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"Axelbank Reports History and Today: Conversations with America’s top non-fiction authors and why their books matter right now" approaches our past and present in a way that makes anyone want to listen. National-award winning TV news reporter Evan Axelbank interviews writers of history and current events to explore how America works and how it has been shaped by both the powerful and the powerless. In conversational and engaging fashion, listeners learn about the most important events, theme ...
 
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Until now, the story of Jews who served in the Civil War has been incomplete. Dr. Adam Mendelsohn's book aims to showcase their contributions and sacrifices while explaining how their time in the Civil War differed from that of other soldiers. From rations that were not kosher, to lack of opportunity to fully celebrate holidays, to relatively few c…
 
Why does exercise come with an outfit, a soundtrack, a gimmick and a social media post? In her book, "Fit Nation: The Gains and Pains of America's Exercise Obsession," scholar and fitness coach Dr. Natalia Petrzela explains the history behind exercise, the inequalities the fitness industry has created, and how America has been shaped by the social …
 
Biographer Neal Gabler argues Ted Kennedy's life can be divided into two sections. The first is when Kennedy catches the tide of liberalism and used that momentum to advance liberal policy goals. And the second is when he pushes against the prevailing feeling that the government should no longer protect the New Deal as stringently as before. Gabler…
 
In this episode, historian Keri Leigh Merritt explores how a pandemic exacerbated simmering inequalities in American society to produce mass death at an unprecedented scale. The book she co-edited with Rhae Lynn Barnes and Yohuru Williams, "After Life: A Collective History of Loss and Redemption in Pandemic America," is a collection of essays where…
 
In his book, "The Year that Broke America," Andrew Rice doesn't just argue that the year 2000 changed things, he argued that it broke everything. From the presidential election, to the seeds of the 9/11 plot, to Elian Gonzalez to reality TV, he explains how a confluence of unfortunate incidents led America down a path from which it has never recove…
 
In this episode, Dr. Jeremi Suri explains how the Civil War was only the most violent part of the attempt to subvert American democracy by southern states. During the late 1860s until the 1890s, he explains how southern politicians, white supremacists and Confederate veterans stopped Black Americans from participating in public life. In his book, "…
 
There are few presidents as highly regarded and as misunderstood as John F. Kennedy. The horrific death of the 35th president froze him in time, allowing his legacy to be crafted by those who wished to see him lionized, while squeezing out the critique all presidents must face in order for the nation to learn from their successes and failures. In "…
 
The car is the ultimate two-sided coin. It takes you where you want to go, but it pollutes. You're outside, but trapped inside. It's easier than walking or biking, but MUCH more expensive. And the history of it is loaded with incredible technological advancements, but it brought mass death to our society. In his book, "The Car: The Machine that Mad…
 
The beginning of the movie "Lincoln" shows a horrific battle scene, where men in blue and gray are locked in hand to hand combat. There are fists, spears and guns. The division and the brutality are apparent, as soldiers discard the humanity of their opponents. Some of them died on the battlefield. We have certainly spent our fair share of time hon…
 
The next time you watch a movie, give credit where credit is due. No, it wasn't Thomas Edison who invented movie cameras, it was a now-forgotten fellow named Louis Le Prince. Only two years after he designed his groundbreaking camera and filmed the "Roundhay Garden Scene" (which can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JAiYFEHI9o8), he dis…
 
Many attempts have been made to understand the insurrection at the Capitol Building. But to fully grasp what happened January 6th, 2021, to see how Donald Trump incited a mob that temporarily stopped the counting of electoral votes, chief New York Times White House correspondent Peter Baker argues we must grapple with all four years of the Trump ad…
 
We made it to a hundred episodes! Our celebration features a discussion between four hobbyists who have taken their passion for history to a whole new level. Listen as host Evan Axelbank chats with Alicya Asai of the podcast "Civics and Coffee," Jeremy Anderberg of the newsletter "What to Read Next," and Steve Floyd of the website "Best Presidentia…
 
The president of the United States stood at the podium, faced members of a Black church who had just lost nine parishioners in a racist attack, and offered comfort, not only with words, but with silence. After twelve seconds, Barack Obama sang the hymn that had been a comfort in moments of crisis for generations. Amazing Grace. In his new book, "Gr…
 
Jackie Robinson's #42 is the only number retired across Major League Baseball, as his contributions to baseball and to American society can hardly be calculated. As Kostya Kennedy describes in his book, "True: The Four Seasons of Jackie Robinson," he became a hero to generations of Americans thanks to his stoic, determined and thoughtful approach t…
 
On this episode, we talk with veteran journalist James Kirchick about his new book, "Secret City: The Hidden History of Gay Washington." He explains how government officials who were gay became the focus of investigations, campaigns to out them, and even lost everything. He shows how Washington attracted gay men and women who hoped to serve their c…
 
In her new book, "When the Moon Turns to Blood: Lori Vallow, Chad Daybell and a Story of Murder, Wild Faith and End Times," Leah Sottile describes how a history of belief in the supernatural can be deadly. Although the story of how Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell allegedly killed their children is not too far into the past, the history of religion, mi…
 
In his book, "Rebels at Sea: Privateering in the American Revolution," Dr. Eric Jay Dolin explains how a previously unheralded force, independent boat captains, played a crucial role in helping the colonists win the Revolutionary War. He explains how they captured British ships, upset shipping routes, upset their financial system and contributed to…
 
On all our gravestones, there will be a date of birth, a dash, and a date of death. The dash (-) will represent the entirety of our lives. In his new book, "It Was All a Dream: Biggie and the World that Made Him," Justin Tinsley argues that the life of Notorious BIG is important for every American to understand because "the world that made him" is …
 
Who ARE the newsmakers who we see on TV or the web? What makes them tick? Who are they when they aren't running for office, starring in Hollywood or battling criminals in court? In this episode, we talk with legendary Boston anchor Natalie Jacobson about the technique she used to document Boston's newsmakers over her four-decade career as a journal…
 
It has become cliche to say that the roots of modern New York City can be found in the 1970s. But in his book, "Manhattan Phoenix: The Great Fire of 1835 and the Emergence of Modern New York," Daniel Levy argues that the leveling of 700 buildings in lower Manhattan is truly the key moment. The fire devastated lower Manhattan, left thousands homeles…
 
If George Floyd had been killed by police in almost any other era of American history, before we all carried high definition cameras in our pocket, there's a good chance the perpetrator would have escaped justice. In "Seen and Unseen: Technology, Social Media and the Fight for Racial Justice," BET news anchor Dr. Marc Lamont Hill and longtime repor…
 
During the 2016 presidential election, we got an up-close look at how a foreign nation can influence domestic politics. US intelligence has found that Russia worked to spread disinformation, poison social media and steal documents. But that was not the first time America has been manipulated by a foreign power. In the run up to World War I, Boston …
 
Lynching is often and understandably thought of as a southern problem. But Philip Dray's new book, "A Lynching at Port Jervis: Race and Reckoning in the Gilded Age," explores the only lynching that occurred in New York State between 1882 and 1899. He explains why northerners must come to grips with not only the violent incident that happened in the…
 
What does it mean to be white in America? What does it mean to be Black? Is it merely the color of our skin? How does the history of how different races have been treated by the law and by fellow Americans weigh on those labels? What would it be like to straddle both worlds? In "White Lies: The Double Life of Walter F. White and America's Darkest S…
 
Where do rights come from? Do they come from the Constitution? The Supreme Court? From God? The voting booth? Bestselling author Dr. Kate Clifford Larson argues in her biography of Fannie Lou Hamer that rights also come from those willing to fight for them, from heroes who risk their lives while demanding the full promise of what America offers. Ha…
 
Before the phrase, "the trial of the century," became a cliche, there was New England slave trader Joseph White and the greatest whodunit of the 19th Century. The wealthy, powerful and supremely disliked shipping magnate had apparently swam with too many sharks to escape justice forever. But who would go into a man's bedroom and kill him in his sle…
 
"To study history, you must study the historian." Are the writers who make history also a part of history? Are the stories they tell what actually happened, or have we all been had? What motivates a historian to practice her craft? In "Making History: Storytellers Who Shaped the Past," veteran writer and publisher Richard Cohen explains how the ear…
 
The end of slavery came thanks - in part - to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans. At the Civil War's conclusion, the abolitionist movement had finally achieved its most sacred goal. But in, "The Republic of Violence: The Tormented Rise of Abolition in Andrew Jackson's America," JD Dickey argues that movement gained momentum decades be…
 
In "Rough Diamond: The Life of Col. William Stephen Hamilton, Alexander Hamilton's Forgotten Son," A.K. Fielding explains why understanding his life is essential to understanding the first half of the nineteenth century. Though his dad gets the attention for being one of the most famous and influential people in American history, Fielding argues th…
 
Harry Truman took over the presidency during a sea-change in American history. Along with becoming the first nuclear power, the US was about to begin a massive relief effort in Europe and grapple with racial injustice. Though he left office with low marks, during the last several decades, Truman's handling of the many crises he inherited has been a…
 
There are few scenes as emotional as when someone gains their citizenship. They often take place after long, painful journeys that determine whether someone has a right to hold a job, live near family or vote. But as Professor Amanda Frost explains, it is emotional for an entirely different reason when someone loses their citizenship, or as she put…
 
The story of the most famous shipwreck in history, the Titanic, is not complete without Bill Hazelgrove's book, "One Hundred and Sixty Minutes: The Race to Save the RMS Titanic." The basics of the crash into the iceberg are well known. The heart-wrenching details of the half-full lifeboats and the frigid waters are enough to make anyone feel for th…
 
To understand how America became involved in World War I, we have to transport ourselves to a different America. Troops had never been sent overseas, progressivism was the primary political force and three presidents were battling to chart the nation's future. In Neil Lanctot's new book, "The Approaching Storm: Roosevelt, Wilson, Addams and their C…
 
What stories can comic strips tell in a way that nothing else can? Dr. Blake Scott Ball explains in his book, "Charlie Brown's America: The Popular Politics of Peanuts," how Charles Schultz famed comic strip not only reached Americans in a way few others have, but also told the country's story when his readers were least expecting it. Dr. Ball argu…
 
Tall tales are nothing new when it comes to family "history." Meriel Schindler's new book, "The Lost Cafe Schindler: One Family, Two Wars, and the Search for Truth," is her effort to determine the veracity of her dad's claims about their ancestors. Were the Schindlers really related to famed-Nazi foiler Oscar Schindler and a host of other artists, …
 
If you've been there, you'll never forget it. If you haven't, you probably want to go. But what makes Yellowstone National Park a destination in the first place? Dr. Megan Kate Nelson explores how one of America's crown jewels, the two million acres that make up the one-of-a-kind place, was preserved for all of us. In her new book, "Saving Yellowst…
 
With his shining red, white and gold getup, The King walks on stage and sings a rhyming but pathetic number about how the American colonies just don't realize how good they have it living as subjects of Great Britain. "You'll be back, soon you'll see, you'll remember you belong to me... you'll remember that I served you well." The audience of the s…
 
For this episode, lets look at slavery in another way. While we rightfully spend a lot of time on this show grappling with the impact of slavery both on the enslaved and on our society today, this week's show explores what it was like to be a free person of color in the South. Dr. Warren Milteer's book, "Beyond Slavery's Shadow: Free People of Colo…
 
For the last two years, we have gotten a lesson in how our world can be shaped by a disease. COVID-19 has changed our families, the economy, our social interaction and our psychology. Far from being a unique historical phenomenon, Dr. Kyle Harper argues disease and our efforts to steer clear of them are the central forces that have always shaped hu…
 
Who hasn't seen a spy movie that features a double agent who played their role so perfectly, even his best friends didn't know who he was working for? This is the real life story of how an MI6 agent played the role to a T. Kim Philby was an MI6 agent during World War II, who took a young American, Jim Angleton, under his wing. Their friendship may …
 
When we pick up a book, what exactly are we holding? Is it a living document or etched in stone? How closely do the words on the page mirror what is in the author's head? Why have they lasted so long, and how much longer WILL they last? Dr. Leah Price is a book historian and on this episode, she answers those questions, and wrestles with whether an…
 
Are you excited for big holiday gatherings where lots of politics are being discussed? No? Well Dr. Peter Coleman of Columbia University has just the solution for ending our polarized political culture, both at home and in the real world. His book, "The Way Out: How to Overcome Toxic Polarization," offers numerous ways to approach our daily lives, …
 
Twenty years after the worst terrorist attacks in US history, we speak with Peter Bergen, one of the foremost authorities on the threat the United States faces from fundamentalists. Bergen is a journalist for CNN who has interviewed Osama bin Laden and has now written a biography that catalogues "The Rise and Fall" of the terrorist who spearheaded …
 
A bunch of women line up wearing next-to-nothing in hopes of impressing a batch of strangers who are grading them on everything from the way they look to the way they think. The woman with the highest score gets to be called, "Miss America," and wears a crown - and the title - for the rest of her life. The history behind that process, and how it be…
 
Will an American president take orders from the Pope? As the devoutly catholic Joe Biden ran for president, he faced no such question. But sixty years before, when John F. Kennedy was running, it was not only a question, but a controversy. Listen to our episode with historian of religion in America, Dr. Patrick Lacroix, as he explains how JFK not o…
 
That she came to within 537 votes of becoming Second Lady of the United States has been well documented, but Hadassah Lieberman says it's time for her to tell the story of the rest of her life. Listen in as she explains what it was like to be born into a family of those who survived the Holocaust, and those who did not. After immigrating to the Uni…
 
There are few periods in American history that offered more hope than Reconstruction. There are also few periods that left behind such devastation. On this episode, we talk with University of Maryland Distinguished Professor Dr. Robert Levine about his book, "The Failed Promise: Reconstruction, Frederick Douglass and the Impeachment of Andrew Johns…
 
One of America's most prominent historians, Joseph J. Ellis, joins us to discuss his new book, "The Cause: The American Revolution and its Discontents." The author of the 2002 Pulitzer Prize-winning, "Founding Brothers," focuses this time on how the Revolution was viewed by Black Americans, slaves, Natives and women as the colonists waged war in ho…
 
When women got the right to vote in 1920, the hope was that equal rights would be a natural byproduct. But in her book, "Gendered Citizenship: The Original Conflict over the Equal Rights Amendment, 1920-1963," Dr. Rebecca DeWolf explains how the ensuing fight for the Equal Rights Amendment left advocates frustrated, and women still clamoring for th…
 
Hardly a day goes by when the President of the United States isn't a topic of conversation. From TV and Twitter to baseball games and surprise breakfast stops, the person sitting in the nation's highest office has the power to get attention almost no matter what they're doing. And increasingly so, they have made an effort to use their platform to d…
 
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