Humanities At Home: Podcasts and Radio Programs

April 18, 2020
As we find ourselves in this unprecedented and troubling time, the humanities provide a window through which we can reflect on our histories and beliefs; why we are, who we are, and how we can be – a tool with which we can investigate our past, cultivate understanding and facilitate resourceful conversation to help us connect, cope, and chart a path forward. In short, these council programs provide content that connects context and communities in spite of COVID.
This post is the first in a series (Listen. Connect. Learn. Watch) highlighting virtual or digital programming conducted or supported by the 56 state and jurisdictional humanities councils.
In this post, we’re focusing on LISTEN: council podcast and radios programs. Several of these programs have won national awards and featured interviews with prominent historians, authors, community leaders, scholars and Pulitzer Prize winners, shedding light on a multitude of topics from current events, journalism, politics, technology and arts to lesser known histories, community concerns, human stories, and even sports!
GENERAL HUMANITIES:
  • Think Humanities (Kentucky Humanities) is a podcast for people who love history, philosophy, culture, literature, civic dialogue, and the arts.

ADDRESSING CONTEMPORARY AMERICA:

  • Togetherings (Alaska Humanities Forum) series of participatory conversations that bring together people from a wide range of perspectives and life experiences to encourage new awareness, challenge assumptions, and encourage new possibilities for our communities. The theme for the first series of Togetherings is taboos and will be held live on Out North Radio. Two people kick-off the dialogue, then the radio listeners can join the conversation live by calling the radio station.
  • Humanities Connection (Maryland Humanities) a monthly dose of humanities and culture that explores the role of the humanities in our daily lives, and features lively stories and reflections around topics like education, literature, health care, race, ethics, theology, history, and more. Each segment features a series of special guests, including Maryland Humanities partners, board members, and local humanists such as filmmakers, poets, museum directors, and journalists. The result is a mix of stories and conversation designed to shed light on the human experience and stimulate the intellectual curiosity of our listeners.
  • Real Conversations. Real Issues. (Ohio Humanities) A podcast of real conversations about real issues that are important to all Ohioans that offers a humanities perspective on what’s going on in the world.
  • BrainBox (Oklahoma Humanities) is a podcast that uses the humanities to discuss issues affecting American society and culture. Through interviews with some of Oklahoma’s most interesting and knowledgeable humanities scholars, listeners will explore how history, literature, ethics, philosophy, and other humanities fields inform our understanding of current events and the human experience.
  • The Portable Humanist  (Vermont Humanities) a podcast that uses the humanities to look at contemporary issues. Past episodes have included labor historian and Dartmouth professor Annelise Orlect who provides a close look at globalization and its costs through interviews of berry pickers, fast food servers, garment workers, hotel housekeepers, and others who are fighting for respect, safety, and a living wage; Vermont Public Radio’s Friday Night Jazz host Reuben Jackson who shares some of Duke Ellington’s evocative recordings and discusses Ellington’s love for trains; Dr. Harvey Amani Whitfield who explores the Great Migration and its influence on American history; Rumble Strip host Erica Heilman’s stories of Vermont-related topics from mental health, hunger and homelessness to deer hunting, cheerleading, and donut shops; and, profiles on Vermonters impacted by addiction and potential solutions to the opioid crisis.
  • BACKSTORY (Virginia Humanities) Ever think there’s more to history than meets the eye? Or wondered how your ancestors experienced their own current events? There’s the history you had to learn, and the history you want to learn. That’s where BackStory comes in. This weekly podcast uses current events in America to take a deep dive into our past. Hosted by noted U.S. historians, each episode provides listeners with different perspectives on a particular theme or subject – giving you all sides of the story and then some. BackStory started in 2008 with hosts Ed Ayers, Peter Onuf, and Brian Balogh. In 2017 BackStory welcomed two new hosts, Joanne Freeman and Nathan Connolly who joined Ed and Brian to take you behind the scenes of American history. Peter Onuf continues as a guest host and contributor to the show. With guest historians, questions from audience callers, and the production team, BackStory makes learning about history like going to a lively cocktail party. It is more than facts and figures – it’s about how the past has shaped who we are today. It has ranked in the Top 10 iTunes Society and Culture list and as high as #10 among all iTunes podcasts. BackStory is made possible through Virginia Humanities.
  • With Good Reason (WGR): (Virginia Humanities) This podcast brings together higher education institutions and Virginia Humanities to make scholarly research accessible to all. Each week, host Sarah McConnell shares exciting discoveries, rigorous debates and new knowledge. The show has won five Gabriel Awards for Best Documentary or Public Affairs Programs and is also the recipient of top honors from the Public Radio News Directors, Radio and Television Digital News Association, and the Virginia Association of Broadcasters. Featured guests have included Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison discussing race in American, Mike Seeger exploring American folk music, Ruth Osorio on disability justice movements, Bruce Greyson sharing his study of near death experiences, and Nikki Giovanni reading from her poetry. You’ll discover LGBTQ families in Shakespeare’s plays, the ways we pre-judge others based on their accents, and the surprising history of Hawaiian shirts.

DIGGING INTO THE PAST – COMMUNITY AND STATE HISTORIES

  • South of Fletcher: Stories from the Bowtie (California Humanities) is a podcast that explores the past, present, and potential of the Bowtie Parcel, once one of Southern California’s most important rail yards.
  • Wonderland Radio Hour (California Humanities) is a quarterly series of free public programs featuring stories about the people, places and history of our lower Russian River communities, from Forestville to Jenner-by-theSea. Each hour showcases musicians, artists, writers, and characters from this area and surrounding region.
  • California’s Foodways (California Humanities) are the real stories of how people, work, and land connect to food in the richest, most diverse, most complex state in the country. Food industries in California generate $100 billion annually, its farms feed the nation and its kitchens set international culinary trends because in California, food isn’t just food, it’s the common language that lets us explore culture, history, economics, the environment, and everything that goes into making the California story.
  • Promise of Paradise (California Humanities) A podcast documenting an experiment that began roughly fifty years ago all across the country. In the 60s and 70s, young people began to “tune in, turn on, and drop out.” Anything was possible. College-educated hippies began to stream away from the cities and into the country, to put a modern twist into ancient homesteading skills. Hear about the sense of exhilaration, the resilience, and how these now aging hippies recall their rush towards freedom and responsibility. Listeners will also hear about how the lack of boundaries led to tragedy and disillusionment, the racial insensitivity, and how the back to the land experiment altered Mendocino County.
  • The Intersection Project (California Humanities) The Bay Area is changing. The San Francisco skyline is filled with cranes. Dive bars and other beloved institutions continue to close. As we try to make sense of what’s happening, a simple narrative seems to have hardened into something resembling fact: Tech-fueled gentrification is destroying the progressive, multicultural, artistic soul of this city and region. While the latest tech boom may be part of the story of a changing Bay Area, it’s not the whole story. Not even close. This series of audio documentaries – produced in conjunction with local public radio station KALW and with grants from California Humanities and San Francisco Arts Commission – explores the contours of change in the Bay Area and in cities in general. One corner, one person, and one story at a time.
  • Examining Ethics (Indiana Humanities) a three-part podcast series in partnership with DePauw University’s Prindle Institute for Ethics inspired by Indiana’s Bicentennial that explores questions in ethics that have been raised by fascinating moments in Indiana’s history.
  • Sound Bites (Indiana Humanities) is a bi-weekly series of five-minute-long audio stories that share moments of scientific discovery, creation and innovation in Indiana’s past and present, sponsored by J.P. Morgan Chase. The professionally produced pieces by Sandra Bertin also run on radio stations such as Lakeshore Public Media in Northwest Indiana.
  • Illinois Turns 200 Podcast (Illinois Humanities) a series of live podcast episodes that explored the past, present, and potential futures of six communities (Alton, Vandalia, Atlanta, Peoria, Galesburg, and Ottawa) that arose along rivers, railways, and significant roads through live interviews, dramatic readings, archival material, and musical performances. 
  • The A’s Podcast (Missouri Humanities) walks listeners through the history of the Kansas City A’s which “tells a story that covers some of the most tumultuous years in baseball… but it’s more than just a sports story. It’s about power, greed, and corruption that went all the way to Congress.” The podcast was created in partnership with the Center for Midwestern Studies and UMKC.
  • Past Lives: (New Hampshire Humanities) a podcast that explores the more unusual chapters of New Hampshire’s history, from witchcraft to UFOs, along with compelling stories about the lives of Granite Staters. The first story is presented in a three-part series: The Real Witches of New Hampshire, which explores historical cases of witchcraft in New Hampshire along with the stories of modern witches, in order to understand how our idea of the witch has changed over time.
  • Your Humanities Half-Hour (Northern Marianas Humanities Council) is the council’s weekly radio program hosted by Catherine R. Perry featuring interviews with humanities scholars, students, community organizations and other special guests. The goal of the program is to bring humanities programming to a wide cross-section of the community. Perry uses a gentle and insightful interview style that allows her to explore a wide variety of interesting, timely, and sometimes controversial topics with local and off-island guests.
  • Before Your Time (Vermont Humanities) is produced in partnership with the Vermont Historical Society. Every episode we go inside the stacks at the Vermont Historical Society to look at an object from their permanent collection that tells us something unique about our state. Then, we take a closer look at the people, the events, or the ideas that surround each artifact.

WHAT’S THE STORY? EXPLORING THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE

  • First, But Last? (Wyoming Humanities Council) is a podcast that introduces the listener to the creative, intrepid, and influential women all across the state of Wyoming asking them about wisdom, work and adventure in the “equality” state. This special series celebrates Wyoming as the first state to give women the right to vote!
  • What’s Your Why?  (Wyoming Humanities Council) a weekly podcast that brings stories from diverse and interesting backgrounds documenting and discovering the human experience.
  • tbh: Representing the Voices of a Generation  (California Humanities) is a podcast made by, about, and for teenagers, and for anybody who wants to hear what’s on our minds. We’re trying to find our place in the world, and we’re here to talk about the issues that matter to us. How can we change the world with our activism? With our commerce? With our culture? There’s a lot to talk about.
  • The Political Mind of Jerry Brown (California Humanities) is a radio and podcast documentary series on KQED’s Political Breakdown that gives listeners a front-row seat into the former governor’s mind.
  • The Stoop  (California Humanities) a podcast that digs into stories that are not always shared out in the open. Hosts Leila Day and Hana Baba start conversations about what it means to be black and how we talk about blackness. It’s a celebration of black joy with a mission to dig deeper into stories that we don’t hear enough about.
  • The Specialist:  (California Humanities) is a podcast about work we don’t think about and the people who do it.

HOW DO YOU KNOW? JOURNALISM, FAKE NEWS AND DEMOCRACY

  • A Matter of Facts: (Delaware Humanities) With so many sources of information, what is reliable and true can be hard at times to determine. This award-winning podcast addresses this issue by examining closely popular sources of news and information. It is part of the Democracy and the Informed Citizen initiative supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Pulitzer Prizes.
  • Sticky Wicket: Louisiana Politics Versus the Press (Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities) is a mini-series out of WWNO New Orleans Public Radio and WRKF Baton Rouge Public Radio that takes on four historic clashes between Louisiana politicians and the media, one at a time. These relationships have always been love/hate in the Pelican state.
  • Press(ed): (Rhode Island Council for the Humanities) a podcast about the media, fake news, and the future of our democracy supported by the Democracy and the Informed Citizen initiative.

AT THE INTERSECTION: HUMANITIES, MUSIC, ART AND TECHNOLOGY

  • The World According to Sound: (California Humanities) a miniature audio show and surround sound event.
  • Squeezebox Stories (California Humanities) is a sound-rich, narrative-driver, public radio documentary hosted by Marco Werman of PRI’s The World that explores the rich musical worlds and diverse social history of the accordion – one of the first global instruments.
  • Augmented Humanity: (New Mexico Humanities Council) a podcast that focuses on the intersection of technology and the humanities and discusses what we can understand about ourselves and others using technology, how the technology changes us or advances us, the implications for public or academic humanities, and the best tools and practices for applying this technology. Augmented Humanity is produced in partnership with KUNM FM, University of New Mexico’s public radio station.

You can follow or engage in the conversation on social media using #HumanitiesAtHome. If you attend or participate in any of the programs, or have a new one to add, please tag us @HumFed with the hashtag #HumanitiesAtHome. We’ll be adding to our lists, so check back often!

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