Throughline The past is never past. Every headline has a history. Join us every week as we go back in time to understand the present. These are stories you can feel and sounds you can see from the moments that shaped our world.

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The past is never past. Every headline has a history. Join us every week as we go back in time to understand the present. These are stories you can feel and sounds you can see from the moments that shaped our world.

Subscribe to Throughline+. You'll be supporting the history-reframing, perspective-shifting, time-warping stories you can't get enough of - and you'll unlock access to our sponsor-free feed of the show. Learn more at plus.npr.org/throughline

Most Recent Episodes

The Black Panthers march in protest of the trial of co-founder Huey P. Newton in Oakland, California. Bettmann/Getty Images hide caption

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The Real Black Panthers (2021)

In 1968, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover said the Black Panther Party "without question, represents the greatest threat to the internal security of the country." And with that declaration he used United States federal law enforcement to wage war on the group. But why did Hoover's FBI target the Black Panther Party more severely than any other Black power organization? Historian Donna Murch says the answer lies in the Panthers' political agenda: not their brash, gun-toting public image, but in their capacity to organize across racial and class lines. It was a strategy that challenged the very foundations of American society. And it was working.

The Real Black Panthers (2021)

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When Things Fall Apart

Climate change, political unrest, random violence - Western society can often feel like what the filmmaker Warner Herzog calls, "a thin layer of ice on top of an ocean of chaos and darkness." In the United States, polls indicate that many people believe that law and order is the only thing protecting us from the savagery of our neighbors, that the fundamental nature of humanity is competition and struggle. This idea is often called "veneer theory." But is this idea rooted in historical reality? Is this actually what happens when societies face disasters? Are we always on the cusp of brutality?

When Things Fall Apart

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Extremist Futures

It's 2074 and a suicide bomber has killed the President of the United States. Months later Marines open fire on protesters killing dozens. The Second American Civil War has just begun and once again the North and South are pitted against each other. This is all according to the dystopian world chronicled in Omar El Akkad's novel, American War. El Akkad's imagined, yet familiar, world is reflective of today's deep political and societal fissures, but it also pushes us to understand the universal language of war and ruin, to what happens after the violence begins and why it's so hard to end.

Extremist Futures

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Do Not Pass Go (2022)

There's more to Monopoly than you might think. It's one of the best-selling board games in history — despite huge economic instability, sales actually went up during the pandemic — and it's been an iconic part of American life at other pivotal moments: a cheap pastime during the Great Depression; a reminder of home for soldiers during WWII; and an American export during its rise as a global superpower. It endured even as it reflected some of the ongoing inequities in American society, from segregation and redlining, to capitalism run rampant. That's because Monopoly is also built on powerful American lore – the idea that anyone, with just a little bit of cash, can rise from rags to riches. Writer Mary Pilon, the author of The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World's Favorite Board Game, describes Monopoly as "the Great American Dream in a board game – or, nightmare."This week: how a critique of capitalism grew from a seed of an idea in a rebellious young woman's mind into a game legendary for its celebration of wealth at all costs. And behind that legend — there's a lie.

Do Not Pass Go (2022)

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Then congressional candidate Nancy Pelosi waves in front of her headquarters in San Francisco on April 7, 1987. Paul Sakuma/AP Photo hide caption

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Nancy Pelosi (2019)

Nancy Pelosi is the highest-ranking woman in American politics. She made her first run for public office at 47 years old and went on to become Speaker of the House twice. How has she had such an enduring career, and where does her power lie? As Pelosi steps down this week from her pivotal role, we look back on an episode that traces her rise.

Nancy Pelosi (2019)

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Ayn Rand, Russian-born American novelist, is shown in Manhattan with the Grand Central Terminal building in background in 1962. ASSOCIATED PRESS hide caption

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Monster of We (2021)

Are most modern problems caused by selfishness or a lack of it? Ayn Rand, a Russian American philosopher and writer, would say it's the latter — that selfishness is not a vice but a virtue — and that capitalism is the ideal system. Everyone from Donald Trump, to Alan Greenspan, to Brad Pitt have sung Ayn Rand's praises. The Library of Congress named her novel Atlas Shrugged the second most influential book in the U.S. after the Bible. Ayn Rand wasn't politically correct, she was belligerent and liked going against the grain. And although she lived by the doctrine of her own greatness, she was driven by the fear that she would never be good enough.

The Monster of We (2021)

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Library of Congress

The New Gilded Age (2022)

Philanthropic foundations are a fundamental part of our society: they support media, the arts, education, medical research, and more. NPR, and even this show, is supported by many personal and family foundations. But it wasn't always that way. In this episode, we go back to the beginning — the Gilded Age. We trace the birth and evolution of what many today call "big philanthropy," and ask what all this private wealth means for the public good.

The New Gilded Age (2022)

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God Wants You To Be Rich (2021)

In the New Testament, Jesus says it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. In the United States today, many Christians believe in something radically different. In what's known as the prosperity gospel, wealth is a sign of virtue and God's favor. The effects of this belief can be seen throughout American life from business to politics to social Policy.

God Wants You To Be Rich (2021)

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Road to Partition

What happens when a nation splits apart? It's a question many of us are asking ourselves today. It happened 75 years ago with Partition, when India and Pakistan became independent nations, divided by a somewhat arbitrary line that separated neighbors, families, and communities. 15 million people were displaced, leaving a trail of chaos and violence that in some ways has never ended. In today's episode, NPR politics reporter Asma Khalid takes us back in time to learn how the road to Partition was paved, and to try to understand how people and nations reach a tipping point when neighbors realize it's no longer possible to live side by side.

Road to Partition

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400 Years of Sweetness

In the 1970s, a savvy CEO named Dwayne Andreas hit on an idea: take surplus corn from America's heartland, process it into a sweetener, and start selling it to anyone who would buy, all in the name of patriotism. Within a decade, high fructose corn syrup dominated the U.S. sweetener market; today, American diets are saturated with sweeteners, including cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and dozens of others.

400 Years of Sweetness

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