history

Here & Now is marking the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act by listening to some of the voices of the time, especially President Lyndon Johnson, who made civil rights a priority of his administration, following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

After nine African-Americans were gunned down in their Charleston church last month, the South Carolina legislature voted to take down the Confederate flag that had flown at the statehouse for decades.

Journalist Christopher Dickey, whose own family demonstrates the complicated history of the Civil War, has written a new book (excerpt below) that looks at slavery through the eyes of a British agent who served in South Carolina before and during the war.

This week, NPR reported that the Department of Veterans Affairs failed to live up to a promise to contact 4,000 veterans who were exposed to mustard gas in secret military experiments. In 1993, the VA promised it would reach out to each of those veterans to let them know that they were eligible for disability benefits. Instead, over the past 20 years, the VA reached out to only 610.

As politicians across the South are stepping in to call for the removal of the Confederate battle flag and other symbols of the Confederacy, big businesses are also joining the fray. Wal-Mart, eBay, Amazon and others have promised to pull merchandise tied to the flag, in some cases adding strong arguments against the products.

Today is the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, which brought down Napoleon Bonaparte for good.

But even with 200 years perspective, historians disagree about Napoleon’s legacy. Some see him as a tyrant determined to build an empire at all costs. Others give him credit for introducing ideals such as public education and meritocracy that form the basis of modern society.

For some time, researchers suspected that the São José-Paquete de Africa, a Portuguese slave ship, was lost in 1794 off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa. But only now, after years of painstaking work, have they finally confirmed it.

The Midwest has come to be synonymous with certain aspects of America’s cultural history. From waves of grain to hoedowns to Grant Wood’s classic pitchfork-toting couple in “American Gothic.”

A group of historians meeting this week in Grand Rapids, Mich., say that is only a part of the story. Compared to the intellectual Northeast, literary South and innovative West Coast, they say the Midwest is too often ignored – its rich landscape and cultural diversity left out of elementary school classrooms, while the Gold Rush and Liberty Bell get the spotlight.

Chicken wings, catfish, fried okra and corn bread are just some of the items on the menu at Kountry Kitchen, a popular soul food restaurant in Indianapolis.

The restaurant is just a block away from the historic site where, on a campaign stop when he was running for president, Robert F. Kennedy announced that Martin Luther King Jr. had been shot and killed.

Kountry Kitchen owner Isaac Wilson was there that night and says RFK’s speech helped keep calm in Indianapolis.

If you had one million dollars to fulfill a wish to change the world, what would you do? This is the question the winner of the annual TED Prize is asked to answer.

Joshua Landis and Suzette Grillot discuss what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech in Washington this week says about a possible shift in U.S./Middle East alliances. Many traditional U.S. allies are worried Washington might shift toward Iran and away from Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Later, Landis and Rebecca Cruise talk with Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Gordon Wood. He compares this decade’s uprisings in the Arab World to what he calls an “Atlantic Spring” that started in 1776.

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