National Desk Reporter Audie Cornish began hosting the show.

Every week listeners tune in to hear a unique blend of news, features and the regularly scheduled puzzle segment with Puzzlemaster Will Shortz, the crossword puzzle editor of The New York Times.

Weekend Edition Sunday is heard on NPR Member stations across the United States and around the globe via NPR Worldwide. The conversation between the audience and the program staff continues throughout the social media world.

Martha McCullough shows off a photo of her grandfather, Christmas Moultrie, ...
Gen. Sherman burned the plantation down on his way to Savannah, and now the descendant of the planter and the grandchild of that planter's emancipated slave delight in sharing their story.

On Dec. 21, 1864, Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman captured the city of Savannah, ending his March to the Sea.

In the days leading up to Savannah's surrender to the Union, Sherman's troops burned the nearby Mulberry Grove Plantation. They also freed hundreds of slaves, including a baby boy who would grow up on the land as a free man.

One hundred and fifty years later, the descendants of some of the people living on that plantation still share a special connection to that man.

Hugh Golson, a retired history teacher, is a wiry white man in his mid-60s with bright blue eyes.

Martha McCullough, 87, is a former grade school teacher. She's African-American, dressed in a festive red sweater and hat at Golson's Victorian home in downtown Savannah. The house is filled with antiques, bookshelves and richly-painted green walls covered in old photographs.

Golson holds up a small photo of a white man decked out in a gold watch.

"This is my ancestor that owned her grandfather," Golson says. "This is Zachariah Winkler, the master of Mulberry, the second-largest rice planter on the Savannah River."

It was taken, he says, in the studios of the famed photographer Matthew Brady. Another, larger snapshot depicts an older African-American man, with a line of trees behind him, wearing a corduroy cap. That's McCullough's grandfather, Christmas Moultrie.

Golson says Moultrie was born on Christmas Day, 1863, a year before Sherman's men arrived. Some accounts, though, say he was born in the late 1850s.

"But this is the man that owned him and owned his parents. So I like to keep them together, and I like to have Christmas in the larger frame," Golson says.

Growing up in the 1930s and '40s, McCullough visited her grandfather at the old Mulberry plantation, where he'd been born in slavery. He stayed on and worked there much of his life, living mostly off the land.

'That Fascinating Man' — Caretaker, Moonshiner And Judge

"Oftentimes he would go hunting and fishing, and he was the caretaker," McCullough remembers.

McCullough and Golson say Moultrie also made a little money on the side, distilling and selling illegal moonshine on the property. Even after so many years, McCullough is still a little bashful about discussing it.

"You know, I might could say it now," she says. "I was a little girl taking moonshine liquor to the judges in the courthouse. I was this little black girl — "

"— Bringing her granddaddy's wares," Golson says.

"Moonshine, in the courthouse," McCullough laughs. "How illegal!"

Moultrie mostly tried to keep his distance from the legal system, however. Growing up among the first generation of former slaves, Moultrie told his neighbors to work out disputes on their own, without involving white judges, McCullough says.

"Everyone had their problems," she says. "Any type of family problems, my grandfather was the judge. Christmas Moultrie (would) solve the problem."

As a young child, Golson also knew Moultrie, until Moultrie's death.

"He was an iconic figure to me," Golson says. "He was that fascinating man that lived right there at the gate, taking care of everything."

Moultrie was too young to remember it, but Sherman's arrival at Mulberry Grove in December 1864 is described in Savannah River Plantations, a book published in 1947 as part of the federal Works Progress Administration employment project.

Golson keeps a copy on his bookshelf. He says the account, which describes Sherman's troops burning down the plantation in front of Winkler as a slave stood guard, is similar to stories handed down in his family about the war.

"But Martha can tell us what was really happening at Mulberry," Golson says. "Her grandfather told her that those war years were hard, that they were hungry, that they didn't have much food. You better believe they held a gun on the man that made that happen."

'Trouble Don't Last Always'

McCullough says her grandfather also told her about moving on after hard times.

"I'm very grateful to God, that I let problems roll away like water off a duck back," McCullough says. "I say, 'Trouble don't last always.' That's my theme with my grandfather."

Though McCullough and Golson both grew up knowing Moultrie, and knew each other through their work as teachers, they didn't always know of their connection through him.

"We were sitting at the table together for probably a dozen years before we realized we had this old connection between us," Golson says.

In the early 1990s, they ran into each other at a meeting of a group trying to preserve Mulberry Grove as a historic site. That's when they connected the dots.

"It was fantastic to know that Hugh knew my grandfather," McCullough says. "I said, 'You knew my grandfather?' "

"That is the man that kind of bound us together," Golson says.

That bond, which began on a plantation near the end of the Civil War, is one they say they'll share for the rest of their lives, and beyond. Before McCullough leaves Golson's home, she has one request: "I'm going to ask Hugh to please ... have something to say at my funeral."

"Any time," Golson replies, "but Martha, you're presuming that I'm going to outlive you. It might be the other way, [the way] you're going. You might have to speak at my funeral."

Copyright 2014 Georgia Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit http://www.gpb.org/.

A couple walks on the beach in the resort area of Varadero, Cuba. Varadero i...
Travel to Cuba for business or education will be much easier as the U.S. eases restrictions, but until the embargo is completely lifted, going to Cuba simply for tourism still won't be allowed.

With President Obama beginning the process of normalizing relations with Cuba this week, many may envision soon soaking up the sun on a warm Cuban beach, sipping a refreshing rum drink.

In reality, that's not likely to happen for quite a while. But just the increased opportunity for travel between the two countries has those with longtime ties to Cuba already thinking about the possibilities it will bring.

Tom Popper is thinking about it. As president of the New York-based travel company, Insight Cuba, Popper has fought long and hard for an end to the U.S. ban on travel to Cuba, and he's seen his hopes rise and fall with the ebb and flow of Cuban-American relations over last couple of decades.

To say Obama's announcement Wednesday was a bit of a shock is an understatement.

"When I first heard the news on my way to the office that morning, I almost drove off the road," Popper says. "It's wonderful news for the U.S., for travelers, for business interests, for relations between the two countries."

Popper sees a greater opportunity for educational and cultural exchanges between the two countries, but cautions that some restrictions, including the ban on tourist travel to Cuba, remain in place.

Despite the ban, Eben Peck, head of government affairs for the American Society of Travel Agents, calls the agreement a step in the right direction.

"It's going to mean more business for our members who participate in the Cuba market, but the full benefits of freedom to travel to Cuba is not going to be felt until the travel ban is lifted in its entirety," Peck says.

Right now, only charter flights are allowed to fly between the U.S. and Cuba.

Cruise ship companies such as Carnival say Cuba presents some exciting possibilities, but note the country needs investments in docks and other infrastructure to accommodate big ships. A handful of international chains have hotels in Cuba, but far too few to handle large volumes of U.S. tourists.

And here's something American travelers won't be able to find at all in Cuba: a Starbuck's.

"There's nothing like this in Cuba, and there actually won't be for a very, very long time," says Achy Obejas, a writer who was born in Cuba. "For there to be a Starbuck's or a McDonald's or any kind of American business of this nature, the embargo has to be lifted, and these new policy changes do not affect the embargo."

But Obejas says the agreement to begin to normalize relations is huge, because it finally starts the conversation about eventually ending the trade embargo, which she says is critical to Cuba's future.

The first step, she says, is making it easier to travel between the two countries — and Obejas should know: She's lived there for extended periods of time and has spent much of her adult life traveling back and forth.

"It is a bit of a nightmare," she says. "You need a license, you have to ask permission, you have to join a group, you have to do something. It's not like just getting on a plane and going to the Bahamas. You actually have to go through some, you know, B.S."

Along with freer travel to and from Cuba, banking restrictions will be eased, so American travelers, for the first time, will be able to use credit and debit cards in Cuba, and they won't have to carry large sums of cash. That could free American visitors to spend more, and it would help Cuban businesses.

But the best thing for Obejas: The country will begin to be normal. The easing of travel restrictions will reconnect families, create economic and educational opportunities and encourage those Cubans who do leave the island nation to go back, Obejas says.

"Cuba will cease to be special in about five or six years," she says. "It will be one more country in the Caribbean to which you can access, which sounds banal, but is actually wonderful, to not be an outlier, to not be this dark forbidden place."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Doug Neville (left) and Ryan Johnson have been friends for three decades. Th...
Doug Neville and Ryan Johnson met shortly before Neville learned he was HIV-positive and began living with the specter of death. "I didn't know what I was going to do if you died," Johnson says.

StoryCorps' OutLoud initiative records stories from the LGBTQ community.

Doug Neville and Ryan Johnson met in 1986 — shortly before Neville was diagnosed as HIV-positive.

From grade school through college, Neville never really had a lot of friends. "I was frequently bullied," he tells Johnson during a StoryCorps interview in Chicago.

"And so I always thought, 'What's wrong with me?' And when we first started hanging out I remember thinking I, you know, wanted to be your friend," Neville tells Johnson. "And I knew how to get a man into bed, but I didn't know how to ask for a friendship."

Then Neville came close to dying.

"I knew I was sick," he says, "but it wasn't until I went to see my doctor, and he said, 'Have you talked to your mother?' That's when it hit me that it was that bad."

"There was a point where you — you'd stopped planning ahead," Johnson remembers.

"I really assumed that it was only a matter of time," Neville says. "And so I didn't live with any future in mind. I remember my 40th birthday and I'm thinking, 'I hit 40.' To me it was a monumental accomplishment."

"I don't know if you remember this but I was bitching about something and how I hated getting older, and you just very quietly said 'You know, I would give just about anything to live to 50,' " Johnson says.

"It made me realize that I didn't know what I was going to do if you died. I mean I'd seen lots of guys around me go, and these were people I knew and were close to, but they weren't my brother, I guess. So I celebrate the fact that you're alive."

Neville and Johnson have been friends for three decades — and Neville recently celebrated his 54th birthday.

Produced for Weekend Edition by Allison Davis.

StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.