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!
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.”
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.
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.