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The Road to Now

In 2006, Bob Crawford (The Avett Brothers) & Dr. Benjamin Sawyer (MTSU History) sat down to talk history in a Detroit coffee shop. Their discussion lasted a couple hours, but the conversation kept going. Join them as they trace the road between past and present with the help of great thinkers from the academy, the media, politics, entertainment and more.
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Apr 12, 2021

In the years after World War II, Americans moved to the suburbs in search of the peace and safety that many came to equate with the “American Dream.” By the end of the 1970s, however, suburbanites had come sense that their privileged was under siege from satanic cults, drug dealers and kidnappers. In this episode, Bob and Ben talk w/ Kyle Riismandel whose new book Neighborhood of Fear examines how Americans responded to the real and perceived threats of suburban life and in doing so, shaped American society and politics in the late-20th Century and beyond.

 

Dr. Kyle Riismandel is Senior University Lecturer and Interim Director of the Law, Technology, and Culture Program in the Federated Department of History at the New Jersey Institute of Technology/Rutgers-Newark. His new book Neighborhood of Fear: The Suburban Crisis in American Culture, 1975-2001 was published by Johns Hopkins University Press in 2020. You can follow him on twitter at @AccusedWizard.

 

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

 

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

Mar 22, 2021

The $1.9 billion stimulus plan that President Biden signed into law on March 11th has implications for everyone in the United States, but understanding it isn’t easy. In this episode we speak with Erlinda Doherty, who is Director of the Budgets and Revenue Committee at the National Conference of State Legislatures’ (NCSL) to find out more about how this plan is playing out at the state level and what it can tell us about American politics today.

 

The National Conference of State Legislatures is a non-partisal organization that represents the legislatures in the states, territories and commonwealths of the US. It’s mission is to advance the effectiveness, independence and integrity of legislatures and to foster interstate cooperation and facilitate the exchange of information among legislatures. For more on NCSL visit NCSL.org.

 

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

 

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

Mar 15, 2021

Market bubbles can make and break fortunes, and which side of things you end up on has everything to do with what you’re holding when the bubble busts. But what separates a bubble from sensible investing? It’s always hard to tell in the moment, but history has some valuable lessons. In this episode, Ben talks with Dr. William Quinn, whose new book Boom and Bust lays out a brilliant formula for understanding the causes of financial bubbles and examines some of the biggest examples in history. The conversation covers the Great Depression, why some bubbles have limited effect and others bring down economies, and why both Ben and William have some concerns about Bitcoin.

William Quinn is a Lecturer in Finance at Queen's University Belfast Management School. His new book Boom and Bust: A Global History of Financial Bubbles (Cambridge University Press, 2020), which he coauthored with John D. Turner, was a Financial Times Book of the Year in 2020. You can follow William Quinn on twitter at @wquinn05

This episode was edited by Gary FLetcher

The Road to Now is part of the Osiris Podcast Network

Mar 1, 2021

The Nazi regime that came to power in Germany in 1933 unleashed the most brutal and comprehensive war that humanity has ever seen. The horrors of the Nazis and the destruction they left behind is something most of us learned about in history class, but for Gerd Schroth it is the story of his childhood. Born in Germany in 1938, Gerd came of age on the scorched earth left behind by the German war machine. Gerd’s father had joined the Nazi party because he thought Hitler could restore Germany’s greatness, but he bequeathed to his children a world in ruins.

Seventy-six years after the end of World War II, Gerd is still writing the story of his life. He is now an American citizen, and his children were born in the United States. Gerd has moved on from the tragedy of his youth, but he has never forgotten it. He has thought a lot about how his parents’ generation and why they embraced the horrifying ideology of Nazism. He has found value in past traditions while abhorring the actions of his ancestors. And in doing this, he has built a much stronger legacy for future generations.

In this episode of The Road to Now, we revisit our 2017 episode in which Gerd shares his personal story of life as a child of Nazi Germany, refugee, immigrant, and now, American Citizen.

Feb 15, 2021

Ken Burns joins Bob and Ben for a conversation about American history and the themes he sees playing out in the US today. Ken shares his process for selecting subjects for his films and explains how his new 3-part film Hemingway (co-directed w/ Lynn Novick) highlights Ernest Hemingway’s individual genius while also revealing the universal aspects of life that we all share. We also discuss how our time and place influence the way we view the past, the importance of acknowledging both the light and dark in American history, and why Ken argues that much of life’s meaning comes from the struggle.

 

Ken Burns’ new film Hemingway, which he co-directed with Lynn Novick, premieres April 5-7 on PBS. For more on the series visit https://kenburns.com/hemingway/

 

UNUM is a new site by Ken Burns and PBS that allows users “a new way to explore American history through select scenes from across our over 40 films..” with the goal of “providing historical context for the conversations we are having today.” You can visit UNUM at: https://www.pbs.org/kenburns/unum

 

This episode was edited by our Associate Producer Gary Fletcher.

 

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

Feb 8, 2021

Bob and Ben talk with Dr. Amy Cooter, a sociologist at Vanderbilt University whose research examines American militias. Amy shares what she’s learned in the hundreds of hours she’s spent interviewing American militia members, how it can help us moving forward, and how different “nostalgic groups” have mobilized to defend their vision of America. She also helps us understand how Ruby Ridge, Waco and other moments in the 1990s relate to the more recent rise of domestic terrorism, and how listening can be an effective strategy in the struggle against extremism.


Dr. Amy Cooter is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Vanderbilt University, where her teaching and research interests include race & ethnicity, masculinity, nationalism and crime & deviance. You can read her dissertation and learn more about her work on her website, AmyCooter.com, and follow her on twitter at @AmyCooter.

 

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

 

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

Feb 1, 2021

Bob and Ben respond to feedback about their episode on the 1776 project, evaluate the “worst President ever” claim, and discuss the utopian vision of “unbiased history.” Ben tries to focus on asking Bob questions and doesn’t exactly pull it off. Ben learns about Marjorie Taylor Greene’s conspiracy theories for the first time from Bob and they contemplate how to deal with the proliferation of conspiracy theories. Ben spends the whole episode being happy that Bob’s back.

This episode was edited in an unspecified location by RTN Associate Producer Gary Fletcher. Follow him across the country at @GaryOffTheGrid on twitter and Instagram.

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

Jan 25, 2021

One of Joe Biden’s first acts as President of the United States was to sign an executive order that disbanded his predecessor’s advisory committee to promote “patriotic education.” This came just two days after the so-called 1776 Commission had published its report, leading many critics to see the report as old news. In reality though, the 1776 report is indicative of social and political forces that transcend Trump’s time in office. In this episode Bob and Ben talk with historian John Fea about the content of the report, how it relates to the New York Times 1619 Project, and the many problems that come from setting out to write a “patriotic history.”

John Fea is a Professor of History at Messiah University and author of the blog/host of the podcast, The Way of Improvement Leads Home. You can follow him on twitter at @JohnFea1.

Hear Bob Crawford's first conversation w/ John Fea in RTN Theology #2: Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?

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

Jan 18, 2021

Bob Crawford is back, so he and Ben decided to take an episode to talk about recent political developments and where they (might) fit into our historical narrative.

Jan 4, 2021

Megan Rosenbloom joins Ben and guest cohost Tanya Marsh for a discussion about Megan's new book Dark Archives: A Librarian's Investigation into the Science and History of Books Bound in Human Skin (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2020). Megan built a team of experts to test the validity of books claimed to be covered in human skin, and traveled the world to find out more about the people and processes that led to both real and debunked works of anthropodermic bibliopegy.

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

Dec 21, 2020

Journalist Bill Scher joins Ben for a conversation about political pragmatism and the accomplishments that come from compromise and playing the long game when it comes to institutional change. Bill also talks about how his life as a journalist led him to create his new podcast, When America Worked, which focuses on the people whose achievements were accomplished through pragmatism. Episode 1 “He Saved the World: Edward R. Stettinius, Jr.” is out now and available anywhere you get The Road to Now and at www.Scherable.com. You can follow Bill Scher on twitter at @BillScher.

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

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

Dec 7, 2020

Ben and Bob caught up with Christmas expert James Cooper to find out the origins of Santa Claus, Christmas trees, and all the other parts of Christmas that most of us take for granted. James explains how Santa Claus and Christmas traditions evolved around the world, and how a man who lived almost 2,000 years ago became one of the most recognizable characters in American culture.

You can find out more about the history of Santa Claus and Christmas at James Cooper's website- https://www.whychristmas.com/

This is a rebroadcast of RTN #82, which originally aired in December of 2017.

Nov 23, 2020

Presidential historian Lindsay Chervinsky joins us to talk about the origins of the President’s cabinet and how the decisions George Washington made have outlasted his time in office by more than 200 years. We also discuss the changing role of the executive and why delaying the transition between incoming and outgoing Presidential administrations can have serious consequences for national security.

Dr. Lindsay Chervinsky is scholar in residence at the Institute for Thomas Paine Studies, Senior Fellow at the International Center for Jefferson Studies. Her new book The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution, was published by Belknap Press in 2020. You can follow her on Twitter at @lmchervinsky.

Our new website will be launching on the same day as this episode, so check out www.TheRoadToNow.com and then check out Seven Ages Design to find out what they can create for you and your work!

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

Nov 9, 2020

The Lumbee are the largest Indian tribe east of the Mississippi, and while few are familiar with their story, Lumbee history is remarkable both in itself and as a way to more richly understand the United States in general. In this episode we speak with Dr. Malinda Maynor Lowery, whose life as a member of the Lumbee Tribe and a scholar who specializes in Native American history have made her a leading voice for the Lumbee community.

Dr. Malinda Maynor Lowery is Professor of History and Director for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the author of multiple works on Native American history, the most recent of which is The Lumbee Indians: An American Struggle (UNC Press, 2018). Her New York Times op-ed mentioned in this episode is “We Are the Original Southerners,” New York Times, May 22, 2018). You can follow her on twitter at @MalindaLowery.

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

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

Oct 30, 2020

Note: Episodes 2-4 of this series, featuring Sarah Mimms, Brian Karem & Josh Shapiro are currently available on our website at RTNpod.me/makingthecall.

In the first of his four part series on media coverage and election night 2020, Matt Negrin calls his former colleague Isaac Dovere, who covers Biden for The Atlantic, to talk about why Trump won’t concede, and what the Biden campaign is nervous about.

Making the Call is a RTN special series hosted by The Daily Show Senior Digital Producer Matt Negrin.

Oct 19, 2020

Journalist David Menconi has documented the people and sounds of North Carolina’s music scene for almost three decades. In this episode, Ben and guest co-host Dolph Ramseur speak with David about his new book Step It Up and Go: The Story of North Carolina Popular Music, from Blind Boy Fuller and Doc Watson to Nina Simone and Superchunk, and how the music of “The Old North State” is both reflected in, and a reflection of, its people.

David Menconi spent 28 years writing for the Raleigh News & Observer and was Piedmont Laureate in 2019. His other works include Ryan Adams: Losering, A Story of Whiskeytown" (University of Texas Press, 2012); "Comin’ Right at Ya: How a Jewish Yankee Hippie Went Country, or, the Often Outrageous History of Asleep at the Wheel. (co-written with Ray Benson, University of Texas Press, 2015). You can follow him on twitter at @NCDavidMenconi.

Guest co-host Dolph Ramseur is the founder of Ramseur Records and a member of the North Carolina Hall of Fame.

If you’re enjoying The Road to Now, please consider joining us on Patreon, giving us a 5 star rating/review on Apple podcasts and sharing this episode with a friend who might also enjoy it. Thank you!

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

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

Oct 5, 2020

This episode is a reair of RTN #48 (with an updated intro).

George Washington is one of the most revered figures in American history. As Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, Washington led his troops to one of the most unlikely and world-shaking victories in modern history, and his selection as President of both the Constitutional Convention and the new government designed that summer in Philadelphia, demonstrate the unmatched faith that the founders had in General Washington. Today, however, we tend to remember Washington more for the positions he held than for the personal qualities that made him a peerless member of the founding generation, but the wisdom left to us by our first President in his farewell address is perhaps more relevant today than ever before. In this episode of The Road to Now we explain why in our discussion with Daily Beast editor-in-chief John Avlon about his book Washington’s Farewell: The Founding Father’s Warning to Future Generations.  

Sep 21, 2020

2020 has been “eventful” so Bob & Ben decided to take an episode to sit back and cover what’s been happening lately and answer questions from our Patrons. We discuss Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the state of politics in the US and major developments in the 2020 election. Ben also gives a rundown of the recent White House Conference on American History (read his twitter thread here) and what appears to be the agenda behind Trump’s announcement of the 1776 commission to “Promote Patriotic Education.

In other words, there’s a lot here. Thank you for listening.

This episode was recorded live via zoom webinar. If you’d like to be in the zoom room for our upcoming live conversations, join us on Patreon: Patreon.com/TheRoadtoNow

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

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

Sep 7, 2020

The confrontations between demonstrators and police that have taken place in the last few months have resulted in a national debate about law enforcement. The expanded use of Federal officers in American cities and the use of unmarked vehicles to detain citizens are concerning recent developments, but some scholars have pointed out that these tactics bear striking similarities to the strategies pursued by the US abroad. In this episode, Ben & guest co-host Alex Galarza speak w/ Johns Hopkins’ Stuart Schrader about the ways that US counterinsurgency abroad came to transform American policing from the 20th century to today.

Dr. Stuart Schrader is Lecturer/Assistant Research Scientist in Sociology and the Associate Director of the Program in Racism, Immigration, and Citizenship at Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of Badges Without Borders: How Global Counterinsurgency Transformed American Policing (University of California Press, 2019) and has contributed to several major media outlets, including The Washington Post, The Nation & American Quarterly. You can follow him on twitter at @stschrader1.

This week’s guest co-host Alex Galarza is Digital Scholarship Librarian at the University of Delaware. He is a specialist on Latin American history with a focus on the history of sport. Alex also appeared in RTN #99 The History & Politics of the World Cup w/ Alex Galarza & Matt Negrin. You can follow Alex on twitter at @galarzaalex.

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

Aug 24, 2020

Ravi Patel has been a lot of things– an investment banker, an actor, the co-founder of an organization that benefits undernourished children– but in recent years, he’s set out to find the answers to life’s big questions and to share what he finds with others. In this episode, Ravi joins Bob and Ben for a conversation about family, friends and what he discovered from traveling the world for his new series Ravi Patel’s Pursuit of Happiness, which premieres August 24th on HBO MAX.

Ravi Patel has appeared as an actor in several hit television shows, including Scrubs, Master of None and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and received multiple awards for his documentary, Meet The Patels, which he co-directed with his sister, Geeta. In 2013, he co-founded This Saves Lives w/ fellow actors Kirsten Bell, Ryan Devlin & Todd Grinnell to help alleviate child malnutrition around the world. And did we mention that his new show Ravi Patel’s Pursuit of Happiness premieres August 24th on HBO MAX (seriously, it’s fantastic- we hope you’ll watch it!).

Love audiobooks? Want to support your local bookstore and The Road to Now while you listen? Then check out our sponsor, Libro.fm. Click here to check out a playlist of books by our recent guests and use promo code RTN to get 2 books for just $15!

This episode was edited by Aaron Weber.

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

Aug 10, 2020

In 2006, Roger McNamee played a crucial role in convincing Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg not to sell his company to Yahoo!. A couple of years later, he helped bring Sheryl Sandberg in as Facebook’s COO. Yet despite this personal connection, and his role as an early investor in the company, Roger now believes that Facebook has become a threat to democracy. In this episode, Bob and Ben talk with Roger about his book Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe, the role Facebook has played in spreading disinformation, and the steps he believes we should take to regain control over the tech giants of the modern world.

Roger McNamee is Managing Director of Elevation Partners, which he co-founded in 2004 with U2’s Bono. Roger is also a member of the band Moonalice, which plays live stream every day at 4:20pm.

Jul 27, 2020

The military engagements of the US Civil War came to an end in 1865, but the ideology of the confederacy was not so easily defeated. In this episode we speak with Dr. Heather Cox Richardson about her new book How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America and how the worldview of antebellum southern elites came to be embraced by the “movement conservatives” who are at the helm of the modern Republican party. Heather also talks about how she’s able to make history relatable to a general audience, her writing process, and why she is fearful, but optimistic, about the future of democracy in the United States.

Dr. Heather Cox Richardson is Professor of History at Boston College and the author of six books on US history. Her “Letters from An American” are published almost every day on her facebook page and on substack, where you can subscribe to support her work. You can follow her on twitter at @HC_Richardson

The full unedited video of this conversation is available on our Patreon page.

For more on Dr. Richardson’s work, check out The Road to Now #38 The History of the Republican Party from Abraham Lincoln to Donald Trump w/ Heather Cox Richardson.

This episode was edited by Ben Sawyer

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

Jul 13, 2020

Cellist Joe Kwon joins Bob & Ben to talk about his journey from aspiring classical musician to Bob’s bandmate in The Avett Brothers. Joe shares his experiences as a Korean immigrant growing up in North Carolina, why he decided to become a cellist, and where he learned to play the cello standing up. Joe and Bob also discuss how they first met, Joe's first show with the band, and why Joe has such a deep appreciation and passion for cooking and food.

For more on Joe, check out his website KwonKwon.com, designed by Charles and Destiny Crossingham at Seven Ages Design.

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

Jun 29, 2020

As Americans grapple with the devastation wrought by the dual pandemics of racism and Covid-19, it is critically important to understand the vast racial disparities Covid-19 has exposed within the African American community (specifically), but communities of color (generally). The legacies of housing policies sponsoring residential segregation, and the associated racial gaps in wealth, educational achievement, health inequities, and lethal police encounters resonate nationally, but global white supremacy and migration patterns have contributed to powerful displays of international solidarity.

In this episode, Dr. Louis Woods speaks with experts in multiple fields to examine how the sudden shock of the Covid-19 pandemic has illuminated the centuries-old pandemic of racism in western culture, and particularly in the United States. Sociologist Dr. Tony Brown discusses underlying health disparities. Dr. Terah Venzant Chambers describes educational funding discrepancies contributing to racial achievement gaps. Dr. Sharita Jacobs-Thompson explores the invaluable contribution her co-taught “History of Policing” class has made to DC Metropolitan veteran officers and police cadets. Dr. Michelle Stevens examines the link between PTSD and trauma in the black community and emphasizes the critical importance of self-care. Dr. Glenn Chambers provides international contexts to the global protest movement associated with murder of George Floyd. Dr. Louis Woods then concludes with an analysis of historical housing policy and the generational impacts witnessed today.

It took the world stopping, for a critical mass of white Americans to hear, in many instances for the first time, the legitimate outcries of police brutality made generationally by African Americans. This podcast episode provides a holistic exploration to the tragedies that made this latest iteration of white police terror both a national and an international movement.

This episode is part of RTN’s Pass The Mic Project. This episode was recorded by, and remains the property of, Dr. Louis Woods.

Jun 22, 2020

Tom Nichols is University Professor at the Naval War College, where he specializes in international affairs, and a respected commentator on US politics and international security. A former Republican, Tom broke from the party during the Trump administration and has since been a vocal critic of the current administration. In this episode Bob and Ben speak with Tom about the current state of American politics and his book The Death of Expertise: The Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters, (Oxford University Press, 2017). You can follow Tom Nichols on Twitter at @RadioFreeTom

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

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

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