Profiles

Courtesy of Kristen Oney / Plimoth Plantation

In a documentary for the PBS series American Experience, filmmaker Ric Burns tells the tale of a small group of extreme people whom history and myth record as the founders of a new nation. The Pilgrims faced countless challenges when they came to the New World in 1620. The fact of their survival and success is not only commemorated every November, it also exists in the very myth of America’s origins. Thanksgiving Day, we're rebroadcasting our conversation with Burns to winnow fact from fiction about the Pilgrims. (Rebroadcast)

19th century Utah photographer Charles Ellis Johnson was a son-in-law of Brigham Young with access to the state’s elite. He trained his camera on the LDS Temple and leaders like the prophet Wilford Woodruff. So what should we make of his brisk mail-order business of “spicy girls”? Art historian Mary Campbell says at a time when most Americans thought of the Saints in terms of the “barbarity” of polygamy, Johnson’s erotic photography helped make Mormons mainstream. Tuesday, she joins us to explain.

President-elect Donald Trump could potentially appoint enough Supreme Court justices to create a conservative majority unmatched in 80 years. Law professor RonNell Andersen Jones says that leaves Justice Clarence Thomas poised to be the “granddaddy of the conservative wing of the court.” So Wednesday, Jones joins us, along with scholar Amy Wildermuth, to talk about Thomas’ personality, his jurisprudence, and the contradictions Jones says make him one of the most interesting justices in generations.

Courtesy McMullin for President Committee, Inc.

By now, you’ve probably heard about Evan McMullin. He’s running for president of the United States as an independent third party candidate, which isn’t all that unique. Unlike essentially every other such candidate though, McMullin has a legitimate shot at winning electoral votes, specifically here in his home state of Utah. But who is this upstart? And what does he mean when he says he wants to build a “new conservative movement”? McMullin joins us on Monday to discuss his presidential bid.

The Perfect Horse

Oct 20, 2016
Judy Fahys

Thursday, the story of a daring rescue of horses caught up in the Third Reich’s vision for genetic supremacy. Horses still played a role in the military, and Hitler aimed to use stolen purebreds to create the ideal war horse. But with the stud farm under imminent threat from the starving Russian army, the Nazi officer in charge asked General Patton himself for help. Author Elizabeth Letts joins us to explain why soldiers set aside alliances and risked their lives to save The Perfect Horse.

Courtesty of the Sierra Club, special thanks to Ellen Byrne

David Brower is widely regarded as the father of the modern environmentalism movement. He served two decades as executive director of the Sierra Club and fought fiercely to defend wilderness and rivers in the American West. Supporters admired his passion, vision, and unyielding efforts, while his opponents found him polarizing and reckless. In a new book, the journalist Robert Wyss explores Brower’s complicated personal life and his fearless stewardship of the environmental movement.

Major James B Pond, University of Virginia Library, http://bit.ly/2a0uRqV

Wednesday, we’re telling the story of what author Richard Zacks calls Mark Twain’s “raucous and redemptive round-the-world comedy tour.” Twain was once America’s highest paid writer, but he was also a remarkably bad businessman. In 1895, with his career on the rocks and with what today would be millions in debt, Twain embarked on a 5-continent speaking tour he hoped would save him. Zacks joins Doug to talk about Twain’s wildly popular humor, his missteps, and what drove his quest for redemption. (Rebroadcast)

Defying the Nazis

Sep 14, 2016
Andover Harvard Theological Library

In January 1939, Unitarian minister Waitstill Sharp and his wife Martha received a call: would they travel to Europe to help Jewish dissidents and refugees under threat of Nazi persecution? While few Americans were paying attention to Hitler’s growing power, the Sharps agreed to the dangerous mission. A new PBS film explores their incredible work, and Wednesday, filmmaker Artemis Joukowsky joins us to talk about how the Sharp’s actions saved hundreds and altered the course of their own lives.

American Heiress

Sep 8, 2016

Thursday, our guest is author Jeffrey Toobin, who’s written a book about the 1974 kidnapping of Patty Hearst. Hearst was 19 and heir to her family’s fortune when the “Symbionese Liberation Army” took her, and it soon seemed that she had adopted their incoherent, revolutionary cause. We’ll explore the controversy over Hearst’s involvement in their crimes, the atmosphere that gave birth to the SLA, and why Toobin says the story sheds light on a time when America was on the brink of a nervous breakdown.

Blessed with astonishing power and grace, Ukrainian dancer Sergei Polunin rocketed to the top of the ballet world. At 19 years old he became the youngest ever principal dancer in London’s Royal Ballet. Two years later, he quit. There was nothing left for him to accomplish, and his pursuit of stardom had torn his family apart and left him feeling hollow. Filmmaker Steven Cantor’s new film documents Polunin’s rise, fall, and redemption. It’s called Dancer, and he joins us Thursday to talk about it.

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