Birmingham, Alabama. Just the words make you think about freedom riders, church bombings, civil rights marches and police dogs. This is a place that can’t escape its history—especially the painful parts. Almost 50years later after the tragedies and triumphs of the civil rights era, Birmingham is still a community trying to put itself back together. Some have started trying to unearth the city’s past and face it. To do that, people are looking beyond the civil rights era: from slavery to vaudeville, and from Birmingham as a steel town to its post-industrial future. In this hour, SOTRU brings listeners into the courtrooms, churches and backyards of Birmingham to answer the question borne out by the lives of people here: is Birmingham a monument to brutal segregation, or one of the few American cities willing to take a hard look at race?
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We often hear fantastic scientific claims that would change everything if true. Such as the report that algae is growing on the outside of the International Space Station or that engineers have built a rocket that requires no propellant to accelerate. We examine news stories that seem too sensational to be valid, yet just might be – including whether a killer asteroid has Earth’s name on it.
Plus, a journalist investigates why people hold on to their beliefs even when the evidence is stacked hard against them – from skepticism about climate change to Holocaust denial. And, why professional skeptics are just as enamored with their beliefs as anyone else.
- Lynn Rothschild – Evolutionary biologist and astrobiologist at NASA Ames Research Center
- Will Storr – Journalist, author of The Unpersuadables: Adventures with the Enemies of Science
- Steven Novella – Assistant professor, Yale University School of Medicine, host of the “Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe” podcast
- David Morrison – Director of the Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe, SETI Institute
The Roosevelts: An Intimate History airs on WILL-TV over seven consecutive nights beginning at 7 pm Sunday, Sept. 14. Each episode is repeated at 9 pm the same night.
The film weaves the stories of Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, three members of one of the most prominent and influential families in American politics. The series marks the first time their individual stories have been woven into a single narrative.
“The Roosevelts have played significant roles in other stories we’ve told before, from the National Parks to World War II,” said filmmaker Ken Burns. “It’s impossible, in fact, to visit many parts of the American experience without encountering their presence. But beyond simply sharing a bloodline or political success, they each shared a passionate belief that America is at its strongest when everyone has an equal chance. And on a personal level, they each struggled to overcome their own fears while maintaining a public face of courage.”
The Roosevelts follows the family’s story for more than a century, from Theodore’s birth in 1858 to Eleanor’s death in 1962. Over the course of those years, Theodore would become the 26th president of the United States, and his beloved niece, Eleanor, would marry his fifth cousin, Franklin, who became the 32nd president. Together, they redefined the relationship Americans had with their government and with each other, and redefined, as well, the role of the United States within the wider world. The series encompasses all the history the Roosevelts helped to make — the creation of National Parks and the digging of the Panama Canal, the New Deal and the defeat of Hitler, and the postwar struggles for civil rights at home and human rights around the world in which Eleanor Roosevelt played a central role. But it is also an intimate human story about love and betrayal, family feeling and personal courage and the conquest of fear.
Legendary actress Meryl Streep portrays Eleanor Roosevelt in readings from her personal letters and writings. Of her performance, Burns said, “As we’ve seen time and time again, Ms. Streep is a magician. Here, she completely transformed herself into Eleanor Roosevelt, simply through her voice. It was remarkable to witness. The entire cast delivers what I consider to be some of the finest voice-over work we’ve ever been fortunate enough to present.”
Joining Streep are Paul Giamatti as the voice of Theodore Roosevelt and Edward Herrmann, two-time Emmy Award nominee for his performance as Franklin Roosevelt, as the voice of FDR.
Rounding out the cast are Patricia Clarkson, Adam Arkin, Philip Bosco, Keith Carradine, Kevin Conway, Ed Harris, John Lithgow, Josh Lucas, Carl Lumbly, Amy Madigan, Carolyn McCormick, Pamela Reed, Billy Bob Thornton and Eli Wallach.
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From AFRICAN AMERICAN LIVES (2006) through the first season of FINDING YOUR ROOTS (2012), Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. has been helping people identify relatives hidden for generations. Professor Gates employs a team of genealogists and the world’s leading geneticists to uncover the origins of a diverse group of 30 guests. Each of the 10 episodes will feature three guests bound together by an intimate, sometimes hidden, link, as Gates treks through layers of ancestral history, uncovers secrets and surprises, and shares life-altering discoveries.
The premiere of the second season of Finding Your Roots comes on the heels of Professor Gates’ Peabody Award-winning PBS series The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross, which debuted in the fall of 2013 to critical acclaim. In each hour-long episode of the second season of Finding Your Roots, Gates continues his quest to, as he says, “get into the DNA of American culture.” By weaving a group of celebrity stories together, each episode takes viewers on a journey through layers of ancestral history, uncovering familial secrets and sharing life-altering discoveries that ultimately reveal an intimate bond that links each individual’s story together.
The episode construction of Season Two explores a much wider array of themes than Season One. In each episode, Gates focuses on the specific ethnic roots, cultural traditions and deep interplay of family influence and genetics of three guests, including: celebrity chefs Tom Colicchio, Aaron Sanchez and Ming Tsai, who cook the food of their ancestors and discover family members who have shaped their lives—and America’s cuisine; Derek Jeter, Billie Jean King and Rebecca Lobo, three of America's greatest athletes whose determination and love of sports were deeply shaped by their families, but who were all cut off from their true origins—raising the question of whether champions are made or born; actress Tina Fey, humorist David Sedaris and journalist George Stephanopolous, all of whom look into their Greek American ancestry; and American playwright Tony Kushner, singer-songwriter Carole King and lawyer Alan Dershowitz, who not only share a Jewish heritage, but a history of perseverance in the face of withering opposition.
In other episodes, actors Ben Affleck and Khandi Alexander come to realize their families have long been engaged in the battle for freedom and civil rights, but they had no idea that those principles were passed down through generations of ancestors. Gates also explores the history of the Vanderbilt family with Anderson Cooper, discovers a web of intimate relationships between Nas’ slave ancestors and their masters, and traces Sting’s roots back centuries in England where we find that being close to the seat of the Empire doesn't mean that life is any better.
New advancements in DNA testing since the first season allow Gates and his team to use genetic genealogy to make unprecedented discoveries about the past in Season Two, including being able to identify tribal Native American ancestry, solve paternity mysteries, and pinpoint the geographic origins of hidden ancestry. These new achievements in DNA testing take center stage with an entire episode devoted to exploring the possibilities, all the while featuring the stories of actress Jessica Alba, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and even Gates, himself.
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From the time of its birth, the baby boomer generation (1946-1964) has significantly and uniquely changed our world. 2014 marks an important shift in American culture, as the last boomers turn 50. American Masters: The Boomer List tells the story of this influential generation through the lives of 19 iconic boomers—one born each year of the baby boom:
1946 Tim O’Brien, Vietnam vet / author
1947 Deepak Chopra, M.D., New Age guru
1948 Samuel L. Jackson, actor
1949 Billy Joel, singer-songwriter
1950 Steve Wozniak, co-founder,
1951 Tommy Hilfiger, fashion designer
1952 Amy Tan, author
1953 Eve Ensler, playwright
1954 Julieanna Richardson, founder,
1955 Maria Shriver, journalist
1956 Kim Cattrall, actor
1957 Virginia Rometty, CEO, IBM
1958 Ellen Ochoa, Director, Johnson Space Center
1959 Ronnie Lott, athlete
1960 Erin Brockovich, environmentalist
1961 Peter Staley, AIDS activist
1962 Rosie O’Donnell, entertainer
1963 David LaChapelle, artist
1964 John Leguizamo, actor
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Intimate interviews by filmmaker/photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders focus on these individuals’ exceptional achievements, struggles and identities, sharing the experiences of these extraordinary Americans and the history they lived through and often created. Subjects illuminate the key movements and changes that shaped the world during the baby boom years, discussing the environment; arts and entertainment; science; civil, LGBT and women’s rights; law; politics; public service; sports; the military; technology and media.
“When I learned about this year’s boomer milestone, I came up with the idea for The Boomer List,” says Greenfield-Sanders, whose past films include About Face: Supermodels Then and Now and American Masters — Lou Reed: Rock and Roll Heart. “The film captures the boomer generation’s dynamic spirit through 19 distinct ‘American Masters’ who had a profound effect on our world.”