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
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
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.
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.
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.
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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
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
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
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
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.
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 email@example.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.
In episode 36 of The Road to Now, Bob and guest co-host Keith Larson speak with Turner Simkins about his new book Possibilities. Turner tells of the struggles his family went through after his son Brennan was diagnosed with a rare subtype of Leukemia on his 7th birthday, and what they learned as Brennan went from a dismal prognosis to a remarkable recovery. Turner also explains how the inspiration that Brennan took from Band of Brothers inspired him to wake up every day with the will to fight, and shows how the lessons of history can be a powerful force in our everyday lives.
More on this episode and The Road to Now can be found at our website: www.theroadtonow.com.
Jimmy Carter’s Presidency is one few Americans remember fondly. In a 2013 ranking created by statistician Nate Silver, Carter took the #26 spot, right between William Howard Taft and Calvin Coolidge. The economic crises Carter inherited upon taking office in 1977 plagued his administration, and his perceived weakness in fighting the Cold War only added to the sense of unease created by America’s loss in Vietnam and the Watergate scandal. But is it possible that Americans’ perceptions of Carter don’t match the reality?
Dr. Nancy Mitchell says that’s the case, and she joins Bob and Ben to explain why. She explains Jimmy Carter’s Presidency through the lens of his foreign policy in Africa, and argues that Carter was not an ideologue, but a full-fledged Cold Warrior who was committed to maintaining US influence abroad. Nancy also discusses the legacy of Carter’s Presidency today, and applies her expertise on US Foreign Policy to assess Barack Obama and Donald Trump’s approach to diplomacy.
Dr. Nancy Mitchell is a Professor of US Diplomatic History at North Carolina State University. She has published extensively in her field of expertise, and her most recent book, Jimmy Carter in Africa: Race and the Cold War (Stanford University Press, 2016) recently won the American Academy of Diplomacy’s Douglas Dillon Award for Distinction on the Practice of American Diplomacy.
More on this episode and The Road to Now is available at our website: www.theroadtonow.com
Tom Shadyac has probably made you laugh. He was the youngest ever staff joke writer for Bob Hope and he directed some of the biggest comedy films in recent memory, including Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and The Nutty Professor. A lot of people would say Tom has “made it.” Tom would disagree.
Tom joins Ben and Bob for a conversation about his life and the path that led him to abandon the pursuit of fame and material abundance to focus on helping others. He tells of his 11 year period of unemployment as he struggled to find success in the Los Angeles comedy scene, his relationship with Jim Carrey, and how following his own passions led him to take a risk with Ace Ventura. Tom also talks of his approach to teaching film, and explains why he defines success as a state of mind.
You can find out more about Tom's story and philosophy in his book Life's Operating Manual and his documentary film I Am (which we highly recommend!).
More on this episode and The Road to Now podcast can be found at our website: www.theroadtonow.com
There’s a good chance you don’t appreciate how engrained professional wrestling is in American history and culture, and this episode is about to change that. We didn’t know all this either until wrestling legend Jim Cornette was kind enough to spend an hour taking us from wrestling’s origins in the late 19th century up to the sport as it exists today. Jim knows the sport like no other- he’s been part of the professional wrestling scene since the 1970s, and currently hosts the tremendously popular podcast The Jim Cornette Experience. Jim has also been ringside (and sometimes in the ring) for some of wrestling’s greatest moments, including the April 5, 1982 showdown between Andy Kaufman & Jerry “The King” Lawler (that was his first time on national television), and his storytelling is second-to-none.
This episode also features wrestling aficionado Jon Burr making a special appearance as guest co-host. Jon is the host of the NBA podcast Fastbreak Breakfast, the front man for the band How I Became the Bomb, and Ben’s friend & neighbor.
More on this episode and The Road to Now can be found at our website: www.TheRoadToNow.com.
In the second installment of our election week series, Road to Now contributors Matt Negrin & Alex Trowbridge of Bloomberg Politics offer up another round of Path to the Present (the podcast inside a podcast) to explain the role that surrogates have played in Presidential Elections in the past and present. Through their own research and interviews with Donald Trump’s Senior Advisor/Surrogate Boris Epshteyn & Hillary Clinton surrogate/US Congressman Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Matt & Alex discuss what motivates individuals to speak on behalf of a candidate, what we can learn from speaking with surrogates, and what makes a surrogate good (or bad) at their job.
For more on The Road to Now: www.theroadtonow.com
Restoring voting rights for Americans convicted of felonies has been a major issue in the last year, most recently in the state of Virginia. According to The Sentencing Project, almost 6 million Americans are prohibited from voting due to laws that take the right to vote away from those convicted of a felony.
To better understand the origins of felon disfranchisement laws, we invited Dr. Pippa Holloway of Middle Tennessee State University to join us for a discussion about her most recent book Living in Infamy: Felon Disfranchisement and the History of American Citizenship. Pippa explains the ways that these laws were developed as a strategy to prevent black Americans from voting in the post-Civil War-era. This strategy was later exported to other states such as Idaho and Hawaii for the purposes of excluding groups whose interests were in opposition to the ruling party. Pippa also discusses the current impediments to Americans’ right to vote, and offers suggestions to ensure that Americans are not denied a voice in our political process. Recorded October 4, 2016 in Nashville, TN w/ Bob via video call from Memphis, TN.
For more on the podcast: www.theroadtonow.com
On this episode of The Road to Now, we speak with Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper about his new memoir The Opposite of Woe: My Life in Beer and Politics and the ways that his peculiar & fascinating life interact with the greater history of our country. Gov. Hickenlooper shares his family history, which he traces back to the earliest settlers of the Pennsylvania colony in the 1680s, and talks about a wide variety of fascinating topics including the urban/rural split in Colorado, the Grateful Dead, and his friendship with Kurt Vonnegut. Gov. Hickenlooper also talks about his years as a geologist, working in real estate, opening Denver's first brew pub, and the value that comes from hanging a light on one's weaknesses in the pursuit of excellence. We hope you enjoy this episode as much as we enjoyed our time with Gov. Hickenlooper. Hosted by Ben Sawyer and Bob Crawford. Recorded June 15, 2016 in the Colorado State Capitol Building in Denver, CO.
Bob Crawford of the Avett Brothers talks to Producer Alexander Trowbridge and Writer Matt Negrin of Bloomberg's "With All Due Respect," which is hosted by "Game Change" authors Mark Halpern and John Heilemann. The show was also recently picked up by MSNBC. They discuss how they got involved with the show, the history of entertainment news, and their take on the rules of politics in the 21st Century. They also discuss the impact of Jon Stewart and the "Daily Show" on the history of the news media. The show begins with a conversation between Bob Crawford and historian/co-host Dr. Benjamin Sawyer of Middle Tennessee State University. Recorded Wednesday, May 11 at Bloomberg Studios in New York City.
In episode 1, Bob Crawford of the Avett Brothers and historian Dr. Benjamin Sawyer of Middle Tennessee State University explain their goals for the Road to Now podcast and attempt to trace the historical roots of the new populism that is reshaping American's political landscape in the lead up to the Presidential Election of 2016. Recorded May 6, 2016 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.