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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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Now displaying: 2017
Dec 18, 2017

Christmas is just a week away, so 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/

 

Dec 11, 2017

Americans love coffee. According to recent statistics, more than 60% of Americans drink at least one cup of coffee every day, and the market research firm Mintel predicts that coffee shops will take in more than $23 billion dollars in 2017. Our love for coffee ties us to people and countries around the world, and to those who lived long before us. In this episode of The Road to Now, we speak with Mark Pendergrast, author of Uncommon Grounds and Beyond Fair Trade to find out coffee’s origins, its effects on global trade, and how a small cherry that originated on the other side of the planet became part of our daily life.                       

We’re also excited to welcome our newest sponsor, La Cosecha Coffee Roasters. La Cosecha is dedicated to connecting people together by offering fresh-roasted coffee grown in a sustainable manner where the farmer is given a fair price. You can visit their coffee bar in Maplewood, Missouri, or order online and have their coffee shipped directly to your home. We’re happy to have such a great business supporting The Road to Now, so we hope you’ll show them some love!

For links and more on our podcast, visit our website- www.TheRoadToNow.com

 

Dec 7, 2017

RTN Theology now is now on its own podcast feed! Subscribe anywhere you get The Road to Now for RTN Theology episodes 12-19 and more!

In the premier episode of our theology subseries, RTN Theology we welcome Christian philosopher James K.A. Smith to discuss the intersection of Christianity and culture in the United States. We also chat about his illuminating Op-Ed that appeared in the Thanksgiving edition of the Washington Post, which looks at ‘love of country’ from a religious perspective. Smith penned “Awaiting the King,” a new book that studies secularism and its impact on modern day religion.

Ian Skotte tracked down the Swedish textile archeologist who believes she may have discovered a link between Viking and Muslim cultures from the ninth century. However, not everyone is convinced of these findings. 

Finally, singer/songwriter David Childers rounds out our show. It just seemed appropriate to take time out during the Christmas holiday and spend time with our good friend. We discuss his take on gospel music and songs of the season as only David Childers can.

For links related to this episode, please visit our website: www.TheRoadToNow.com

 

Nov 30, 2017

A few days ago, President Donald Trump welcomed the Navajo Code Talkers to the White House. Instead of focusing solely on the veterans’ contributions during World War II, he used the event to take shots at Senator Elizabeth Warren, who he mocked as “Pocahontas” for her alleged unsubstantiated claims of Native American ancestry. He also held the ceremony in front of a portrait of President Andrew Jackson, who is a controversial figure for his policies toward Native Americans. In this episode of The Road to Now we speak with Dr. Ashley Riley Sousa, a specialist on Native American history at Middle Tennessee State University, to talk about the Navajo Code Talkers, Pocahontas, and the often overlooked and unappreciated place that Native Americans have held in American history.  

For more on this episode, visit www.theroadtonow.com

Nov 23, 2017

Are faith and reason compatible? How do people of faith reconcile themselves to a secular world? These are difficult and complex questions that have shaped America long before the founding of the United States. On this episode of The Road to Now, we sit down with Molly Worthen to talk about the development of Christianity in the United States, and its impact on American society, culture and government.

For more on this episode and many others, please visit our website: www.TheRoadToNow.com.

This episode originally launched on March 6, 2017, and features a new introduction by Bob Crawford recorded for Thanksgiving 2017. 

Nov 16, 2017

The Russian Revolution that began with the fall of Tsar Nicholas II in February of 1917 and continued into a second revolution the following October, is unquestionably one of the most significant events in modern history. The October Revolution brought Vladimir Lenin and the Bolshevik Party from relative obscurity to the leaders of the first communist nation, later called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), and the economic and ideological system espoused by Soviet leaders transformed Russia from an underdeveloped nation on the periphery of Europe into a global super power in just a few decades. In this episode we speak with Russian history expert (and Ben’s former dissertation advisor) Lewis Siegelbaum to discuss the series of events that led to the Russian Revolution and the establishment of the Soviet Union, and why he tells his students that ignoring the Soviet Union in 20th century is like “clapping with one hand.”

 Dr. Lewis Siegelbaum is the Jack & Margaret Sweet Professor of History at Michigan State University, and one of the most prolific historians on the history of the Soviet era. He has published and edited twelve books, the most recent of which are Cars for Comrades: The Life of the Soviet Automobile (Cornell University Press, 2008) and Broad is My Native Land: Repertoires and Regimes of Migration in Russia’s Twentieth Century (Cornell University Press, 2014), which he co-wrote with Leslie Page Moch.

For more on The Road to Now and this episode, visit our website: www.TheRoadToNow.com

 

                                                                                                           

Nov 9, 2017

On August 4, 1789, the National Assembly of France adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which asserted the Enlightenment ideals of universal rights and democracy. Though the French Declaration shared a common ideological lineage with the American Declaration of Independence, the French Revolution took a very different path: fifteen years after their founding revolutionary documents, the US had George Washington and France had Napoleon.

 

In this episode of The Road to Now we talk to Dr. Peter McPhee, who is an expert on the history of the French Revolution at the University of Melbourne (Australia). Peter explains the ways that geography, religion, and the French effort to fundamentally redefine society, shaped the complex course of the French Revolution. As Peter does well to show, the French Revolution changed the world, and left a legacy that is all around us today. (And for all you Hamilton fans- if you ever wondered what happened to the Marquis de Lafayette after Hamilton died, Dr. McPhee has the answer!)

Oct 30, 2017

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther delivered his 95 Theses to the Catholic Church. We don’t know for sure if Luther actually nailed them to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church, but we do know that his work changed the world.

In recognition of the five-hundredth anniversary of Martin Luther’s Theses, Bob and Ben are joined by Church Historian Dr. Donald Fortson. Dr. Fortson explains the reasons Luther chose to issue his Theses, the context in which he wrote them, and how a devout member of the Catholic Church became a reluctant revolutionary in reforming western Christianity.

For more on this episode and others, visit www.TheRoadToNow.com

Oct 23, 2017

Death is something that all humans have in common. How we dealt with death is not. The cemeteries that occupy prominent places in the American landscape, as well as the twenty-one thousand funeral homes in operation across the country, are products of the time and place in which they emerged. In this episode, we speak with Wake Forest’s Tanya Marsh, to learn about the historic forces at work in the creation of America’s death care industry. If you’ve ever wondered why we embalm our dead, whether or not it’s legal to be buried in your own back yard, or what happened to the bodies of slain Civil War soldiers, you’ll get your answers here.

Tanya Marsh is Professor of Law at Wake Forest University and one of the foremost experts on Mortuary Law and the history of cemeteries in the United States. She has published three books in her field of expertise, including The Law of Human Remains (2015) & Cemetery Law: The Common Law of Burying Grounds in the United States (Co-authored w/ Daniel Gibson, 2015).

For more info on this, or any other episode of The Road to Now, visit our website: www.TheRoadToNow.com.

Oct 16, 2017

On the corner of 4th Avenue and Commerce Street in Nashville, there’s a historical marker that reads:

“William Walker; Grey-eyed Man of Destiny; Born May 8, 1824, Walker moved to this site from 6th Ave. N. in 1840.  In early life he was doctor, lawyer & journalist.  He invaded Mexico in 1853 with 46 men & proclaimed himself Pres., Republic of Lower Calif.  Led forces into Nicaragua in 1855; was elected its Pres. in 1856.  In attempt to wage war on Honduras was captured & executed Sept. 12, 1860.”

The interesting thing is that it doesn’t mention that Walker reintroduced slavery to a country that had abolished the institution in the year he was born.

In this episode of The Road to Now, Ben investigates how historical markers get made, and the agenda of those who work to establish them. He tracks down the origins of the William Walker marker, which was established in 1970, and speaks with Pippa Holloway to learn about her work in erecting a marker to Civil Rights activist Penny Campbell. It turns out a lot has changed in the half-century between the two markers, but some things remain constant then and now.

For more on The Road to Now, visit our website: www.theroadtonow.com

 

Aug 7, 2017

At The Road to Now, we don’t just make history podcasts- we also listen to them. In this episode we’re excited to share our conversation with fellow history podcaster Dr. Liz Covart, whose podcast Ben Franklin’s World covers the history of early America. Bob, Ben and Liz discuss the concept of the frontier in American history, the work that goes into writing history and sharing findings, and why it’s a good idea to follow the evidence even when it makes you uncomfortable. We also talk about the place that podcasts fit within the field of history and why it’s so exciting to share history with others.

For more on The Road to Now and all of our episodes, please visit our website: www.TheRoadToNow.com

 

Jul 10, 2017

In our first episode of the second season of The Road to Now, Bob and Ben speak with Dr. Chuck Keeney about the history of coal in the United States. Chuck explains the ways that the coal industry has shaped not only the physical landscape of mining towns, but also, through lobbying efforts and information campaigns, the way we understand our nation’s history. Chuck is uniquely qualified to tell the story of coal; not only does he hold a PhD in history from West Virginia University, he is the great-grandson of coal miner and labor organizer Frank Keeney, who was part of The Battle of Blair Mountain.

(The Battle of Blair Mountain was a 1921 shootout between coal miners and the coal companies that was the largest domestic insurrection since the Civil War. If you want to know more, it’s all in this episode.)

Chuck Keeney was featured in the 2017 NatGeo Documentary From the Ashes, which was directed by Michael Bonfiglio. We highly recommend you take the time to watch this outstanding documentary!

For more on The Road to Now, please visit our website: www.theroadtonow.com.

 

Apr 3, 2017

Throughout the latter part of the 20th century the perception of Golf in popular culture was that of a sport for wealthy white men who gathered at their exclusive country clubs to make business deals over 18 holes of golf, all the while smoking expensive cigars and drinking martinis (you know, like in CaddyShack?). But then, seemingly from out of nowhere, Tiger Woods burst onto the scene, changing the look and style of the sport forever.

It turns out, however, that most Americans’ perception of the sport is does not quite fit the reality. The truth behind golf’s history is much more complicated and a bit more noble. And today, Golf raises more money for charity than all other major sports combined. For example, since 1970 the FedEx St Jude Classic Golf tournament has raised over 33 million dollars for the hospital. In this episode of the Road to Now we get the story straight in our conversation on the history of golf with Dr. Tony Parker of the World Golf Hall of Fame and Museum in St. Augustine, Florida.

For more on this and all other episodes of The Road to Now, please visit our website: www.TheRoadToNow.com.

 

 

Mar 6, 2017

Are faith and reason compatible? How do people of faith reconcile themselves to a secular world? These are difficult and complex questions that have shaped America long before the founding of the United States. On this episode of The Road to Now, we sit down with Molly Worthen to talk about the development of Christianity in the United States, and its impact on American society, culture and government.

Dr. Molly Worthen is Assistant Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill whose research focuses on North American religious and intellectual history. Her most recent book, Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism was published by Oxford University Press in 2013. Molly is also a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times.

For more on this episode and many others, please visit our website: www.TheRoadToNow.com.

And since you're reading this, why not go ahead and give us a positive rating on iTunes, Stitcher, or anywhere else you get your podcasts? It only takes a few minutes, and it helps us spread the word aboutThe Road to Now. Thanks!

Feb 27, 2017

These days, Martin Van Buren is mostly known as the balding nineteenth century President with muttonchops and a funny name. But spend some time talking with Dr. Mark Cheathem, professor of history at Cumberland University and Project Director of the Martin Van Buren Papers, and you will come to appreciate that not only did Van Buren pull together the coalitions that formed the Democratic Party, he was also the architect of the modern American party system.

And we should also add that Martin Van Buren is Bob Crawford’s favorite President.

More on this episode and all others is available at our website: www.TheRoadToNow.com

 

 

 

 

 

Feb 20, 2017

On April 30, 1789, George Washington stood on the balcony of Federal Hall in New York City and took the first Presidential oath of office. The words he spoke that day were those written clearly in Article 2 of the new Constitution, which established the executive branch of the Federal Government. The rest of Article 2, however, is not so clear, and Washington became the first of many Presidents accused of unconstitutional behavior. But what makes one person a “strong president” and another guilty of “executive overreach?” Which Presidents have done the most to reshape the Presidency? And have we given some Presidents too much credit, while forgetting the important contributions of others?

On our first Presidents Day Episode of The Road to Now, we get the answer to these questions and more in our conversation with one of our favorites- the host of “My History Can Beat Up Your Politics” podcast, Bruce Carlson.

For more on this episode and all the others, check out our website: www.TheRoadToNow.com

 

Feb 5, 2017

As the Democratic Party recovers from an unexpected defeat in the 2016 election, it finds itself in search of new leaders who can bring the party through this time of crisis. History shows that parties can withstand hard times, but how did the oldest active political party in American history find itself on the verge of irrelevance? And are there historic precedents for where the party finds itself today? In this episode of The Road to Now, Dr. Bruce Schulman guides us through the history of the Democratic Party to help us answer these questions and more.

Dr. Bruce J. Schulman is the William E. Huntington Professor of History at Boston University. He is the author of multiple books on modern American history, including From Cotton Belt to Sunbelt (Oxford, 1991), Lyndon B. Johnson and American Liberalism (St. Martin’s, 1994) and The Seventies: The Great Shift in American Culture, Society, and Politics (Free Press, 1991) which was named a 2001 New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Dr. Schulman is also a contributor to several major media outlets, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, & the Christian Science Monitor, and has served as expert consultant in productions by The History Channel and PBS.

The Road to Now is hosted by Bob Crawford of The Avett Brothers & Dr. Benjamin Sawyer of Middle Tennessee State University. For more on info on this episode and our podcast, check out our website: www.TheRoadToNow.com

 

Jan 15, 2017

On August 28th,1963 Clayborne Carson was a 19 year-old attending his first civil rights demonstration. That demonstration was the historic March on Washington, and what he remembers most about that day isn't Dr. King's historic speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial, but the people he met.

Hitchhiking back home to Los Alamos, New Mexico, Carson couldn't have known that 22 years later Dr. King's widow, Coretta Scott King, would ask him to edit her husband’s papers.

Today Dr. Clayborne Carson is Martin Luther King, Jr. Centennial Professor of History and Ronnie Lott Founding Director of the Martin Luther King Research and Education Institute at Stanford University, where he has taught since 1975.

As someone whose life and research are intertwined with the work and legacy of Dr. King, Dr. Carson is uniquely qualified to explain the importance of King’s leadership and his place within the greater struggle for justice in the US and abroad. We are thus honored to have Dr. Carson as our guest on The Road to Now as we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King.

You can find more information on this episode and The Road to Now at our website: www.theroadtonow.com

 

Jan 9, 2017

Most people agree that the 2016 election marked a turning point for the Republican Party. Whatever the impact of this election in the long term, the changes we’re seeing today are part of a longer historical trajectory that took the GOP from the party of Abraham Lincoln to the party of Donald Trump. So how did this happen? How did a party that was despised in the American south in the 1940s come to dominate the region a few decades later? And where do great Presidents such as Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, and Ronald Reagan fit within this story. In today’s episode, we’re joined by Dr. Heather Cox Richardson to get the answer.

 Heather Cox Richardson is a Professor of History at Boston College and co-editor at We're History. Her most recent book, To Make Men Free: A History of the Republican Party, was published by Basic Books in 2014.

For more on this episode and The Road to Now: www.theroadtonow.com.

 

Jan 2, 2017

In the last few weeks, our listeners have submitted some great questions about the history of NASA, Presidential corruption, daylight saving time, & more. We’ve been working hard to get you the answers to these questions, so to kick off 2017, we offer you a Q & A extravaganza with an all-star team of historians featuring Heather Cox Richardson of Boston College, Bruce Carlson of My History Can Beat Up Your Politics, & Brian Odom of NASA!

Thanks to everyone who sent us the questions for today’s episode. Please keep sending your questions to roadtonowcast@gmail.com and we’ll continue to answer them as they come in!

For more on this and every episode on The Road to Now, visit our website: www.theroadtonow.com. 

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