Context is everything. Literally
. One of the painful things about being a history nerd who keeps up with current events is seeing historical figures taken out of context and used to advance agendas that they would have vehemently opposed. (Considering that several of the "Founding Fathers" were either atheists or deists, I really don't think their ultimate plan was to make America a Christian nation.)
For awhile I've thought "Wouldn't it be cool to have historical figures comment on US current events?" They could explain the context surrounding the statements that they made and how it either is or isn't relevant to the modern world. But I never really knew what to do with it beyond a few vague thoughts like "Wouldn't it be amazing
to watch George Washington and Theodore Roosevelt debate foreign policy?" I wasn't sure if anybody would be interested other than me and my mom anyway, so I put it aside and then kind of forgot about it.
I was reminded of it when thinking about the madness of the United States' current political climate. So many of the problems we're facing today are the result of decisions made decades ago, and out of context quotes from men long dead are used to justify solutions that are failing. It seems more important than ever to understand the context of the decisions that have shaped today's world.
So fuck it, I'm making a podcast. Two episodes before November 2012, and possibly more after that if there is sufficient interest. The episodes will be approximately 40 minutes long and in a similar style to shows such as Rachel Maddow
and Anderson Cooper 360
. They will have a mix of one-on-one interviews and debates, with a host that gives context to the current issue and how it is relevant to the historical figures.
My goal is not only to clarify the philosophies of people who are well-known but frequently misunderstood. I also want to highlight the philosophies and accomplishments of people who have had a major impact on American history, but who are left out of our white, hetero/cis-sexist, male-dominated textbooks. I want to show that they were not just a narrow portion of their identity (First Nations activist, civil rights activist, transgender activist, etc), but they were powerful thinkers who advocated for a number of intersecting causes.
Beneath the cut I have the topics I want to cover in the first two episodes and the people I am considering to include. I would love input and suggestions on this list. Who is missing that I should consider? Is there anyone I should eliminate? Do you know a really fantastic book about a particular person I should include in my research?
In selecting possible figures to include, I am keeping the following criteria in mind:
- No living figure (they, obviously, can speak for themselves, and would justly object to my putting words in their mouths)
- No one who has died in the past 5 years. I would prefer to work between 1750 and 1950, but that is not always possible.
- People who have at least one primary source - either a book they wrote, or a collection of their speeches. What I'm writing will be an interpretation of their words, but I don't want it to be an interpretation of someone else's interpretation of their words.
The final programs will have no more than 4 guests, so that my research can be deep rather than broad, but right now I'm trying to pull in as many names as possible so I don't miss someone amazing about whom I was never taught.EPISODE 1: INCOME INEQUALITYTopics
-- Corporate Regulation
-- Redistribution of wealth
-- Banks & the Federal ReservePossible 'Guests'James BaldwinSylvia RiveraLucy ParsonsMarsha P. JohsonTheodore RooseveltAbigail AdamsAlexander HamiltonRonald ReaganAndrew JacksonEPISODE 2: GLOBAL POWER
-- War on Terror
-- Spreading democracy
-- National security
-- An American Empire?Possible 'Guests'Lucy CovingtonJohn O'SullivanGeorge WashingtonJohn Quincy AdamsHin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt
("Chief Joseph")Anna Mae Aquash
For those of you who are interested in/concerned about what my process will be
Step 1: Research
the various positions on the current issue. Research the time periods my 'guests' lived in, and my guests themselves. Read as much of their own written material (as opposed to material written about
them) as possible.
Step 2: Summarize
what I think their position on the topic would be, citing my sources. This summary will be sent to experts to review and critique.
Step 3: Draft the script
. The above summary will be turned into a dialogue. Since it is a script, sources will not be explicitly cited, but a bibliography will be kept and will be published with the podcast.
Step 4: Send script out for critique
by both experts and editors. While I will be putting words in their mouths, I want the script to be as accurate as possible.
Step 5: Revise
Repeat Step 4 and Step 5 as necessary.
Then we get into the production part of the process, which I will have more details about later.If you are or know a historian/expert who is willing to help fact-check my work, please email me.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am a white, middle-class, queer, cissexual woman. I studied screenwriting & playwriting in university; I love history, but I do not have any sort of degree in it.
If you'd like to be involved in any other way, let me know! Right now I am very much in development/pre-production, but there will be a multitude of opportunities further down the line.
Eventually this project will have its own website, but for now you can keep up with updates by tracking this tag