book jacket of the Christian America book
January 28, 2013

Christian America and the Kingdom of God

This hour on Focus, we’ll consider the notion of America as a Christian nation, as we talk with Dr. Richard Hughes, a Professor of Religion at Messiah College. He explores this concept in his book Christian America and the Kingdom of God. In it, Hughes considers how religious and political leaders have historically used this belief to reinforce a sort of messianic nationalism, characterizing the United States as God’s “chosen nation” – a view Hughes holds has led to an increase in power and influence among fundamentalist Christians, but has ironically led to unchristian behavior.

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December 18, 2012

A Disability History of the United States

An estimated one out of every five Americans has been diagnosed with one or more psychological or physical disabilities. That makes disabled Americans one of our largest minorities. And yet, most of our history books pay little notice to the role the disabled have played in our nation’s past. We’ll discuss the contributions of the disabled to our laws, policies, economics, popular culture, and collective identity, with Kim Nielsen, author of A Disability History of the United States.

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December 07, 2012

This Indian Country: American Indian Activists and the Place They Made

For years, Frederick Hoxie asked students to name three American Indians and almost universally, the names mentioned were the same: Geronimo, Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. Many Americans see Indians as occupying a position outside the central narrative of American history. It’s almost a given that Native history has no particular relationship to the conventional story of America. Indian history may be seen as short and sad, one that ended a long time ago.

In This Indian Country, Hoxie creates a counter-narrative; Native American history is also a story of political activism, with victories in courts and campaigns rather than on the battlefield. For more than two hundred years, Indian activists have sought to bridge the distance between their cultures and the republican democracy of the United States through legal and political debate. Over time their struggle defined a new language of “Indian rights” and created a vision of American Indian identity, engendering a dialogue with other activist movements.

Among the people discussed in “This Indian Country” is Sarah Winnemucca, who was the first American Indian woman to publish a book in the U-S. Follow the link below to read Winnemucca’s “Life Among the Piutes.”

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November 19, 2012

City of Scoundrels: The 12 Days of Disaster That Gave Birth to Modern Chicago

A blimp in flames crashes through the roof of a busy downtown bank; a racial incident at a hot, crowded beach spirals into one of the worst urban riots in American history; a transit strike paralyzes the city; the body of a missing young girl is found, the victim of a gruesome murder. The Great Fire of 1871 holds a notorious place in Chicago history – but these incidents over 12 balmy days in 1919 shaped the city in profound ways and paved the way for the birth of the modern American city.

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November 14, 2012

John Quincy Adams

The sixth President of the United States, John Quincy Adams fought for George Washington, served with Abraham Lincoln in Congress, witnessed Bunker Hill, and as a staunch opponent of slavery, foresaw that slavery would lead to civil war between the North and South. He is, in fact, the only major figure in American history who knew both the founding fathers and Abraham Lincoln. He negotiated an end to the War of 1812, engineered the annexation of Florida, and won the Supreme Court decision that freed the African captives of The Amistad. He served his nation as minister to six countries, secretary of state, senator, congressman, and president. His opposition to slavery inspired John F. Kennedy's Profiles in Courage.  Yet he remains one of the least-known presidents in our nation's history. We'll talk with biographer Harlow Giles Unger about John Qunicy Adams.

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November 09, 2012

The Beautiful Music All Around Us: Field Recordings and the American Experience

In the 1930s and 1940s, the Library of Congress commissioned audio recordings of amateur singers and songwriters throughout the United States. These have come to be called "field recordings," and the recordists travelled the country in search of them. Musician, recording artist, and writer Stephen Wade tells the story of thirteen of these recordings made across the United States between 1934 and 1942 in locations reaching from Southern Appalachia to the Mississippi Delta and the Great Plains. Working 18 years on this project, Wade travelled the country, seeking out the original artists, their families or friends present at the recordings and interviewed more than 200 people for the book. Most of the original artists were amateur singers or musicians who were being recorded for the first and only time; many of their famililes were not even aware that the recordings were made. And yet many of the songs have enjoyed long afterlives, influencing musicians and featuring in films. 

Stephen Wade is a musician and writer whose latest album is Banjo Diary: Lessons from Tradition, out on Smithsonian Folkways Records.

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August 24, 2012

Tocqueville's Discovery of America

Leo Damrosch, Ph.D., the Ernest Bernbau Professor of Literature, Harvard University

Host: David Inge

This is a repeat broadcast from Monday, May 17, 2010, 11 am

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