History

Library of Congress

Iowa Writer’s Workshop graduate Nick Dybek’s latest book tells a mysterious story set in the aftermath of one of World War I’s most horrific encounters, the Battle of Verdun.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Dybek about his new book, The Verdun Affair: A Novel, about the battle and its aftermath.

Jacob Riis

What does it mean to be “an American?” How has that identity changed over the decades?

 

This hour, host Ben Kieffer talks with presidential historian Tim Walch and Rene Rocha, director of the Latino Studies department at the University of Iowa, about the history of immigration policy in the U.S.

 

“[Throughout history,] there are periods of tension against every group that have arrived that are different from the model or the norm, which is White Anglo-Saxon males from Great Britain,” says Walch.

 

Annals of Iowa

The State Historical Society of Iowa is trying to get a better handle on Iowa’s place in the African-American civil rights movement. It’s setting out to locate properties that might help tell the story of this in-state struggle for equality.

Over the next two-and-a-half years, researchers will be looking for workplaces, churches, schools, neighborhoods, any public place where people were fighting for civil rights in Iowa during the 20th Century.

An architectural historian with the Historical Society, Paula Mohr, says it’s difficult to know how many such places exist.

State Historical Society of Iowa

One hundred years ago this month, then Governor William Harding signed an executive order declaring English the official language of the state. The Babel Proclamation banned languages other than English from being spoken in schools, churches, in public, and even on the telephone. 

Ames Historical Society Website

For the past three years, Iowa State University's "Teaching and Learning Iowa History" series has taught courses about social justice in Iowa. This summer, a new course will highlight American Indian Iowans and their contributions to social movements in the state.

Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

One of the latest Iowa listings on the National Register of Historic Places is the building that now houses the Center Point Depot Museum. It was once a main stop on the train line that ran between Cedar Rapids and Waterloo.

The Center Point Depot was built in 1914. It was one of eight such depots owned by the Waterloo, Cedar Falls and Northern Railroad, which operated an electric passenger and freight service known as the interurban. The secretary of the Center Point Historical Society, Sharron Hannen, says it was a mainstay of travel in eastern Iowa prior to World War Two.

Francis Benjamin Johnston / Library of Congress

George Washington Carver's journey from slavery to scientific accomplishment has inspired millions. But over time, many of his greatest accomplishments have been overshadowed by his reputation as "that peanut man."

Charity Nebbe / Iowa Public Radio

From pick-up games to organized leagues, every hometown team has its heroes. Hometown sports continue to shape and unite us in towns, cities, and states across the country.

In Mount Vernon, a traveling exhibit from the Smithsonian’s "Museum on Main Street Program" is working to celebrate local sports heroes and the broader impact of athletics on our communities. “Hometown Teams: How Sports Shape America” will be on display at the First Street Community Center from March 18 to April 29, 2018.

Harper Collins

Robert de la Rochefoucald was captured by the Nazis three times during World War II. He was an aristocrat, educated in Europe's finest schools, turned Special Operations Executive in the French resistance. The stories of his escapes sound like something straight from an Ian Fleming novel, except they're true.

Alessio Maffeis

There comes a time when every new generation has to learn about one of the greatest atrocities in world history: the Holocaust. This year's Holocaust Remembrance Day is on April 12, and how we learn about and remember the Holocaust as survivors pass away is evolving.

On this Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe is joined by Jeremy Best, assistant professor of history at Iowa State University, and Dan Reynolds, Seth Richards professor at Grinnell and author of Postcards from Auschwitz: Holocaust Tourism and the Meaning of Remembrance.

VALERIE MACON/GETTY IMAGES + ANONYMOUS/AP IMAGES

Just over sixty years ago in September of 1957, Terrence Roberts and eight other young people became the first African American students at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. These nine students, known as the Little Rock Nine, faced mobs of angry protesters as they tried to enter the school.

After several weeks of resistance from both the state and the community, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent U.S. Army troops to accompany the students to school for protection. However, the Little Rock Nine continued to face violence and discrimination once inside Central High.

Screenshot

The woman who taught Amelia Earhart how to fly was from Iowa. 

If you just read that and thought, "what?! I didn't know that!" you're not alone.

Photo Courtesy of Karen Forsling

Long time Iowa broadcaster and public radio pioneer Don Forsling passed away February 6th at the age of 80.  

He had a radio career that spanned more than 50 years. Nearly forty of those years were spent at WOI radio in Ames, now part of the Iowa Public Radio network. Forsling held a number of different positions at WOI including station manager, but he is best known as the original host of Talk of Iowa and a morning variety show called, The Morning Report.

Damon Taylor

In two out the past five presidential elections, the candidate who became president was not the one most Americans voted for. In this River to River program, host Ben Kieffer explores why our founding fathers created the Electoral College to elect presidents instead of relying on the popular vote.

Guests are presidential historian Tim Walch and University of Iowa political scientist Cary Covington. They examine the historical rationale behind the Electoral College and efforts to change its influence.

New York Times

Although it goes by the humble name "M.910," an ancient manuscript book knows as a "codex" at the Morgan Library in New York City is on its way to a high-tech adventure.  Written in Coptic script by monks somewhere between 400 and 600 A.D., scholars such as the University of Iowa's Paul Dilley are excited that it may soon become legible for the first time.

NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with presidential historian Tim Walch and political scientist Rachel Caufield to mark one year of Trump in office.  They examine how he has defied convention when compared with other modern presidents.

They examine themes including: accomplishments and public approval at the one year mark, how presidents deal with criticism, their relationship to their cabinets, and how they have justified and spoken of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Tim Evanson/Flickr

On this edition of River to River, we listen back to conversations from 2017 about milestones.

2017 marked the 60th anniversary of the launch of the world’s first artificial satellite: Sputnik 1. In October, Ben Kieffer spoke with longtime space scientist Don Gurnett to talk about how that momentous event instilled fear in America and marked the start of the space race with the Soviet Union. 

Gurnett is a physics and astronomy professor at the University of Iowa.

Christopher Gannon / courtesy of ISU

An Iowa State University professor’s lecture on what people ate during the Great Depression will be getting an audience well beyond her classroom.

History professor Pamela Riney-Kehrberg teaches a class called America Eats, which she describes as a food history of the United States. It caught the attention of C-SPAN, which filmed her this fall giving a lecture on the Great Depression.

Riney-Kehrberg says both food and the Great Depression seem to be topics that interest a broad array of people, which is why it felt like a good fit for C-SPAN’s national audience.

Russian Revolution at 100

Nov 17, 2017
Georgi Anatoliévitch Zelma (Cassowary Colorizations) / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode

It was one of the defining moments of the 20th century with repercussions up to the present day. On this River to River program, we remember the Russian Revolution one hundred years ago. Drake University historian and native Russian Natalie Bayer and University of Iowa political scientist Bill Reisinger join the conversation.  They talk through the fall of the Tsarist autocracy and the rise and fall of the Soviet Union.  It's a story that threads through to the present day in Putin’s Russia. 

Lucas Cranach the Elder - The Bridgeman Art Library, Object 13642 / Wikimedia Commons

Five hundred years ago, a rebellious German monk named Martin Luther, who was disgusted with what he saw as corruption in the Catholic Church, started a movement that dramatically changed the face of Christianity. During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Ray Mentzer, professor of religious studies at the University of Iowa, and Greg Prickman, who is head of special collections at the University of Iowa. 

Mentzer says that while Martin Luther did write letters to the Catholic Church, he did not nail them to the door to declare his grievances. 

Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

The West Des Moines shopping district known as Valley Junction is officially joining the National Register of Historic Places. The designation makes buildings in the neighborhood eligible for various preservation tax credits.

Nodaway Valley Historical Museum

This weekend citizens from a southwest Iowa community’s past will come back to life for the Nodaway Valley Historical Museum seventh annual cemetery walk.

Reenactors will revive 11 people buried in the Clarinda Cemetery. This isn’t a spooky event, but rather one that allows people from in and around Page County to learn about local history. 

Nodaway Valley Historical Museum curator Trish Okamoto says researching each of the departed takes about a year.

IowaPolitics.com / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode (cropped, light and color adjustment from original)

During the writing his forthcoming book, Todd Pettys says he came across many interesting aspects of the process Iowans went through to make the state constitution. Pettys is a Professor at the University of Iowa College of Law and H. Blair and Joan V. White Chair in Civil Litigation. His book, The Iowa State Constitution, will be coming out next month and it's a walk-through of the provisions of the constitution.

What Does Patriotism Mean?

Oct 3, 2017
Beverly & Pack / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/legalcode

There has been controversy about what it means to respect or disrespect the American flag and the country itself. What does it mean to be patriotic in 2017, and how have our ideas about patriotism changed over time? During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with historian and former Herbert Hoover Library and Museum Director Tim Walch. 

At the end of the program Walch sums up one aspect: that we are able to have such a discussion at all.

Silar

As a boy growing up in Czechoslovakia, Ivan Backer escaped the Holocaust. In this hour of River to River, Backer recounts how his family fled Europe during World War II.

Backer is the author of My Train to Freedom: A Jewish Boy’s Journey from Nazi Europe to a Life of Activism, in which he opens up about the day he fled Prague under Nazi occupation. He talks about Nicholas Winton, the man on who organized the Kindertransport trains that saved Backer and more than six-hundred other children.

photolibrarian / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/legalcode

Fort Atkinson in Northeast Iowa was built and operated in the 1840s.  After it was no longer used by the military, it deteriorated over many years.  In this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe is joined by Bill Whittaker, Research Director in the Office of the State Archeologist of Iowa.  

Whittaker says that his office did research at the site and was aided through a common archeological exploration of the bathroom.

Celina Karp Biniaz: From Auschwitz to Des Moines

Sep 11, 2017

In a boxcar headed to Switzerland,  13-year-old Celina Karpa "Schindler Jew"was shocked to instead find herself at the Auschwitz concentration camp when the train's doors opened. Soon after, along with hundreds of other women, she was marched into a shower.

"We were wondering, 'are we going to get gas, or are we going to get showers?' You can't imagine the relief, even though we were in Auschwitz, when the water came down."

W.W. Norton & Co.

This hour, host Charity Nebbe speaks live with two Iowa writers, Inara Verzemnieks and Elizabeth Dinschel.

Courtesy of the State Historical Society of Iowa.

A new online collection of primary source materials from Iowa and U.S. history is up and running as of today. The Primary Source Sets contain 174 items, including photographs, maps, audio recordings and documents.

The online collection was created for K-12 educators who are now required to teach Iowa history as part of their curriculums, though anyone can access the materials.

Iowa's Apollo Connection

Jul 24, 2017
NASA Public Domain

Iowa has a connection to the Apollo moon landing, which happened 48 years ago.  The communications equipment in the command module was designed by Collins Radio in Cedar Rapids.  In this portion of River to River, Mike Wilson joins the conversation. He is former VP of operations at Collins Radio and also worked for Rockwell-Collins once that company was formed.  Wilson says they had two sets of equipment in the case.

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