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Scene on Radio

Scene on Radio is a two-time Peabody-nominated podcast that dares to ask big, hard questions about who we are—really—and how we got this way. Previous series include Seeing White (Season 2), looking at the roots and meaning of white supremacy; MEN (Season 3), on patriarchy and its history; The Land That Never Has Been Yet (Season 4), exploring the not-so-accidental failings of democracy in the U.S.; and The Repair (Season 5), on the climate crisis: Where did we go so wrong in our relationship with the rest of the natural world, and who's "we"? Produced and hosted by John Biewen, Scene on Radio comes from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University (CDS) and is distributed by PRX.

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The best episodes ranked using user listens.

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Movement Time

Facts can be ignored by the powers that be and still ignite a movement. An interview with Tim Tyson, author of the new book, The Blood of Emmett Till. Tyson was the first historian or journalist to interview the former Carolyn Bryant, the woman in whose name Emmett Till was murdered in 1955.

45mins

25 Jan 2017

Rank #1

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S4 E1: Rich Man's Revolt

In the American Revolution, the men who revolted were among the wealthiest and most comfortable people in the colonies. What kind of revolution was it, anyway? Was it about a desire to establish democracy—or something else? By producer/host John Biewen with series collaborator Chenjerai Kumanyika. Interviews with Davy Arch, Barbara Duncan, Rob Shenk, and Woody Holton. Edited by Loretta Williams. Music by Algiers, John Erik Kaada, Eric Neveux, and Lucas Biewen. Music consulting and production help from Joe Augustine of Narrative Music.

45mins

8 Jan 2020

Rank #2

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S4 E10: Schooled for Democracy

In most American schools, children *hear about* democracy, but don’t get to *practice* it. What would a more engaged brand of civics education look like? Story reported by Ben James, with host John Biewen and collaborator Chenjerai Kumanyika. Interviews with Arielle Jennings, Hilary Moss, and Nikole Hannah-Jones. The series editor is Loretta Williams. Music by the Summer Street Brass Band, Algiers, John Erik Kaada, Eric Neveux, and Lucas Biewen. Music consulting and production help from Joe Augustine of Narrative Music. Photo: Stephen Buckley, Jelicity Mercado, Bella Goncalves, and Angelica Pareja, eighth-grade students at Pyne Arts Magnet School in Lowell, Massachusetts, with their award at Civics Day in Boston, December 2019.

59mins

13 May 2020

Rank #3

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S4 E2: "The Excess of Democracy"

In the summer of 1787, fifty-five men got together in Philadelphia to write a new Constitution for the United States, replacing the new nation’s original blueprint, the Articles of Confederation. But why, exactly? What problems were the framers trying to solve? Was the Constitution designed to advance democracy, or to rein it in? By producer/host John Biewen with series collaborator Chenjerai Kumanyika. Interviews with Woody Holton, Dan Bullen, and Price Thomas. The series editor is Loretta Williams. Music by Algiers, John Erik Kaada, Eric Neveux, and Lucas Biewen. Music consulting and production help from Joe Augustine of Narrative Music.

46mins

22 Jan 2020

Rank #4

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S3 E7: Himpathy

Several years after Janey was sexually assaulted by her former boyfriend, Mathew, she told some of her closest friends, and her mother, what Mathew had done. Janey was so troubled by her loved ones’ responses, or lack thereof, that she went back to them years later to record conversations about it all. In this episode: Janey’s story, and philosopher Kate Manne, who coined the term “himpathy” in her 2017 book, *Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny. *With co-hosts John Biewen and Celeste Headlee. To hear more of Janey Williams’ story and the conversations she had with friends, check out her podcast, "This Happened", available on most podcast apps and at thishappenedpodcast.com.  Music by Alex Weston, Evgueni and Sacha Galperine, and Kevin MacLeod. Music and production help from Joe Augustine at Narrative Music.

51mins

3 Oct 2018

Rank #5

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The (High School) Mascot Wars

Two small towns, one in Idaho, the other in Upstate New York, try to decide whether to change the nickname of their high school sports teams: The Redskins. (Produced in 2015. Listen for the update at the end.)

26mins

7 Oct 2015

Rank #6

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S4 E3: The Cotton Empire

In the decades after America’s founding and the establishment of the Constitution, did the nation get better, more just, more democratic? Or did it double down on violent conquest and exploitation?   Reported, produced, written, and mixed by John Biewen, with series collaborator Chenjerai Kumanyika. The series editor is Loretta Williams. Interviews with Robin Alario, Edward Baptist, Kidada Williams, and Keri Leigh Merritt. Music by Algiers, John Erik Kaada, Eric Neveux, and Lucas Biewen. Music consulting and production help from Joe Augustine of Narrative Music. 

41mins

5 Feb 2020

Rank #7

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Emmett and Trayvon (Rebroadcast)

There’s a long and painful history in the U.S. of white men killing black men and boys without punishment. In this episode, we listen in on “Dar He,” the one-man play by Mike Wiley that brings to life the story of Emmett Till.

18mins

11 Jan 2017

Rank #8

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S3 E9: Be Like You

Lewis Wallace, female-assigned at birth, wanted to transition in the direction of maleness—in some ways. He shifted his pronouns, had surgery, starting taking testosterone. None of that meant he wanted to embrace everything that our culture associates with “masculinity.” Story written and reported by Lewis Wallace, with co-hosts John Biewen and Celeste Headlee. Music by Alex Weston, Evgueni and Sacha Galperine, and Kevin MacLeod. Music and production help from Joe Augustine at Narrative Music.

38mins

31 Oct 2018

Rank #9

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S3 E3: Skeleton War

A few hundred years ago, the great thinkers of the Enlightenment began to declare that “all men are created equal.” Some of them said that notion should include women, too. Why did those feminists—most of them men, by the way—lose the fight? How did the patriarchy survive the Enlightenment? Co-hosts John Biewen and Celeste Headlee look into these questions, with historians Londa Schiebinger of Stanford and Toby Ditz of Johns Hopkins, and sociologist Lisa Wade of Occidental College. Music by Alex Weston, and by Evgueni and Sacha Galperine. Music and production help from Joe Augustine at Narrative Music.

34mins

8 Aug 2018

Rank #10

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A Level Playing Field?

Two families, both making big investments of time and money to involve their kids in sports. But the investments they’re able to make are very different. In Part 5 of “Contested,” our series on sports, society and culture: Sports and the American Dream.

26mins

4 Nov 2015

Rank #11

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S4 E7: Freedom Summer

In the summer of 1964, about a thousand young Americans, black and white, came together in Mississippi to place themselves in the path of white supremacist power and violence. They issued a bold pro-democracy challenge to the nation and the Democratic Party. Produced by John Biewen, with series collaborator Chenjerai Kumanyika. Interviews with John Lewis, Bob Moses, Unita Blackwell, Hollis Watkins, Dorie Ladner, and many others. The series editor is Loretta Williams. Freedom song recordings courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways. Other music by Algiers, John Erik Kaada, Eric Neveux, and Lucas Biewen. Music consulting and production help from Joe Augustine of Narrative Music.  Photo: A Freedom Summer worker in Mississippi, 1964. Photo by Steve Schapiro.  

1hr 7mins

1 Apr 2020

Rank #12

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Emmett and Trayvon

There’s a long and painful history in the U.S. of white men killing black men and boys without punishment. In this episode, we listen in on “Dar He,” the one-man play by Mike Wiley that brings to life the story of Emmett Till.

15mins

30 Dec 2015

Rank #13

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Hijabis

The surest way for a woman to declare herself a Muslim is to wear the head scarf — the hijab. In these two short pieces, young Muslim women explore the often unwelcome questions and perceptions that come with the scarf, and the deeply personal decision to wear it. Short documentaries by Reem Alfahad and Sofiya Volubuyeva.     

17mins

2 Dec 2015

Rank #14

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S4 E8: The Second Redemption

The conservative, neoliberal counterrevolution in the face of expanding democracy in America: It started long before Donald Trump. Even before Ronald Reagan and his like-minded counterpart across the Atlantic, Margaret Thatcher.   By host and producer John Biewen, with series collaborator Chenjerai Kumanyika. Interviews with Nancy MacLean, Wendy Brown, and Rhon Manigault-Bryant.   The series editor is Loretta Williams. Music by Algiers, John Erik Kaada, Eric Neveux, and Lucas Biewen. Music consulting and production help from Joe Augustine of Narrative Music. 

1hr 3mins

15 Apr 2020

Rank #15

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An Athlete Inside and Out

Tal Ben-Artzi didn’t worry about being an out bisexual athlete at Penn State. Maybe she would have if she’d known the school’s history. How much have times changed? In Part 4 of “Contested,” our series on sports, society and culture: stories of LGBTQ women athletes, past and present.

22mins

21 Oct 2015

Rank #16

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What Men Talk About When They Talk About Sports

Tens of millions of Americans, most of them men, tune in to sports talk radio. Is sports talk a haven for old-school guy talk, including misogyny and gay-bashing? For the final episode in our series on sports and society, “Contested,” host John Biewen listened in.

20mins

18 Nov 2015

Rank #17

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Things I'm Afraid to Say

A refugee from Bosnia. An NYC-born survivor who grew up poor, black, Muslim, and gay. And how one, and her music, saved the other.

20mins

23 Mar 2016

Rank #18

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Hearing Hiroshima

The word “Hiroshima” may bring to mind a black-and-white image of a mushroom cloud. It’s easy to forget that it’s an actual city with a million people and a popular baseball team. How did the cataclysm of 1945 reverberate in the place where it happened? Hearing Hiroshima is a production of Minnesota Public Radio, from American Public Media.

33mins

26 May 2016

Rank #19

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No Santa

A father turns on a recorder while tucking in his 7-year-old, having no idea he’s about to capture a poignant growing-up moment in his son’s life. (Advisory: This episode is not suitable for some young children.)

14mins

16 Dec 2015

Rank #20