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The Road to Now

The Road to Now is a series of conversations that trace the historical roots of today’s events. Hosted by Bob Crawford of the Avett Brothers & Dr. Benjamin Sawyer of Middle Tennessee State University, this podcast brings exceptional guests to the table to answer pressing questions and explain how our shared and personal past shape the world today. *
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Jun 16, 2019

In 2002, Ashley Capps took a gamble- he rented hundreds of acres in rural Tennessee and put on a music festival. Coming on the heels of the infamous Lollapalooza ’99 and an unsuccessful festival at the same site two years earlier, few thought Ashley could pull it off. As you (and the 80,000 people who attended the festival this year) know, Ashley and his partners proved the doubters wrong and created one of the most iconic festivals in modern America.

Bob and Ben caught up with Ashley Capps back stage at Bonnaroo to talk about the history of Bonnaroo, how Ashley selected Manchester, TN, and the changes in the live music industry that have happened since he began working in live music decades ago. He also shares his insight on building the relationships that make a major festival sustainable. Bob also shares his experiences playing Bonnaroo with the Avett Brothers from the small stage in 2006 to the main stage in 2019.

The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network. This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher. 

Jun 10, 2019

On August 15, 1824, the Marquis de Lafayette arrived in the United States to say farewell to the country whose independence he helped secure more than four decades earlier. Over the next 15 months, Lafayette visited all 24 states, meeting with old friends and attending celebrations hosted by Americans who flocked to see the last-living Major General of the Revolutionary War whose close friendship with George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson Jefferson shaped both the American and French Revolutions.

Since 2017, Julien Icher has been working to document the 5,000 mile journey that Lafayette took during his farewell visit. Icher, himself a Frenchman, has a remarkable skill set that combines the best of primary source-based research with the technical knowledge required for digital mapping. The result is The Lafayette Trail- a publicly accessible map that allows users to see Lafayette’s physical route, as well as the people, places and events he encountered along the way.

In this episode, Ben speaks with Julien Icher about Lafayette’s contribution to American Independence, his life after returning to France, and the farewell tour that inspired Julien to create The Lafayette Trail. We also speak about the history of Franco-American friendship and why both countries are better when we work together.

Julien Icher is the Founder and Executive Director of The Lafayette Trail, which he established in March 2017 at the Consulate General of France in Boston. Julien is in the process of raising funds for phase two of the Lafayette trail, which is a roadside historical marker program to commemorate the legacy of Lafayette's visit to dozens of communities across the United States. If you would like to contribute to, or learn more about this project, visit his GoFundMe page by clicking here.

The Road to Now is a proud member of the Osiris Podcast Network.

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

Jun 3, 2019

As the person responsible for documenting the Obama Administration, Pete Souza spent more time with Barack Obama than almost anyone else, which left him with some deep in sights on Obama and the office of the Presidency. In this episode, Pete joins Bob for a conversation about his work as Chief Official White House Photographer, the state of American politics, and the power of photography. Pete’s most recent book, Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents (Little, Brown, & Co, 2018) uses photography to contrast the stark differences between the Presidency of Barack Obama and that of Donald Trump.

This episode is the third in our "Wolftrap Series" recorded during The Avett Brothers' three night run at Wolftrap in Vienna, VA. Click here for our conversation w/ Robert Costa and click here to become a Patron and get the "Maycember in Wolftrap" Patreon Extra episode. 

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher and Bob Crawford.

 

The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.

May 28, 2019

Bob speaks with The Washington Post’s Robert Costa about the methods used by reporters covering the White House and Capitol Hill. Costa talks about how journalists build and maintain trust with confidential sources inside of the White House, how an article is constructed when multiple reporters share a byline, and everything else that goes into writing the first draft of history. Bob and Robert also talk about music, Robert’s early years working in the music industry, and their shared love of Phish.

 

Robert Costa covers politics for the Washington Post, is an analyst for MSNBC and NBC News, and is the moderator for Washington Week, which airs Friday nights at 8 on PBS.

 

The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.

 

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

May 20, 2019

On May 18 2016, Ben and Bob launched the first three episodes of their new podcast called The Road To Now. One of the guests in those episodes was a young journalist named Matt Negrin, who Bob met during a visit to the set of Bloomberg’s With All Due Respect. In the three years since, Matt Negrin has moved from Bloomberg Politics to Comedy Central, where he is currently Senior Producer at The Daily Show. Even more impressive, Matt has become the all-time record holder for appearances on RTN and has become one of our good friends. In this episode, we celebrate RTN’s Third Anniversary by welcoming Matt back to the show.

Thank you to everyone who has helped us keep this podcast going for three years! If you want to support The Road To Now, join us on Patreon where you'll get lots of extras to say thank you for your patronage. Click here to support RTN on Patreon!

Matt was a writer and content producer on the The Donald J. Trump Presidential Twitter Library Book- you can get a copy at The Daily Show’s website by clicking here. You can follow Matt on twitter at @MattNegrin.

This episode was edited by the fantastic Gary Fletcher.

The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.  

May 6, 2019

In 1776, the US declared independence. Eleven years later, in 1787, delegates from 12 states (we’re looking at YOU Rhode Island) got together in Philadelphia and wrote the Constitution. In between those triumphant moments, there was the Articles of Confederation, that “firm league of friendship” that most Americans probably know primarily as something they had to memorize for a history test.

HOWEVER

The Articles of Confederation, while certainly not a highlight of the American experiment, explain a lot about the American Revolution, the ideas that defined the founding generation, and the ways those ideas changed in the first years of independence. In fact, you can’t really understand the US Constitution unless you understand the Articles and why they failed.

SO

In this episode, Bob and Ben speak with Greg Jackson about this very topic. Greg is Assistant Professor of Integrated Studies at Utah Valley University and host of the podcast History That Doesn’t Suck. We hope you enjoy our conversation on the Articles of Confederation!

Speaking of great history- why not get an audiobook from libro.fm? You can get three months of membership, which includes one book a month, for just $14.99 with promo code RTN.

 

The Road to Now is a proud founding member of the Osiris Podcast Network.

Apr 29, 2019

In this episode of RTN Theology, Bob talks with Christian social ethicist-activist, author, and Professor at Iliff School of Theology, Dr. Miguel De La Torre. Bob and Miguel discuss liberation theology and the connection between the theology shared by slaveholders during the antebellum and Civil War periods with the theology professed by many prominent evangelical leaders like Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell Jr. Del La Torre’s 36th book, Burying White Privilege, was based on his article  November 2017 article, “The Death of Christianity in the US,” which went viral after it appeared in Baptist News Global. De La Torre does not mince words as he takes on white Evangelicals, Catholics, and Protestants, who he believes have made a Faustian bargain, trading the gospel for political influence.

 

The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.

Apr 22, 2019

The data collection practices of companies such as facebook, google and amazon have led many Americans to wonder if privacy is dead. Though these companies are relatively new, this is far from the first time that Americans have felt their privacy to be under attack. In this episode, we speak with Vanderbilt University’s Sarah Igo to learn about the ways that Americans have understood privacy from the advent of “instant photography” in the 1890s to the rise of the internet in the 21st century. 

Dr. Sarah E. Igo is an Associate Professor of History and Director of the Program in American Studies, as well as the inaugural Faculty Director of E. Bronson Ingram College at Vanderbilt University. Her book, The Known Citizen: A History of Privacy in Modern America was published by Harvard university Press in 2018.

The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network. 

Apr 8, 2019

Hidetaka Hirota joins Bob and Ben for a conversation about the history of immigration law in the United States and the ways that government officials have decided who could and could not enter the United States. Hidetaka discusses the creation of Federal immigration law and the ways that looking at state immigration policies in the early to mid-19th century can help us understand the Immigration and Chinese Exclusion Acts of 1882.

 

Dr. Hidetaka Hirota is Assistant Professor of History at the Institute for Advanced Study, Waseda University (Tokyo, Japan). His book Expelling the Poor: Atlantic Seaboard States and the Nineteenth-Century Origins of American Immigration Policy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017) has won multiple awards.

 

Want to support The Road to Now and get extra episodes and other content? Join us on Patreon!

 

The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network. For more on this and all other episodes, check out our website: www.TheRoadToNow.com.

Apr 1, 2019

This episode launched April 1, 2019. It's an April Fools trick, but we hope you enjoy it anyway!

Rufus Allan Sevier was born on December 7, 1916 in the mountains of eastern Tennessee. More than a century later Rufus is in incredible health and is one of the few people alive today who vividly remembers life before the Great Depression. His personal story, however, diverges in significant ways from the historical narrative most of us learned in history class, and provides new insights into American history that have thus far been hidden from view. In the first episode of our RTN Voices series, Bob & Ben speak with Rufus about his life and the ways that outside forces have worked to bury the stories that he has kept alive for a century.

 RTN Voices is a series that documents the history of the United States through the unique stories of Americans who personally experienced the times and events that few of us today can remember.  The conversations are unedited to reflect the lived experience. We hope that in documenting these voices, we can recover lost stories and alternative perspectives on our nation’s past.

The Road to Now is a member of the Osiris Podcast Network. 

Mar 25, 2019

Bob speaks with Arizona State University Associate Professor of History Catherine O’Donnell about the prejudice Catholics endured in the years leading up to the American Revolution and how they gained the respect of George Washington as he sought French assistance in the cause. Catherine also discusses her recent work Elizabeth Seton: American Saint (Cornell University Press, 2018) and how Seaton went from Catholic convert to the first American Saint.

The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network. For more on this and all our other episodes, visit our website: www.TheRoadToNow.com

Mar 18, 2019

In 1866, the Fenian Brotherhood, comprised primarily of Irish Civil War veterans, led a series of attacks on Canadian provinces just across the border from the United States. Their goal: seize Canadian territory and exchange it for Irish independence. Similar raids continued until 1871, and although they were ultimately unsuccessful, they are part of a greater story of the American Civil War, Irish Independence, and trans-Atlantic immigration to the United States in the mid-19th Century. In this episode, Bob & Ben speak with Christopher Klein about his new book When the Irish Invaded America: The Incredible True Story of the Civil War Veterans Who Fought for Ireland’s Freedom (Doubleday, 2019).

Want to read When the Irish Invaded Canada while also supporting The Road to Now AND your local bookstore, AND getting three books for the price of one? Get your copy on libro.fm and use promo code RTN at checkout!

Christopher Klein is an author and freelance writer specializing in history. He writes stories about the past that inform us about the present and guide us to the future. He is the author of four books, including Strong Boy: The Life and Times of John L. Sullivan, America’s First Sports Hero, and a frequent contributor to history.com and many other media outlets.

The Road to Now is a member of the Osiris Podcast Network. For more on this episode and all others, visit our website: www.TheRoadtoNow.com

Mar 11, 2019

Amy Walter has been covering Congress and Congressional races since the early 1990s. In this episode, Amy joins Bob to talk about the political issues and strategies that took us from the era of Bill Clinton & Newt Gingrich to today, the reasons that modern politics is so divisive, and the potential coalitions that could impact the 2020 elections and beyond. Bob and then follow up with a conversation about what Amy taught them and what they see as the biggest issues that our leaders need to address moving forward. (Bob & Ben’s conversation begins at 32:30)

Amy Walter is the National Editor of The Cook Political Report where she provides analysis of the issues, trends and events that shape the political environment. Her weekly column appears on cookpolitical.com. She is also the host of WNYC's The Takeaway (Politics with Amy Walter), and a regular contributor to the PBS NewsHour, where she offers her perspective weekly on "Politics Monday."

The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network. For more on this and all other episodes, visit our website: www.TheRoadToNow.com

Mar 4, 2019

Jakob Lewis knows how to tell a good story. As the host and producer of the podcast Neighbors, Jakob built a nation-wide audience by talking to those around him and turning them into compelling stories that captured the essence of daily life. In his newest venture, Vox Familia, he is taking his skills to help families tell their own stories. In this episode of The Road to Now, Ben sits down with Jakob to talk about what he’s learned about the ways that the personal narrative intersects with the bigger picture and what elements make for a great story.

If you're looking for a great story, visit libro.fm and start enjoying audiobooks while you support your favorite independent bookstore. Use promo code RTN for 3 months of membership for the price of one!

The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network. For more on this episode and others, visit our website: www.TheRoadToNow.com.

Feb 25, 2019

When most of us think of the earth, we imagine going “north” as going “up.” Modern maps, however, obscure many geographic realities, including the existence of an Arctic world, which unites the US, Canada, Russia, Norway, Greenland and other countries into a distinct geographic sphere. In this episode, Bob and Ben are joined by historians Heidi Bohaker and Alison Smith to discuss their work developing a course on the history of the Arctic at the University of Toronto. The conversation covers the diversity of indigenous groups in the region, the conquest of the Arctic by modern states, and the many ways that climate change may impact the world. As it turns out, there’s a lot to learn from a “top down” history of the earth.

Dr. Heidi Bohaker is Associate Professor of History at the University of Toronto, whose specialties are Native American history and digital history. She has a broad interest in the types of archives and categories of information both states and non-state societies kept and keep about their people.

Dr. Alison Smith is Professor History at the University of Toronto and a specialist in the history of the Russian Empire. She has published several articles and two books, the most recent of which is For the Common Good and Their Own Well-Being: Social Estates in Imperial Russia(Oxford University Press: 2014). You can read her series of blog posts on "The Case of the Dead Cheese Master" at the Russian History Blog.

The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network. For more on this and all other episodes, visit our website: www.TheRoadToNow.com.

Feb 18, 2019

In this episode of RTN Theology hosts Bob Crawford and Keith Larson share personal reflections on the life of North Carolina 3rd District Congressman Walter B. Jones who passed away on February 10th, 2019.

Jones served Eastern North Carolina in Congress and the State Legislature for over 34 years. He became a household name in the run up to the war in Iraq when he led a campaign to change the name of French fries to Freedom Fries. A couple of years into the war, he attended a funeral for a fallen soldier and had a spiritual conversion, becoming the first Republican in Congress to come out against the war. A fiercely independent politician and a devout Catholic, Jones' faith framed the way he viewed issues.

Bob and Keith both shared a personal relationship with the Congressman. Keith interviewed Jones many times over the years as a radio host at WBT in Charlotte, North Carolina. Bob and Walter B. Jones first became friends through conversations about politics, but their friendship grew much deeper following Bob’s daughter’s illness.

Feb 11, 2019

Bob and Ben talk with Lisa Fine about the ways that viewing history through the lens of gender can help us understand the past. Lisa explains the origins of women’s history, the impact that gender theory had on the field of history, and why it’s important to think about both masculinity and femininity when considering gender. This is the third installment in our methodology series, which also includes RTN #119 Karl Marx and History and Historical Narratives and Power (available on our Patreon page).

Dr. Lisa Fine is Professor of History at Michigan State University who specializes in US Labor, Working Class, and Women’s and Gender History. She is the author of several articles and two books, the most recent of which, *The Story of Reo Joe: Work, Kin, and Community in Autotown, USA*, (Temple University Press, 2004) received multiple awards. She was also one of Ben’s mentors at Michigan State and, many years ago, provided Bob with a reading list of good books to help direct his love of history.

The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network. For more on this and all episodes, visit our website: www.TheRoadToNow.com. This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

Feb 4, 2019

The influenza strain that hit the world in 1918 killed between 50 and 100 million people. It was not the first flu to have such an impact on humanity, and it also may not be the last. In this episode we talk with John Barry about his research on the history of influenza, the current state of preparedness, and the unexpected ways that influenza has shaped modern history.

John Barry is the author of multiple award-winning books including the New York Times Best Seller The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History (Penguin, 2005).

Click here to get The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History as an audio book on libro.fm. Road to Now listeners can go to libro.fm & get a 3-month membership for the price of one (3 audiobooks for just $14.95) w/ promo code RTN. You can also check out our libro.fm playlist, which features books by past RTN guests!

The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network. For more on this and all episodes, check out our website: www.TheRoadToNow.com.

Jan 28, 2019

When Americans think of Karl Marx, they probably think of the self-proclaimed Marxist governments whose rivalry with the US & Western Europe defined the 20th Century. Marx, however, formulated a theory of historical change and social relationships under capitalism that was more productive than the Communist governments of the 20th Century. In this episode, Bob and Ben talk about how Marx viewed history, what we can learn from it, and the ways Marx’s theory has both contributed to, and limited, historical research.

This is part of an ongoing conversation between Bob and Ben on history and methodology that began on our Patreon page. To get our episode on Historical Narratives & Power and many others, as well some Road to Now swag, click here and become a Patron!

The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network. For more on this and all other episodes, visit our website: www.TheRoadToNow.com

Jan 21, 2019

Most Americans grow up learning about the civil rights movement from a very young age, but the stories we tell about the March on Washington, Dr. King’s speeches, and the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of 1964-65 leave out the very real ways that the Jim Crow system continues to shape our world today. In this episode of The Road to Now, Ben’s friend and colleague Louis Woods joins us to explain how federal policies in the 20th century, and particularly the GI Bill, excluded Black Americans from some of the most important sources of wealth acquisition in American history. We also talk about how the legacy of racism lives on in today's economy, society, and even in the way we teach music.

Dr. Louis Lee Woods, II, is Associate Professor of African-American History and Director of the Africana Studies Program at Middle Tennessee State University. His research pays particular attention to the connection between discriminatory historical federal housing policies and contemporary racial wealth, health and educational disparities. Links to the articles discussed in this episode are available on his MTSU faculty page.

For more on the history of racial discrimination in housing, including map overlays of many American cities, check out the website “Mapping Inequality: Redlining in New Deal America.”

The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network. For more information on this and all other episodes of our podcast, visit our website: www.TheRoadToNow.com

Jan 14, 2019

Slavery was an integral part of the American republic from the moment of independence until the abolition of the so-called “peculiar institution” with the ratification of the 13th Amendment in 1865. The social and economic impact of the slave system, however, are much larger in terms of both time and geography. In this episode, Bob and Ben speak with Edward Baptist about slavery’s origins, its evolution, and how enslaved people’s work laid the foundation for modern capitalism. He also shares stories of the people who suffered under- and those who profited from- the inhumane system of American slavery.

Dr. Edward E. Baptist is Professor of History at Cornell University and author of The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism (Basic Books, 2014), which won the 2015 Avery O. Craven Prize from the Organization of American Historians and the 2015 Sidney Hillman Prize.

The Half Has Never Been Told is available as an audio book on libro.fm. Road to Now listeners can go to libro.fm & get a 3-month membership for the price of one (3 audiobooks for just $14.95) w/ promo code RTN. Click here to get The Half Has Never Been Told or get started by checking out our libro.fm playlist, which features books by past RTN guests.

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network. For more on this and all other episodes of RTN check out our website: www.TheRoadToNow.com

Jan 7, 2019

Most Americans identify themselves as middle class. But what does that mean? Bob & Ben talk with The Bell Policy Center’s Scott Wasserman to talk about the challenges facing American workers, the difference between “middle class” and “working class,” and the differences between the economy today and that of the 20th century.

The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network. For more on this and all our other episodes, visit TheRoadToNow.com.

Dec 17, 2018

The 1970s was a pivotal decade in American history. In a ten-year span, the United States admitted defeat in Vietnam, saw a President resign in shame, and came face to face with many of the atrocities it had committed abroad. American citizens also faced a score of economic problems, including “stagflation,” an energy crisis, and the realization that many of them would end the decade worse off than they had been when it began. In today’s episode we reflect on what happened in the 1970s, and what we can learn from it, in a conversation with RTN favorite, Vanderbilt University’s Jefferson Cowie.

Dr. Jefferson Cowie is James G. Stahlman Professor of History at Vanderbilt University and the author of Stayin Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working (The New Press, 2010) and several other award-winning books on American history. Check out his other appearances on RTN in episode 24 and episode 70. You can find out more about Jefferson Cowie and his work at his website by clicking here.

Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class will be released on audiobook on December 18, 2018, and libro.fm is the place to get it! Click here and use promo code RTN to get three audiobooks for just $15 as a new libro.fm member. You can support The Road to Now, Jefferson Cowie, and your local bookstore, all while you learn more about the past!

The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.

Dec 10, 2018

Peter Kornbluh has spent his life working to shed light on US covert operations abroad. Along with his colleagues at the National Security Archive, Peter has helped to declassify documents related to the Bay of Pigs (1961) and Cuban Missile Crisis (1962), the coup against Chile’s democratically elected government (1973) and the Iran-Contra Scandal (1980s). As it turns out, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operatives and many prominent politicians have a lot to hide.

In this episode, Bob and Ben speak with Peter Kornbluh about the National Security Archive and how he and others have used the Freedom of Information Act to ensure that citizens have access to information about their government. Peter also explains the impact that these documents have had on modern politics at home and abroad, the difference between his work and that of Edward Snowden and Julian Assange (Wikileaks), and why he believes that access to government documents is essential to a strong democracy. He also shares one of the greatest “how I got here” stories we’ve ever heard on The Road to Now!

Peter Kornbluh has worked at the Archive since April 1986. He currently directs the Archive's Cuba and Chile Documentation Projects. He was co-director of the Iran-Contra documentation project and director of the Archive's project on U.S. policy toward Nicaragua. He is the author of multiple books, the most recent of which, Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana (w/ William M. LeoGrande; UNC Press, 2014), received multiple honors and was a Foreign Affairs Best Book of the Year.

You can get Back Channel to Cuba on audiobook through libro.fm! Click here and use promo code RTN to get three audiobooks for just $15 as a new libro.fm member. You can support The Road to Now, our guest, and your local bookstore, all while you learn more about the past!

The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network. For more on this and all other episodes, visit our website: www.TheRoadToNow.com.

Dec 3, 2018

Bob and Ben sit down to talk about the current events and historical questions that have been on their mind lately. They cover the GI bill delays that student veterans are currently facing, the one war that Teddy Roosevelt didn’t win, the tragedy of the 1970s and why Ronald Reagan is the Godfather of punk rock. They also talk about all the times and places that they’ve seen J. Mascis.

For more on the GI Bill delays, check out this piece by WPLN’s Sergio Martinez-Beltran on how missed payments are affecting students at Ben’s home university, MTSU. Bob and Ben encourage you to contact your elected officials and ask that they do what it takes to ensure that those who have served our country get the education they’ve earned.

We’re also excited to announce a new partnership with Libro.fm, which lets you purchase audiobooks directly from your favorite local bookstore. You get the same audiobooks, at the same price as the other one (you know which one), but you’ll be part of a much different story, one that supports community. Road to Now listeners can get a 3-month membership for the price of one (3 audiobooks for just $14.95) w/ promo code RTN. Get started by checking out our libro.fm playlist, which features books by past RTN guests!

To see the articles and pictures discussed in this episode, check out our episode page.

The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.

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