More American Icons

American Icons: Native Son

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.

Video: Author Richard Wright's screen test for the film adaptation of Native Son

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American Icons: Season 3 Preview

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 ...

Listen to a preview

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Richard Wright as Bigger Thomas

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 ...

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Why the Song Dixie Continues to Divide Americans

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 ...

Bonus Track: Elvis Sings "Dixie"

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American Icons: Appalachian Spring

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 ...

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American Icons: The House of Mirth

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 ...

Bonus Track: Jonathan Franzen on Edith Wharton

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American Icons: Superman

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.

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American Icons: Migrant Mother

Friday, April 19, 2013

Before it had that iconic title, the 1936 photo we know as "Migrant Mother" was captioned “Destitute peapickers in California.” 

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American Icons: Because I Could Not Stop for Death

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 ...

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American Icons: John Henry

Friday, February 01, 2013

In the ballad, told countless times over more than a century, the railroad worker John Henry wins a race against a new steam-powered drill, but the victory is Pyrrhic: he collapses, saying “Give me a cool drink of water before I die.” “Did he win? Did he lose?,” wonders novelist Colson Whitehead ...

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American Icons: The Outsiders

Friday, February 01, 2013

Susan Eloise Hinton was a teenager when she wrote The Outsiders, the story of rival gangs in Oklahoma. She bought a Camaro with the earnings.

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American Icons: I Love Lucy

Friday, November 09, 2012

It set the model for the hit family sitcom. Lucy's weekly antics and humiliation entered the DNA of TV comedy: from Desperate Housewives to 30 Rock – writers can’t live without Lucy.

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American Icons: The Wizard of Oz

Friday, October 19, 2012

Kurt Andersen follows the yellow brick road through America’s favorite story and discovers places in the Land of Oz more wonderful, and weirder, than you ever imagined.

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American Icons: Warhol's Soup Cans

Friday, September 21, 2012

Around 1961, Andy Warhol started painting cans of Campbell's soup, in all 32 varieties. He liked to tell people that his mother made him Campbell's soup and that's why he painted it. The soup cans are probably the most recognizable images in American art, and Warhol intended ...

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American Icons: Television's Dallas

Friday, May 25, 2012

Dallas has been off the air for 20 years but it's still considered one of the most successful television shows in history. Next month the cable network TNT will launch a new season of the series. We sent Julia Barton to Southfork Ranch (and beyond) to understand ...

Slideshow: Southfork — At Home and Abroad

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American Icons: The Outsiders

Friday, May 04, 2012

Susan Eloise Hinton was a teenager when she wrote The Outsiders, the story of rival gangs in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She used the pen name “S.E.” so readers wouldn’t know she was a girl, and bought a Camaro with the earnings. “Some of [the novel’s] faults, like its over-the-top emotions and ...

Slideshow: How The Outsiders became a movie

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American Icons: Monticello

Friday, February 17, 2012

This is the home of America’s aspirations and its deepest contradictions. Thomas Jefferson was as passionate about building his house as he was about founding the United States. Yet Monticello was a plantation worked by slaves, some of them Jefferson’s own children.

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American Icons: Moby-Dick

Friday, December 30, 2011

In this Peabody Award-winning show, Kurt Andersen sets sail in search of the great white whale.

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American Icons: The House of Mirth

Friday, November 11, 2011

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 to set her own destiny ...

Comments [3]

American Icons: Nirvana's Nevermind

Friday, September 16, 2011

Twenty years ago this month, a new sound blasted the cobwebs out of every radio station in America. It was angry and bracingly cynical; the album featured a naked baby swimming toward a dollar bill dangling on a fish hook, and it went #1 in the blink of an eye. In the words of music scholar Joshua Clover ...

Video: "Smells Like Teen Spirit"

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