Populism seems to describe everything in America these days, from politics to styles of communication. Some might say that it’s used so often, and in so many context, that it’s lost most of its meaning. But populism, or the movement from which it gets its name, arose in a specific context in American history at the end of the 19th century, and revisiting the history of this specific movement can help us understand how and why the term is used the way it is in present day politics.
Our guest for this episode, Dr. Steven Hahn of New York University, literally wrote the book on populism and helps us turn this political buzzword into a historical phenomenon from a time period in American history that has a number of parallels with our own.
“Kids today.” Everyone says it, it seems, in reference to the idea that children today are spoiled, raised with poor values, and somehow have it worse than their parents generation. This notion dominates discussions from political debates to stand up comedy acts. But, what defines the stages of life and how people are supposed to act in each? Has it always been that way?
Steven Mintz has long been interested in the transformations of family life through the ages and, in this episode, talks about how nearly everything we think we know about family life would be unrecognizable even a century ago.
Host:Joan Neuberger, Professor, Department of History, UT-Austin Guest:Peniel E. Joseph, Barbara Jordan Chair in Ethics and Political Values, and Founding Director, Center for the Study of Race and Democracy, LBJ School of Public Affairs, and Professor, Department of History, UT-Austin
Stokely Carmichael, the charismatic and controversial black activist, stepped onto the pages of history when he called for “Black Power” during a speech one Mississippi night in 1966. A firebrand who straddled both the American civil rights and Black Power movements, Carmichael would stand for the rest of his life at the center of the storm he had unleashed that night.
This week, preeminent civil rights scholar Peniel E. Joseph, author of Stokely: A Life, winner of the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change National Book Award (2014), discusses Carmichael, using his life as a prism through which to view the transformative African American freedom struggles of the twentieth century.
Humanitarian intervention has become such an accepted part of international relations, and our news headlines are full of stories about humanitarian efforts from the Balkans in the 1990s to Syria today. But it wasn’t always the case – the concept of humanitarian intervention originates at a specific time and place, as today’s guest explains.
Brian McNeil specializes in history of United States foreign relations, and is currently revising his book manuscript titled, Frontiers of Need: the Nigerian Civil War and the Origins of American Humanitarian Intervention, the subject of this episode.
Fifty years ago, on August 1, 1966, twenty-five year old student Charles Whitman killed 16 people and wounded at least 32 more at UT Austin. A former Marine sharpshooter, he went to the 28th-floor observation deck of the UT Tower and began shooting people on the ground as they walked by or tried to hide. A news cameraman set up a camera under the tower so the shooting was broadcast on television. Several police officers and a recently retired Air Force officer made their way to the top of the tower not knowing what they would find and, after the rampage had lasted 96 minutes, Houston McCoy and Ramiro Martinez killed the sniper. Later it was found that Whitman had killed his mother and wife in the early hours of the morning.
These events were seared into the memory of everyone living in Austin, but historians have neglected the story and, for decades, the university avoided and eventually suppressed it. A small plaque on a hard to locate rock was only erected in 2008. Why?
In Spring 2016, as the fiftieth anniversary neared, graduate students in the UT History Department’s Public History seminar led by Joan Neuberger decided to make the history of the tower shooting more widely available and accessible to the public. They examined documents in local archives and wrote a collection of historical essays on many important aspects of that day’s events, as well as on the historical context, and the aftermath. And they put these essays on a website. In this episode, Neuberger discusses the project with four of those students: Itza Carbajal, Maria Hammack, Rebecca Johnston, and John Lisle.
Following World War II, a large part of the world was in the hands of European powers, established as colonies in the previous centuries. As one of the nations that came out on top of the geo-political situation, the United States was looked to with hope by aspiring nationalist movements, but also seen as a potential source by European allies in the war as a potential supporter of the move to restore the tarnished empires to their former glory. What’s a newly emerged world power to do?
Guest R. Joseph Parrott takes a look at the indecisive position the United States took on decolonization after helping liberate Europe from the threat of enslavement to fascism.
In the early part of the 20th century, Texas became more integrated into the United States with the arrival of the railroad. With easier connections to the country, its population began to shift away from reflecting its origins as a breakaway part of Mexico toward a more Anglo demographic, one less inclined to adapt to existing Texican culture and more inclined to view it through a lens of white racial superiority. Between 1915 and 1920, an undeclared war broke out that featured some of the worst racial violence in American history; an outbreak that’s become known as the Borderlands War.
Guest John Moran Gonzales from UT’s Department of English and Center for Mexican American Studies has curated an exhibition on the Borderlands War called “Life and Death on the Border, 1910-1920,” and tells us about this little known episode in Mexican-American history.
At 2:30 pm on Saturday September 21 1969, US president Richard Nixon announced ‘the largest peacetime search and seizure operation in history.’ Intended to stem the flow of marijuana into the United States from Mexico, the three-week operation resulted in a near shut down of all traffic across the border and was later referred to by Mexico’s foreign minister as the lowest point in his career.
Guest James Martin from UT’s Department of History describes the motivations for President Nixon’s historic unilateral reaction and how it affected both Americans as well as our ally across the southern border.
Host: Joan Neuberger, editor, Not Even Past Guest: Adam Shapiro, Lecturer in Cultural and Intellectual History, Birkbeck University, London
Controversies over the theory of evolution are well documented in American society: according to a Gallup poll conducted in the late 1990s, 44% of the American public rejects it in favor of the Biblical account of creation. Has this always been the case? Did Charles Darwin and early proponents of evolution encounter the same objections when the theory was first proposed in the late 19th century? And did evolution come out of nowhere as a radical new idea, taking the world by surprise? Not necessarily, as it turns out.
In an episode recorded on location in London, Adam Shapiro from Birkbeck University describes how evolution was first received in the United States, and the debates that led up to its most famous test–the Scopes “Monkey Trial” held in Dayton, Tennessee, in the 1920s.
Host:Joan Neuberger, Editor, Not Even Past and Professor, Department of History Guest:Henry Wiencek, Doctoral Candidate, Department of History
Perhaps no individual in American history has achieved such meteoric heights as John D. Rockefeller, who embodies the image of the self-made man who rose from humble origins to become one of the richest and most powerful men in the world. He has also become the archetype of the ruthless capitalist, singlehandedly crushing competition and ignoring attempts to restrict or regulate his activities. Love him or hate him, his name casts a long shadow over the early 20th century.
Guest Henry Wiencek explores the deep contradictions and equally varied representations of John D. Rockefeller, the self-made millionaire whose name became synonymous with industry and free enterprise.