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This Day in Esoteric Political History

Jody Avirgan & Radiotopia

We’re living in unprecedented times. Maybe. In this show, Jody Avirgan (538, 30for30, TED) and historians Nicole Hemmer (Vanderbilt) and Kellie Carter Jackson (Wellesley) take one moment, big or small, from that day in U.S. political history and explore how it might inform our present –– all in about fifteen minutes.

New episodes release Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. Sign up for the newsletter and more at ThisDayPod.com. We’re also posting about moments from the past @thisdaypod on Threads and Instagram. If you have a suggestion for a topic, get in touch.

This Day In Esoteric Political History is a proud member of the Radiotopia podcast network from PRX.

We’re living in unprecedented times. Maybe. In this show, Jody Avirgan (538, 30for30, TED) and historians Nicole Hemmer (Vanderbilt) and Kellie Carter Jackson (Wellesley) take one moment, big or small, from that day in U.S. political history and explore how it might inform our present –– all in about fifteen minutes.

New episodes release Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. Sign up for the newsletter and more at ThisDayPod.com. We’re also posting about moments from the past @thisdaypod on Threads and Instagram. If you have a suggestion for a topic, get in touch.

This Day In Esoteric Political History is a proud member of the Radiotopia podcast network from PRX.

208hr 35min
Thumbnail for "Why William Henry Harrison Really Died (1841)".
Thumbnail for "Third Parties Week: Ralph Nader, Spoiler? (2000)".
Thumbnail for "Third Party Week: Who Goes Third Party? w/ Dave Weigel".
Thumbnail for "Lift Every Voice And Sing (1900) [Juneteenth Archive Episode]".
Thumbnail for "Coretta Scott Weds Martin Luther King (1953)".
Thumbnail for "The Sad Saga of the Late Lester Hunt (1953)".
Thumbnail for "We Refuse Week: Joy In Refusal, From Black Panther to The Boat Brawl".
Thumbnail for "We Refuse Week: Carrie Johnson Kills A Police Officer".
Thumbnail for "We Refuse Week: Kellie's Family History of Resistance".
Thumbnail for "How Many Presidents? (1787) w/ A.J. Jacobs".
Thumbnail for "The Incident That Led Ida B. Wells To Flee Memphis (1892)".
Thumbnail for "War Stories: A Confederate Day of Fasting and Prayer (1863)".
Thumbnail for "War Stories: The Port Chicago Mutiny (1944)".
Thumbnail for "War Stories: Camp Casey (2005)".
Thumbnail for "War Stories: The Vietnam Draft Lottery Gets Exposed (1970)".
Thumbnail for "The "Louie Louie" Freakout (1964)".
Thumbnail for "Nixon Attacked In Caracas (1958)".
Thumbnail for "The Jefferson Davis Trial That Wasn't (1867)".
Thumbnail for "What Do We Call The President? w/ A.J. Jacobs".
Thumbnail for "The Chinese Exclusion Act (1882)".
Thumbnail for "A Deep Dive Into The Cultural Cold War (1960) w/ Benjamen Walker".
Thumbnail for "Pepsi Trades Soda For Soviet Warships (1989)".
Thumbnail for "The Columbia Protests (1968)".
Thumbnail for "Veepstakes Week: JFK Picks LBJ (1960)".
Thumbnail for "Veepstakes Week: The Legend Of The Sarah Palin Cruise Ship (2007)".
Thumbnail for "Veepstakes Week: Does A VP Pick Matter?".
Thumbnail for "The Great San Francisco Earthquake (1906)".
Thumbnail for "Walter Cronkite's America (1962)".
Thumbnail for "George W. Bush Meets With Gay Voters (2000) w/ Neil J. Young".
Thumbnail for "Democrats Seize Power In South Carolina (1877)".
Thumbnail for "Marian Anderson Sings On The Steps Of The Lincoln Memorial (1939)".
Thumbnail for "Wisconsin Tries To Recall Scott Walker (2012)".
Thumbnail for "The Richmond Bread Riots (1863)".
Thumbnail for "Truman Says He Won't Seek Re-Election (1952)".
A sitting Democratic president bows out in the spring before an election
Thumbnail for "The Slaveowner Executed for Killing His Slave (1839)".
A very rare case of accountability
Thumbnail for "DC Plants The Cherry Blossoms (1912)".
A lobbying campaign blossoms
Thumbnail for "Lincoln's Avenger And The Aftermath Of Assassination (1894) [[Archive Episode]]".
Lincoln's ultimate avenger
Thumbnail for "Montana Enshrines a Right To Privacy (1972)".
A constitutional convention locks in some key provisions
Thumbnail for "The First Government Shutdown Fight (1879)".
Government funding gets held hostage
Thumbnail for "The Shamrock Summit (1985)".
US-Canada relations are helped out by Irish bonds
Thumbnail for "FDR Says Bottoms Up (1933)".
A new president prioritizes low ABV
Thumbnail for "Kennedy's Latin American Marshall Plan (1964)".
An ambitious plan to rebuild a critical region falls flat
Thumbnail for "Hoover Almost Takes Over Baseball (1951)".
The top G-Man almost takes over the top sport
Thumbnail for "When "Primary" Became A Verb (2004)".
How modern primaries exacerbate the divide
Thumbnail for "The Ask President Carter 1-900 Number (1977)".
Direct access to the President - via 900 number
Thumbnail for "Hangers On Week: Al Smith and Remakes The Democratic Party".
A party remakes itself
Thumbnail for "Hangers On Week: Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition".
A rainbow coalition emerges
Thumbnail for "Hangers On Week: Sowing The Seeds of Trump".
Our look at some early failed candidates who nevertheless set the template for Trump
Thumbnail for "Hangers On Week: Why Candidates Stick Around w/ Amy Walter".
The policy warriors, punchlines, media hounds and more who just stick around...
Thumbnail for "Malcolm X Is Assassinated (1965)".
A seemingly inevitable event unfolds in Harlem
Thumbnail for "Dick Cheney Shoots His Friend In The Face (2006)".
A hunting accident turns into a punchline and scandal
Thumbnail for "NJ Law Calls For "Gradual Emancipation Of Slaves" (1804)".
The law codifies the harsh reality on the ground
Thumbnail for "The FDR Assassination Attempt (1933)".
A true sliding doors moment
Thumbnail for "Mandela Released From Prison (1990)".
A South African leader emerges
Thumbnail for "The First Execution By Gas Chamber (1924)".
A new supposedly more humane method of killing
Thumbnail for "Lockheed Caught Bribing The Japanese Government (1976)".
A bribery scandal during an era of corporate malfeasance
Thumbnail for "FDR's Court-Packing Plan Backfires (1937)".
An emboldened president tries to get rid of a major obstacle
Thumbnail for "The Sketchy Deal That Makes Hayes President (1877)".
The real corrupt bargain ends reconstruction.
Thumbnail for "Groundhog Day's Very Weird Origins (1877)".
The elixir of life - but only for Phil
Thumbnail for "A Brawl In Congress (1798) w/ Joanne Freeman".
An early incident of political violence
Thumbnail for "No Nukes In Space (1967)".
The Cold War superpowers lower the temperature in space
Thumbnail for "Why Do We Vote On Tuesday? (1845)".
How we got our voting day
Thumbnail for "Ed Roberts, Father Of Independent Living (2010)".
A day to commemorate a disability rights pioneer
Thumbnail for "Marion Barry Caught Smoking Crack (1990)".
DC's Beloved Mayor gets stung
Thumbnail for "The Pentagon, The Building (1943)".
The military industrial complex gets a new home
Thumbnail for "America's Biggest Slave Rebellion (1811)".
Charles Deslondes leads a revolt in Orleans
Thumbnail for "America Drags Its Feet on MLK Day (1986)".
Why it took almost 20 years to get a federal holiday
Thumbnail for "The Children's Blizzard (1888)".
A deadly storm changes weather forecasting forever
Thumbnail for "Jefferson's Wall Between Church and State (1802)".
A phrase appears in a fateful letter
Thumbnail for "Vietnam Draft Lottery Is Exposed (1970) w/ Walt Hickey".
Statistical analysis uncovers a problem with huge consequences
Thumbnail for "Ike vs. Squirrels (1955) [Archive Episode]".
Ike's very twisted war on squirrels
Thumbnail for "The Great Idaho Beaver Parachute Drop (1948) w/ Ian Chillag".
The only possible solution to the beaver re-location problem
Thumbnail for "A Bombing At LaGuardia Airport (1975)".
11 killed and 74 injured when a bomb goes off in the baggage claim
Thumbnail for "The Assassination of Harry and Harriette Moore (1951)".
Two early civil rights activists are killed on Christmas Day
Thumbnail for "How Puzzles Explain WWII w/ A.J. Jacobs".
The NYT finally enters the crossword craze
Thumbnail for "The First Crossword (1913) w/ A.J. Jacobs".
A puzzle craze takes off
Thumbnail for "Poor Richard's Almanack (1732)".
A book of aphorisms that (largely) stand the test of time
Thumbnail for "When Flying Got Miserable (1978) w/ Ganesh Sitaraman".
How deregulation undermined the glamour of travel
Thumbnail for "Alaskan Natives Embrace Capitalism (1971)".
Alaskan tribes have to embrace, and contend, with American-style economics
Thumbnail for "The Garment Strikes Before Triangle Shirtwaist (1909)".
New context for the strikes and tragedies of garment fire
Thumbnail for "Louis Riel Needs Grant's Help (1875)".
A Canadian fighter seeks the U.S. President's assistance
Thumbnail for "Lā Kū'oko'a aka Hawaiian Independence Day (1843)".
What does independence mean, exactly, for the Hawaiian islands?
Thumbnail for "Du Bois Joins The Communist Party (1961)".
A leading thinker makes a late-in-life proclamation
Thumbnail for "The First Phone In The White House (1878)".
President Hayes embraces a new technology
Thumbnail for "The Alcatraz Occupation (1969) w/ Julian Brave Noisecat [[Archive Episode]]".
A 19-month occupation of Alcatraz Island begins
Thumbnail for "The Hopis On Alcatraz (1894)".
A group of men is detained
Thumbnail for "A Thanksgiving Potluck!".
Our favorite food, drink and dessert stories
Thumbnail for "JFK Almost Assassinated (1960) [Revisited]".
An attempt on the President-elect's life
Thumbnail for "Joe Hill's Last Will (1915)".
Jody finally gets to talk about his undergraduate thesis!
Thumbnail for "Pence Gets Booed At "Hamilton" (2016)".
A theater becomes a moment of political confrontation
Thumbnail for "Henry Ford Contests An Election (1918)".
A businessman tries politics
Thumbnail for "The Exploding Whale (1970)".
A town decides on the worst way to get rid of a beached whale
Thumbnail for ""The Demon of Andersonville" Executed for War Crimes (1865)".
General Wirz, the only Confederate commander executed for war crimes
Thumbnail for "An Explosion Rocks The Capitol (1983)".
A little-known resistance group plants a bomb
Thumbnail for "Elected While In A Coma (1980)".
Gladys Spellman wins re-election while in a life-ending coma
Thumbnail for "The Unmarked Grave (2019) w/ Joe Richman ".
NYC's mass burial site is opening up
Thumbnail for "The Americans Fighting In Spain (1938) w/ Adam Hochschild".
The Lincoln Brigade joins the fight
Thumbnail for "The Donora Killer Smog (1948)".
A factory town suffers the consequences
Thumbnail for "NOW is Next (1966)".
A new women's right's org takes a stand
Thumbnail for "Colin + Obama (2008) w/ Leah Wright Rigueur".
Why Colin Powell rebuked his own party
Thumbnail for ""The Jazz Singer" and Hollywood Empire (1927) w/ Walt Hickey".
America's movie industry becomes a political force
Thumbnail for "Trump Shows Up In New Hampshire (1987) w/ Robert Fleegler".
An early tease at a political career
Thumbnail for "Carter Restores Jefferson Davis's Citizenship (1978)".
Did Jefferson Davis even want this?!
Thumbnail for ""Operation Clark County" Totally Backfires (2004)".
A British letter-writing campaign steps into US politics
Thumbnail for "The Real Free State of Jones (1863)".
A Mississippi county rebels against the confederacy
Thumbnail for "The Scrub Bull Trials (1919)".
Inferior stock goes on trial
Thumbnail for "The Poisoned Tylenol Panic (1982)".
Poisoned medicine and a crisis for J&J
Thumbnail for "Italy Invades Ethiopia, World Freaks Out (1935) w/ Isaac-Davy Aronson".
Fault lines emerge as Mussolini makes a move against Ethiopia
Thumbnail for "The Hiroshima Maidens (1955) w/ Josh Levin".
A group of women injured in the Hiroshima bombing come to the U.S.
Thumbnail for "Yeltsin Refuses To Leave The Plane (1994)".
The Russian PM is... indisposed
Thumbnail for ""Actually, You Forgot Poland" (2004)".
A clever comeback goes wrong
Thumbnail for "Big Dig Energy (1983) w/ Ian Coss".
A major infrastructure project goes oh so wrong
Thumbnail for "Stanislav Petrov Prevents Armageddon (1983)".
Mutually assured destruction almost happens
Thumbnail for "'The West Wing' Premieres (1999) w/ Hrishikesh Hirway".
A show sets a political and cultural template
Thumbnail for "The First Anti-Amalgamation Law (1664)".
Trying to codify interracial relationship
Thumbnail for "What YOU Learned On Your Summer Travels".
Lots of great stories of history from our listeners
Thumbnail for "The Case For Capitalism (1970) w/ Noel King".
Milton Friedman pens the shareholder theory
Thumbnail for "The Reagan's Prime-Time Drug Address (1986) w/ Donovan X Ramsey".
A prime-time address to push Just Say No
Thumbnail for "The First Food Nutrition Labels (1971) w/ Xaq Frohlich".
An activist tries to make labels more helpful
Thumbnail for "Upton Sinclair's Epic Run For Governor (1933)".
A muckraker turns to politics
Thumbnail for "What We Learned On Our Summer Travels".
A special episode about our various historical travels
Thumbnail for "Adam Mckay is Morris The Cat (1992) [[Archive Episode]]".
Adam McKay's big breakthrough
Thumbnail for "The Man Who Killed The Man Who Killed Lincoln (1894) [[Archive Episode]]".
Lincoln's ultimate avenger
Thumbnail for "Fred Korematsu's Internment (1942) [[Archive Episode]]".
A battle over racist internment
Thumbnail for "Missouri's Early Emancipation Proclamation (1861)".
A frontier state goes rogue on the slavery question
Thumbnail for "The Bridge To Nowhere (2005)".
An Alaskan infrastructure project becomes a pork-barrel controversy
Thumbnail for "Nat Turner's Community (1831) w/ Vanessa Holden [[Archive Episode]]".
The untold story of Nat Turner's rebellion
Thumbnail for "The Steam Tunnel Incident and the D&D Panic (1979)".
A troubled kid becomes a media and moral panic sensation
Thumbnail for "The Smithsonian, Great Idea (1846)".
The political process that led to our greatest institution
Thumbnail for ""Macaca" (2006) w/ Peter Hamby [[Archive Episode]]".
George Allen's racist quip causes an early viral moment.
Thumbnail for "Budd Trips Decker at the '84 Olympics (1984)".
An incredibly fraught sporting dustup
Thumbnail for "Clinton Finds Life On Mars (1996)".
A fascinating rock leads to a big announcement
Thumbnail for "The Roots of "Roots" (1976) [[Archive Episode]]".
Alex Haley's sprawling epic causes a sensation
Thumbnail for "Clean Up After Your Dog! (1978)".
Hey, you, clean up after your dog!
Thumbnail for "The Subway Vigilante (1984) w/ Leon Neyfakh".
A flashpoint in NYC safety
Thumbnail for "The Irish-American Gun-Runners (1973) w/ Nate Lavey [[Archive Episode]]".
The Fort Worth Five and the US-IRA nexus
Thumbnail for "Thunderation! The Speaker Demands Bean Soup (1904)".
The speaker of the house demands bean soup
Thumbnail for "The Plot To Blow Up Hell Gate Bridge (1942) w/ Rebecca Seidel".
A Nazi plot to bomb American infrastructure
Thumbnail for "The Beer Summit (2009)  [[Archive Episode]]".
A cold one to help solve race relations
Thumbnail for "The Szilard Anti-Nuke Petition (1945)".
A petition tries to raise the moral alarm about nuclear deployment
Thumbnail for "The Ft Ontario Holocaust Refugees (1944) w/ Sarah Botstein".
The only group of refugees to make it to US soil
Thumbnail for "The Lost Robert E. Lee Oath Theory (1975) w/ John Reeves [[Archive Episode]]".
100 years after his death, Congress rescues Robert E Lee
Thumbnail for "Hubert Humphrey Takes Center Stage (1948) w/ Samuel G Freedman".
A young mayor takes a stand on civil rights
Thumbnail for "Skylab Crashes Back To Earth (1979)".
You have one bad day...
Thumbnail for "Nativists vs Catholics in Philadelphia (1844) [[Archive Episode]]".
The city of brotherly shove
Thumbnail for "L'Enfant Maps Out DC (1791) w/ Scott W Berg".
How the city got its layout
Thumbnail for "Napalming Harvard's Soccer Field (1942)".
The first ever napalm test, right on campus
Thumbnail for "The Great American Roadtrip (1956) w/ Eddie Alterman [[Archive Episode]]".
The highway system connects America
Thumbnail for "The Abortion Pill Protest (1992) w/ TJ Raphael".
A push to legalize the abortion pill
Thumbnail for "Readmitting Rebel States (1868)".
The very rocky process of bringing southern states back into the fold
Thumbnail for "Flag Burning Is Free Speech (1989) w/ Michael Liroff".
A landmark free speech case
Thumbnail for "Superman vs KKK (1946)".
The Clan of the Fiery Cross
Thumbnail for "Nightwalking w/ Bianca Giaever".
Some thoughts on nighttime ambulation
Thumbnail for "Lift Every Voice and Sing (1900)".
The Black national anthem's winding road
Thumbnail for "The Seligman Affair (1877) w/ Zev Eleff".
Antisemitism explodes in high society
Thumbnail for "The Challenger Disaster Final Report (1986)".
A commission identifies technical and bureaucratic roots of failure
Thumbnail for "Death On The Lot: Hattie McDaniel's Fight w/ Hadley Meares and Brian Steele".
The first Black Oscar winner, and the burgeoning civil rights movement
Thumbnail for "Death On The Lot: Hollywood's Wild Labor History w/ Brian Steele and Hadley Meares".
How labor unions in Hollywood were corrupted and smeared
Thumbnail for "The Obama Oral History Project Is Here".
A big new project that our very own Nicole Hemmer worked on
Thumbnail for "An Ode To The Obit w/ Don Van Natta and Jacob Feldman".
A great obit is a great profile
Thumbnail for "You Get A Podcast!".
Kellie's Oprah show is back, here's a taste of the first episode!
Thumbnail for "Etan Patz And The Rise Of "Stranger Danger" (1979)".
An NYC child goes missing, and panic over childhood abductions sweeps the country
Thumbnail for "Memorial Rerun: The Vietnam Memorial Controversy".
Our look at the Vietnam memorial's design and controversy
Thumbnail for "Addy, American Girl Doll (Part 2) w/ Aisha Harris".
A deep dive into what Addy meant
Thumbnail for "American Girl Doll (Part 1) w/ Aisha Harris".
What the American Girl Doll line says about American history
Thumbnail for "William Burns, America's Sherlock Holmes (1934)".
America's Sherlock Holmes
Thumbnail for "The Bath School Bombing (1927)".
A massacre at a Michigan school
Thumbnail for "Wounded Knee '73 (1973)".
An occupation as part of the modern civil rights movement
Thumbnail for "RFK's Fateful Meeting With Baldwin And Belafonte (1963) w/ Paul Kix".
A critical Civil Rights meeting in the wake of the Birmingham campaign
Thumbnail for "The Gaston Bombing in Birmingham (1963) w/ Paul Kix".
A critical spring in the civil rights movement
Thumbnail for "Biden Spoils Obama's Gay Marriage Evolution (2012) w/ Sasha Issenberg".
Biden gaffes his way into civil rights
Thumbnail for "Clinton Boxers or Briefs (1994) w/ Kelsey and Alex from Normal Gossip".
MTV plays politics
Thumbnail for "Anne Royall, Common Scold (1826) w/ Kelsey and Alex from Normal Gossip".
An early scandal journalist and common scold
Thumbnail for "USS Jamestown Helps Ireland (1847)".
A US ship brings food to a famished Ireland
Thumbnail for "The Caning of Michael Fay (1994)".
An American is punished in Singapore
Thumbnail for "The Abu Ghraib Photos (2004)".
Photos of abuse by American troops cause a scandal
Thumbnail for "Sybill's Midnight Ride (1777)".
She could have been Paul Revere