Let Throughline Help You Make Sense of This Moment
Posted: 2021-01-13 10:01:09    (see more from www.npr.org)

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Connie Jin

Since the attack on Capitol Hill there have been a slew of think pieces about just how unprecedented it was. That is true. But it is also true that the past is full of precedent, full of stories and events that bring context to the present, and an understanding of what might be ahead.

Since 2019, NPR's podcast and radio show Throughline has been going behind the headlines, putting events into historical context. Here are some episodes of the show we think might help us better understand this moment.

In recent years the Department of Homeland Security has said that extreme right wing groups make up the biggest domestic terror threats facing the United States. Among the rioters in the insurrection last week, there were people displaying flags and paraphernalia often associated with the white power movement. University of Chicago historian, Kathleen Belew, talked with us about the history of the modern white power movement, from the wake of the Vietnam War to the Oklahoma City bombing. (Apple) (Spotify)

The impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson in the Senate on March 13, 1868. The House approved 11 articles of impeachment against Andrew Johnson. After a 74-day Senate trial, the Senate acquitted Johnson on three of the articles by a one-vote margin each and decided not to vote on the remaining articles. Library of Congress/Getty Images hide caption

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Library of Congress/Getty Images

President Andrew Johnson was impeached and nearly convicted within just a few years of the end of the Civil War. The impeachment further divided a nation just coming out of the most divided moment in its history. And the lessons of that impeachment process may help us understand what to expect in American politics over the next several years. (Apple) (Spotify)

Puerto Rican nationalists Irvin Flores Rodriguez, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Lolita Lebron, and Andres Figueroa Cordero, standing in a police lineup following their arrest after a shooting attack on the U.S. Capitol, March 1, 1954. AP hide caption

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Surprisingly, many reports in the media have claimed that the attack on the Capitol was the first time Congress has been attacked since the British army burned the building in 1812. Actually, that's not true. In 1954 a group of armed activists from right here in the United States stormed Congress and wounded five representatives. The reasons for the attack were much different than what happened in 2021. And they're still alive in our politics today. (Apple) (Spotify)

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Hokyoung Kim for NPR

There is no doubt that conspiracy theories played a role in the insurrection at the US Capitol. Social media has made the dissemination of conspiracies easy and allowed them to spread into every sector of society. But if you thought conspiracies were just a feature of the Internet age you would be mistaken. Some historians argue that conspiracies helped drive the American Revolution! In this episode we look at how conspiracy theories have shaped United States history. (Apple) (Spotify)

A migrant family saying grace before their noonday meal by the side of the road east of Oklahoma, 1930. Three Lions/Getty Images hide caption

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Three Lions/Getty Images

The economic situation in the United States is beginning to rival The Great Depression. The shaky economy and pandemic have conspired to raise poverty levels to alarming rates. For many Americans, the Great Depression isn't a historical moment, it is their reality, today. In this episode we hear from people who survived that terrible chapter of United States history. From their experiences, we may be able to better understand both the suffering and resilience happening all across the nation. (Apple) (Spotify)

The Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupts, April 16, 2010 in Fimmvorduhals, Iceland. The resulting volcanic ash in the atmosphere over parts of Europe caused major air traffic disruptions for several days. Signy Asta Gudmundsdottir/NordicPhotos/Getty Images hide caption

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Signy Asta Gudmundsdottir/NordicPhotos/Getty Images

Living through a moment can make it impossible to understand the long term, massive events that shape human civilization. This is true for the environment. Will future historians look back to understand how subtle, and not so subtle, environmental calamities were in precipitating the upheavals of the early 21st Century? In this episode we look back at how an exploding volcano changed human civilization in surprising and lasting ways. Perhaps we are living through our own "year of wonders." (Apple) (Spotify)

Throughline is NPR's history podcast. Listen each week as co-hosts Rund Abdelfatah and Ramtin Arablouei go back in time to understand the present with stories that you can feel and sounds you can see from the moments that shaped our world.

Contributors: Rund Abdelfatah, Ramtin Arablouei, Julie Caine, Lawrence Wu, Beth Donovan, Yolanda Sangweni, Laine Kaplan-Levenson, Jamie York, Parth Shah