When Malcolm X was assassinated at 39, his book nearly died with him. Today it stands as a milestone in America’s struggle with race.
More American Icons
Friday, January 03, 2014
In April, the band Nirvana is being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — it’s been 25 years since the release of their first album, a gnarly piece of late punk called Bleach. But it was their second album, from 1991, that made them famous. It was angry and bracingly cynical ...
Friday, November 29, 2013
It's been over seventy years since movie audiences first watched The Wizard of Oz. Meet the original man behind the curtain, L. Frank Baum, who had all the vision of Walt Disney, but none of the business sense. Discover how Oz captivated the imaginations of Russians living under Soviet rule ...
Friday, November 01, 2013
One of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ancestors was a judge in the Salem witch trials. In his novel of early America, Hawthorne explores the tension between our deeply ingrained Puritanism and our celebration of personal freedom. Hester Prynne was American literature’s first heroine, a fallen woman who’s not ashamed of her sin ...
Friday, October 25, 2013
Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin to promote the abolitionist cause. So how did Uncle Tom become the byword for a race traitor — a “shuffling, kowtowing, sniveling coward”? A scholar traces Tom’s unfortunate journey through pop culture, and a controversial writer who’s been called an Uncle Tom decides to own it ...
Friday, October 18, 2013
Generations of Americans have grown up with Walt Disney shaping our imaginations. We’ll tour Disneyland with its art director, a second-generation Imagineer, who explains why even the trash cans are magic. In Florida, urban planner Andres Duany shows how a theme park helped reimagine city life; Tom Hanks, the first person to play Walt Disney on screen, and futurist Cory Doctorow explain how Disney made them kids for life.
Friday, October 11, 2013
In the 1980s, Cindy Sherman began taking self-portraits that showed her in costumes and scenarios that looked just like movie stills, although they were her own inventions. In a media-saturated age, Untitled Film Stills have influenced a generation of artists as well as pop stars who play with identity as a kind of performance.
Friday, October 04, 2013
How do you build a monument to a war that was more tragic than triumphant? Maya Lin was practically a kid when she got the commission to design the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall. Her minimalistic granite wall was derided by one vet as a “black gash of shame.” But inscribed with the name of every fallen soldier, it became a sacred place for veterans and their families, and it influenced later designs like the National September 11 Memorial.
Friday, September 27, 2013
Walt Whitman set out to invent a radically new form of poetry for a new nation. His book was first viewed as bizarre and obscene — one reviewer said that the author should be publicly flogged. But revising and adding to the book until his death, Whitman accomplished his goal, creating a new Bible for American poets.
Friday, September 20, 2013
Ken Kesey had worked in a mental hospital, but his first novel was really a parable of what happens when you stand up to the Man – a counterculture fable that doesn’t end well. We visit Oregon State Hospital, where the film was shot, Louise Fletcher describes what it was like to play one of the top movie villains, and Sherman Alexie debunks the myth of the silent Indian.
Friday, September 13, 2013
Cole Porter lived in Europe during the 1920s, and returned to American to write a sharp satire of this freewheeling era that has outlived the people and events it referred to. Music historian Will Friedwald explains how Frank Sinatra saved the song, and we hear a new version written by Joe Keenan.
Friday, September 06, 2013
The story of a young man in the ghetto who turns to murder was an overnight sensation. But some think Native Son exploited the worst stereotypes of black youth. We trace the line from Bigger Thomas to Notorious B.I.G., and visit a high school drama class acting out Native Son, and struggling to grasp the racism their grandparents experienced.
Friday, August 02, 2013
This September, we'll launch a new season of our award-winning documentary series American Icons. We'll look at Richard Wright's Native Son, the Disney theme parks, The Vietnam Veteran's Memorial, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and many more great works of ...
Monday, July 08, 2013
Over the past year, Studio 360 has been producing new episodes of our American Icons series. I'm working on a program about Richard Wright's 1940 novel, Native Son. One of the strangest artifacts I've run into is this 7-minute video of the author himself, playing his most infamous ...
Friday, July 05, 2013
In 1942, Aaron Copland was commissioned to write a score for the choreographer Martha Graham. Dance and music in America have never been the same. Their ballet Appalachian Spring looks at the tension between community and individualism through the story ...
Friday, July 05, 2013
Lily is a smart single woman, a beauty in demand on the party circuit. But Lily is nearing thirty, and struggling to manage money, friendships, and romance. In The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton examined the dangerous compromises facing a woman who wants ...
Friday, July 05, 2013
It’s been a century-and-a-half since a minstrel tune called “Dixie” debuted in New York. The song went viral, and soon North and South alike were whistling “Dixie.” With the outbreak of the Civil War, “Dixie” became an anthem of the antebellum way of life. And today ...
Friday, May 31, 2013
Kurt Andersen goes up, up and away with Superman and finds out why "The Man of Steel" remains as popular and elusive as ever.
Friday, April 19, 2013
“Migrant Mother” was one of thousands of pictures Dorothea Lange took on assignment for the federal government, documenting the poverty of the Dust Bowl. Before it had that iconic title, the 1936 photo was captioned “Destitute peapickers in California.” But this was the one that stuck ...
Friday, February 01, 2013
Emily Dickinson is one of those writers whose life is as famous as her writing: after she died, having spent much of her life writing at home, her sister found nearly two thousand poems in her bureau. "Because I Could Not Stop for Death," Dickinson’s fantasy of getting picked up by the grim reaper ...