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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.

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  • Sudan has been at the center of a deadly and brutal war for over a year. It's the site of the world's largest hunger crisis, and the world's largest displacement crisis.On the surface, it's a story about two warring generals vying for power – the latest in a long cycle of power struggles that have plagued Sudan for decades. But it's also a story about the U.S. war on terror, Russia's war in Ukraine, and China's global rise.Today on the show, we turn back the clock more than a century to untangle the complex web that put Sudan on the path to war.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
  • The United States is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, yet over 10 percent of people – nearly 40 million – live in poverty. It's something we see, say, if we live near a tent encampment. And it's also something we feel. More than a third of people in the U.S. say they're worried about being able to pay their rent or mortgage. Medical bills and layoffs can change a family's economic status almost overnight.These issues are on the minds of Democrats and Republicans, city-dwellers and rural households. And in an election year, they're likely to be a major factor when people cast their votes for President.In this episode, we talk with Pulitzer Prize-winning author and sociologist Matthew Desmond, whose book Poverty, By America, helps explain why poverty persists in the United States, how it's holding all of us back, and what it means to be a poverty abolitionist.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
  • Birmingham, Alabama was one of the fiercest battlegrounds of the Civil Rights Movement. And in order to understand the struggle, you don't have to look any further than Rickwood Field, the oldest baseball stadium in the country. Over more than a century it's hosted Negro League baseball, a women's suffrage event, a Klan rally — and eventually, the first integrated sports team in Alabama.Today on the show, we're joined by host Roy Wood, Jr., to bring you the first episode of Road to Rickwood, an original series from WWNO, WRKF, and NPR telling the story of America's oldest ballpark.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
  • Today, the U.S. popular music industry is worth billions of dollars. And some of its deepest roots are in blackface minstrelsy and other racist genres. You may not have heard their names, but Black musicians like George Johnson, Ernest Hogan, and Mamie Smith were some of the country's first viral sensations, working within and pushing back against racist systems and tropes. Their work made a lasting imprint on American music — including some of the songs you might have on repeat right now.Corrections: A previous version of this episode incorrectly stated that Jim Crow was a real-life enslaved person. In fact, Jim Crow was a racist caricature of African Americans. A previous version of this episode incorrectly stated that Thomas Rice, also known as T.D. Rice or Daddy Rice, was the first person to bring blackface characterization to the American stage. In fact, he was one of several performers of this era who popularized and spread the use of blackface. A previous version of this episode incorrectly stated that African American minstrel troupes didn't start to perform until after the U.S. Civil War. In fact, an African American artist named William Henry Lane was performing in the 1840s.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
  • One day in late April 1958, a young economist named Madeleine Tress was approached by two men in suits at her office at the U.S. Department of Commerce. They took her to a private room, turned on a tape recorder, and demanded she respond to allegations that she was an "admitted homosexual." Two weeks later, she resigned.Madeleine was one of thousands of victims of a purge of gay and lesbian people ordered at the highest levels of the U.S. government: a program spurred by a panic that destroyed careers and lives and lasted more than forty years. Today, it's known as the "Lavender Scare."In a moment when LGBTQ+ rights are again in the public crosshairs, we tell the story of the Lavender Scare: its victims, its proponents, and a man who fought for decades to end it.To access bonus episodes and listen to Throughline sponsor-free, subscribe to Throughline+ via Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/throughline.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
  • Since October 7th, the term Zionism has been everywhere in the news. It's been used to support Israel in what it calls its war against Hamas: a refrain to remind everyone why Israel exists and why it must be protected. Others have used Zionism to describe what they view as Israel's collective punishment of civilians in Gaza, and its appropriation of Palestinian territories — what they often call "settler colonialism."Zionism has been defined and redefined again and again, and the definitions are often built on competing historical interpretations. So unsurprisingly, we've received many requests from you, our audience, to explore the origins of Zionism. On today's episode, we go back to the late 19th century to meet the people who organized the modern Zionist movement.Correction: An earlier version of this episode incorrectly described Ze'ev Jabotinsky as a right-wing settler who helped form the paramilitary organization the Irgun. Jabotinsky was a conservative Zionist thinker whose ideas influenced some of the founders of the Irgun. While Jabotinsky did advocate Jewish settlement in Palestine, he himself lived mostly in Europe and died before Israel's founding.To access bonus episodes and listen to Throughline sponsor-free, subscribe to Throughline+ via Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/throughline.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
  • In 1923, an Indian American man named Bhagat Singh Thind told the U.S. Supreme Court that he was white, and therefore eligible to become a naturalized citizen. He based his claim on the fact that he was a member of India's highest caste and identified as an Aryan. His claims were supported by the so-called Indo-European language theory, a controversial idea at the time that says nearly half the world's population speak a language that originated in one place. Theories about who lived in that place inspired a racist ideology that contended that the original speakers of the language were a white supreme race that colonized Europe and Asia thousands of years ago. This was used by many to define whiteness and eventually led to one of the most horrific events in history. On this episode of Throughline, we unpack the myths around this powerful idea and explore the politics and promise of the mother tongue.To access bonus episodes and listen to Throughline sponsor-free, subscribe to Throughline+ via Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/throughline.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
  • International courts investigating alleged war crimes have made headlines often in recent months. An arrest warrant has been issued for Russian President Vladimir Putin; arrest warrants have also been requested for senior Hamas and Israeli officials, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.What are these courts, where did they come from, and how did they come to decide the rules of war?On today's episode, we travel from the battlefields of the U.S. Civil War, through the rubble of two world wars, to the hallways of the Hague, to trace modern attempts to define and prosecute war crimes.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
  • Welcome to the "Epic of Marcos." In this tale of a family that's larger than life, Ferdinand Marcos, the former dictator of the Philippines, is at the center. But the figures that surround him are just as important: Imelda, his wife and muse; Bongbong, his heir; and the United States, his faithful sidekick. The story of the Marcos family is a blueprint for authoritarianism, laying out clearly how melodrama, paranoia, love, betrayal and a hunger for power collide to create a myth capable of propelling a nation. Today on the show, the rise, fall, and resurrection of a dynasty — and what that means for democracy worldwide.To access bonus episodes and listen to Throughline sponsor-free, subscribe to Throughline+ via Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/throughline.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
  • For nearly thirty years, the South African government held a man it initially labeled prisoner number 46664, the anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela. But in 1994, Mandela transformed from the country's 'number one terrorist' into its first Black president, ushering in a new era of democracy. Today, though, many in South Africa see Mandela's party, the ANC, as corrupt and responsible for the country's problems. It's an ongoing political saga, with all sides attempting to weaponize parts of the past – especially Nelson Mandela's legacy. On today's episode, we tell Mandela's story: the man, the myth, and the cost of freedom.To access bonus episodes and listen to Throughline sponsor-free, subscribe to Throughline+ via Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/throughline.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy