america

Did you know that many of America’s Founding Fathers― who fought for liberty and justice for all ― were slave owners?

Through the powerful stories of five enslaved people who were “owned” by four of our greatest presidents, Kenneth Davis’ new book, In the Shadow of Liberty, helps set the record straight about the role slavery played in the founding of America.

From Billy Lee, valet to George Washington, to Alfred Jackson, faithful servant of Andrew Jackson, these dramatic narratives explore our country’s great tragedy―that a nation “conceived in liberty” was also born in shackles.

Kenneth C. Davis is the New York Times bestselling author of America’s Hidden History and Don’t Know Much About History, which gave rise to the "Don’t Know Much About" series of books for adults and children. 

  From renowned social critic, energy expert, and bestselling author James Howard Kunstler,The Harrows of Spring is a moving and gripping novel that completes the story of the quaint upstate New York town of Union Grove, thrown into a future world that in many ways resembles the nineteenth century.

In Union Grove, early spring is a challenging season, known as the “six weeks want,” a time when fresh food is scarce and the winter stores are dwindling. The town is struggling in particular this year as the Hudson River trade route to Albany has been halted by the local plantation tycoon Stephen Bullock, who has deemed it too resource-intensive and is now striving for self-sufficiency.

  Stephanie Blythe is on the vocal faculty for the Tanglewood Music Center, and has been coaching vocal Fellows for the “Sing America: Songs of Travel” vocal concert at 5 p.m. during Tanglewood on Parade.

The program features the TMC Vocal Fellows and Stephanie singing mostly classic American travel songs from the largely from the late 1800’s and early 1900s, including “Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis,” “California, Here I Come,” “Caroline in the Morning,” “Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland,” and “I Want to Go Back to Michigan.” The audience will also be encouranged to sing along during a portion of the program.

Mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe is considered to be one of the most highly respected and critically acclaimed artists of her generation.

  In his new book, The End of White Christian America, Robert P. Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute, challenges us to grasp the profound political and cultural consequences of a new reality—that America is no longer a majority white Christian nation.

For most of our nation’s history, White Christian America (WCA)—the cultural and political edifice built primarily by white Protestant Christians—set the tone for our national policy and shaped American ideals. But especially since the 1990s, WCA has steadily lost influence, following declines within both its mainline and evangelical branches. Today, America is no longer demographically or culturally a majority white Christian nation.

  Juan Williams is a top political analyst for Fox News Channel and will be with us this morning to discuss his new book, We the People: The Modern-Day Figures Who Have Reshaped and Affirmed the Founding Fathers' Vision of America.

In the book, Williams tells us who would be on his modern day Mount Rushmore.

  In Winner-Take-All Politics, Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson explained how political elites have enabled and propelled plutocracy.

Now in American Amnesia, they trace the economic and political history of the United States over the last century and show how a viable mixed economy has long been the dominant engine of America’s prosperity.

  In our Ideas Matter segment we take time just about every week to check in with the state humanities councils in our 7-state region.

Today we're discussing the long and colorful history of American crime writing. Our guest is Harold Schecter, professor of English at Queens College, CUNY, and the editor of the Library of America's True Crime volume. A writer of true crime fiction himself, Harold recently served as the scholar-advisor for the New York Council's new Reading and Discussion series "True Crime an American Genre."

  Most of us have to “talk across the aisle” once or twice a year—when we’re seated next to our conservative out-of-town uncle at Thanksgiving, say. But millions of self- identified liberals live in cities and towns—particularly away from the East and West Coasts—where they are regularly outnumbered and outvoted by conservatives.

Justin Krebs is a political and cultural entrepreneur, strategist and writer. He is the founding director of Living Liberally, a national progressive social organization with over 200 chapters. The organization is primarily composed of Drinking Liberally happy hours, which give liberals around the country the opportunity to get offline and form face-to-face friendships.

Krebs' new book is Blue in a Red State: The Survival Guide to Life in the Real America.

    When the United States government passed the Bill of Rights in 1791, its uncompromising protection of speech and of the press were unlike anything the world had ever seen before. But by 1798, the once-dazzling young republic of the United States was on the verge of collapse: partisanship gripped the weak federal government, British seizures threatened American goods and men on the high seas, and war with France seemed imminent as its own democratic revolution deteriorated into terror. Suddenly, the First Amendment, which protected harsh commentary of the weak government, no longer seemed as practical.

So that July, President John Adams and the Federalists in control of Congress passed an extreme piece of legislation that made criticism of the government and its leaders a crime punishable by heavy fines and jail time. In Liberty’s First Crisis, writer Charles Slack tells the story of the 1798 Sedition Act, the crucial moment when high ideals met real-world politics and the country’s future hung in the balance.

  In an era of extreme partisanship, when running for office has become a zero-sum game in which candidates play exclusively to their ideological bases, Americans on both sides of the political aisle hunger for the return of a commitment to the common good. Too often, it seems, religion has been used as a wedge to divide us in these battles. But is it also the key to restoring our civic virtue?

For more than a decade, Senator John Danforth, who is also an ordained Episcopal priest, has written extensively on the negative use of religion as a divisive force in American politics. Now he turns to the positive, constructive impact faithful religious believers have and can have on our public life. The Relevance of Religion is the product of that period of reflection.

  From Don Winslow, the internationally best-selling author of the acclaimed novel The Power of the Dog comes The Cartel, a gripping, true-to-life, ripped-from-the-headlines epic story of power, corruption, revenge, and justice spanning the past decade of the Mexican-American drug wars.

The Cartel is a story of revenge, honor, and sacrifice, as one man tries to face down the devil without losing his soul. It is the story of the war on drugs and the men—and women—who wage it.

  Simon Majumdar is a food writer, broadcaster, and author of Eat My Globe and Eating for Britain. He is a recurring judge on Iron Chef, The Next Iron Chef, and Cutthroat Kitchen. He is the fine living correspondent for AskMen.com and he writes regular features for the Food Network website.

He joins us to talk about about his new book, Fed, White, and Blue: Finding America with My Fork, an exploration into the food cultures that make up America—brewing beer, picking vegetables, working at a food bank, and even finding himself, very reluctantly, at a tailgate.

    

  Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte was renowned as the most beautiful woman of nineteenth-century Baltimore. Her marriage in 1803 to Jérôme Bonaparte, the youngest brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, became inextricably bound to the diplomatic and political histories of the United States, France, and England.

In Wondrous Beauty, Carol Berkin tells the story of this audacious, outsized life.

David Shipler reported for the New York Times from 1966 to 1988 in New York, Saigon, Moscow, Jerusalem, and Washington DC. He is the author of six books including the best sellers Russia, and The Working Poor, as well as Arab and Jew which won the Pulitzer Prize.

His new book, Rights at Risk: The Limits of Liberty in Modern America, is an examination of violations of the constitutional principles that preserve individual rights and civil liberties from court rooms to class rooms.

  Bret Stephens, winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is the foreign affairs columnist and deputy editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal. His new book is: America In Retreat: The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder.

In the face of economic troubles at home, Americans have been weary of acting as the world’s policeman. Troops are coming home in some cases, certain military spending is being cut, and surveillance programs are being exposed and curtailed.

Stephens makes the case that there is a profound connection between the new global disorder and America’s diminishing international footprint.

  Azar Nafisi, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Reading Lolita in Tehran, is here to tell us about her new book: The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books.

Ten years ago, Nafisi wrote Reading Lolita in Tehran, which told the story of how she taught American literature to eager students in Iran, revealing how fiction can be a liberating force in a totalitarian society.

Blending memoir with close readings of four of her favorite novels—Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Sinclair Lewis’s Babbitt, Carson McCullers’s The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter and James Baldwin’s Another Country—Azar describes how she first discovered America and its fictional landscape as a young girl in Tehran and reminds us of the crucial role that literature played in the lives of the founding fathers.

    Blue Gold: American Jeans is a feature-length documentary about how one unlikely garment ended up connecting us all. Following vintage jeans hunter Eric Schrader around the world, Blue Gold searches for the reason we all wear blue mining pants from the late 1800s.

An ambassador of Americana, Eric trades in the history, myth, and intrinsic values that have made blue jeans the most expensive and fetishized piece of vintage clothing on the planet. From fashion history and subculture aspiration to the lost tradition of American manufacturing, Blue Gold explores Americana in our globalized world, where cultural exchange and social responsibility demand greater transparency and inspire innovation.

Blue Gold: American Jeans will have its festival premiere at The Berkshire International Film Festival this weekend -- screening at 11:30am on Saturday at The Beacon in Pittsfield and again at 11:30am on Sunday at The Triplex in Great Barrington.

Filmmaker Christian Bruun joins us.

    With insights gained from original scholarship and an unusual breadth of experience in finance and government, Bill White distils practical lessons from the nation's five previous spikes in debt. America's Fiscal Constitution is an entertaining and objective guide for people trying to make sense of the current and most dangerous debt crisis.

    Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld join us to discuss their controversial book of The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America

Why do some groups rise? Drawing on groundbreaking original research and startling statistics, The Triple Package uncovers the secret to their success. A superiority complex, insecurity, impulse control—these are the elements of the Triple Package, the rare and potent cultural constellation that drives disproportionate group success.

  Growing up in a small river town in Illinois, Diane Johnson always dreamed of floating down the Mississippi and off to see the world. Years later, at home in France, a French friend teases her: “Indifference to history—that’s why you Americans seem so naïve and don’t really know where you’re from.”

In her new memoir, Flyover Lives, Johnson explores the Midwest and the family’s history. In digging around, she discovered letters and memoirs written by generations of stalwart pioneer ancestors.

    

  Historian Lincoln Paine has just written a monumental retelling of world history through the lens of maritime enterprise, revealing in breathtaking depth how people first came into contact with one another by ocean and river, lake and stream, and how goods, languages, religions, and entire cultures spread across and along the world’s waterways, bringing together civilizations and defining what makes us most human.

In his book, Sea and Civilization: A Maitime History of the World, Lincoln Paine takes us back to the origins of long-distance migration by sea with our ancestors’ first forays from Africa and Eurasia to Australia and the Americas.

    In 2008, Oscar-nominated film director M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs) decided to take an active role in helping fix what’s wrong in American public education.

He learned that there are five keys to closing America’s achievement gap. But just as we must do several things to maintain good health— eat the right foods, exercise regularly, get a good night’s sleep—so too must we use all five keys to turn around our lowest-performing schools. These five keys are used by all the schools that are succeeding, and no schools are succeeding without them. He joins us to tell us more.

    Standing on the weatherworn shores of the Alaskan coast, Pulitzer Prize winning author Philip Caputo watched Eskimo schoolchildren pledge allegiance to the same flag as the children of Cuban immigrants in Key West, six thousand miles away, and began to wonder: How does the United States, as diverse as it is large, remain united?

In 2011, in a nation mired in war abroad and rocked by the greatest economic calamity since the Great Depression, Caputo loaded his wife and two English setters into an Airstream camper and hit the open road in search of answers.

Captuo’s The Longest Road: Overland in Search of America from Key West to the Arctic Ocean follows the epic 4 month road trip that lead the couple down country roads, meeting Americans from all walks of life.

Philip Caputo is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and the author of many works of fiction and nonfiction, including A Rumor of War.

  Texas may well be America’s most controversial state. Evangelicals dominate the halls of power, millions of its people live in poverty, and its death row is the busiest in the country. Skeptical outsiders have found much to be offended by in the state’s politics and attitude. And yet, according to journalist (and Texan) Erica Grieder, the United States has a great deal to learn from Texas.

She joins us to speak about her new book, Big, Hot, Cheap, and Right: What America Can Learn from the Strange Genius of Texas.

    Americans cherish their national myths, some of which predate the country’s founding. But the time for illusions, nostalgia, and grand ambition abroad has gone by, according to journalist Patrick Smith in his new book, Time No Longer.

He says Americans are now faced with a choice between a mythical idea of themselves, their nation, and their global “mission,” on the one hand, and on the other an idea of America that is rooted in historical consciousness.

    At age 17, Dylan Dethier couldn’t help but think he’d never really done anything with his life. So, two months before his freshman year was set to begin, he deferred admission to Williams College. With the reluctant blessing of his parents, Dylan set out on his idea of the Great American Road Trip: to play a round of golf in each of the lower forty-eight states.

  Lawrence Wittner, Professor of History emeritus at the State University of New York @ Albany, is an award-winning writer and political activist who taught for 43 years on college and university campuses, in the United States and abroad. His latest book is the novel, What's Going On at UAardvark?

    When America inaugurated its first African American president, in 2009, many wondered if the country had finally become a "post-racial" society.

In Ghosts of Jim Crow, F. Michael Higginbotham argues that America remains far away from that imagined utopia.

    Statistically speaking, most of our youngsters will continue to be educated in mainstream public schools. The good news, as Education Writer David L. Kirp reveals in Improbable Scholars, is that there's a sensible way to rebuild public education and close the achievement gap for all students. Indeed, this is precisely what's happening in a most unlikely place: Union City, New Jersey, a poor, crowded Latino community just across the Hudson from Manhattan.