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Bob Edwards Weekend (February 28-March 1, 2015)


Political reporter Jesse Holland seeks to answer a big question about notable tourist attractions in the nation’s capital - “Where’s the Black history?” Holland walks and talks with Bob on Capitol Hill about the contributions that African Americans have made to historic sites discussed in his book Black Men Built the Capitol: Discovering African American History In and Around Washington, D.C.

MIT history professor Craig Steven Wilder has documented a shocking history of Ivy League universities.  Not only were they funded by slave-owners and built by slave labor, many actually had slaves working on the campus – and had their endowments enriched by the slave trade.  Wilder’s book is titled Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities



In the 1930’s, Rosetta Tharpe started singing at the southern Pentecostal church with her preacher mother, but soon Tharpe crossed over to rock-and-roll and was filling stadiums with thousands of  fans. She was Americas first female “stadium rocker.”  Bob talks to Gayle Wald, author of the biography titled Shout, Sister, Shout! The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

Grammy award-winning composer and conductor Eric Whitacre is one of the few living composers who has topped the classical charts.  Best-known for his “Virtual Choir” projects on YouTube, Whitacre is a musician who pushes the boundaries of music and still finds popular acclaim.  He talks with Bob about his collaborative online work and about the spiritual music from his album Water Night.


The Bob Edwards Show Schedule (February 23-27, 2015)


Monday, February 23, 2015: With the end of the Civil War and the passage of the 13th Amendment, 4 million former slaves embarked on new lives with the promise of freedom. But labor laws and practices that arose during the post-Emancipation era effectively created new forms of slavery in the South that persisted well into the 20th century.  Bob talks with Sam Pollard director of a documentary based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Douglas A. Blackmon that explores this little-known history of forced labor. Both the book and the film are called Slavery By Another Name.  Then we revisit music and conversation with the American Spiritual Ensemble. The group was founded by Everett McCorvey in 1995 and is based in Lexington, Kentucky. Dr. McCorvey and twenty-five members of the Ensemble discuss and perform examples of the American Negro spiritual — music created by slaves with African roots and biblical text.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015: Bob talks with Lakesia Johnson about women such as Sojourner Truth, Angela Davis, and Michelle Obama.  Johnson is an English professor and the author of Iconic: Decoding Images of the Revolutionary Black Woman which documents the lives and trials of African American women who refuse to be stereotyped. Then, Bob talks with actress and writer Annabelle Gurwitch about her book of essays titled I See You Made an Effort: Compliments, Indignities, and Survival Stories from the Edge of 50.  Every day, more than 10,000 Americans cross that threshold – and like Gurwitch – start receiving targeted mail from the AARP.  This coming-of-middle-age story covers that and other topics like aging out of your wardrobe, options for retirement and navigating the beauty counter at the department store.  Gurwitch’s book just came out in paperback.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015: Bob talks with public broadcasting’s Tavis Smiley who takes a closer look at the final year of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life in his book titled Death of a King.  It’s a book Smiley calls his “personal love letter to Dr. King,” but he also doesn’t shy away from writing about King’s flaws and mistakes.  Then, Bob visits with Michael Eric Dyson to evaluate the fate of Black America over the past 40 years — how it has advanced, where it hasn’t, and how black leaders can best affect racial justice going forward. Dyson is the author of many books, including April 4, 1968: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Death and How It Changed America.

Thursday, February 26, 2015: Randall Kennedy is one of this country’s leading thinkers.  He teaches law at Harvard and comments extensively on race, politics, and our judicial system.  He talks with Bob about his book titled The Persistence of the Color Line: Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency.  Racial “passing” is a controversial topic in American history.  Bob talks with author Marcia Dawkins about her book Clearly Invisible: Racial Passing And The Color Of Cultural Identity.

Friday, February 27, 2015: In This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible, award-winning civil rights scholar Charles Cobb Jr. describes how the Second Amendment  became an integral part of survival and liberation for blacks in America — from the troublesome years of Reconstruction through the civil rights movement.  Then we go further back in the archives, for Bob’s 2008 visit with Cobb to discuss an earlier book - On The Road to Freedom: A Guided Tour of the Civil Rights Trail.  Cobb takes us to places where pioneers of the movement marched, gathered, spoke, taught, where they were arrested, and where they lost their lives.


Bob Edwards Weekend (February 20-21, 2015)


From April to November 1919, white mobs led race riots and lynchings across the country, from Bisbee, Arizona to New York City. Attacks occurred in more than three dozen cities and by the end of it, hundreds of blacks were dead.  Cameron McWhirter writes about this little-remembered period of history in his book, Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 and The Awakening of Black America.

One of the most famous photographs to come out of the Civil Rights era is of a black high school girl, dressed in white, walking stoically in front of Little Rock Central High School, while behind her stands a white girl screaming racial epithets, her face twisted in rage.  The two girls are now grown women.  In 1962, Hazel Bryan Massery tracked down Elizabeth Eckford and apologized, and the two had a public reconciliation in 1997. Journalist David Margolick tells the history of their lives and complicated relationship in his book, Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock.



On February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated by members of The Nation of Islam – an organization that he had just left and denounced.  We’ll remember the life and work of the civil rights activist 50 years after his death.  We’ll hear archival tape and memories from former guests Clarence Jones, Peniel Joseph and Belva Davis.

Peanuts and the gang are some of the most beloved comic characters of the American newspaper.  Their creator, Charles Schulz drew their antics and quips for fifty years, until his death in 2000.  Bob talks with both Schulz biographer David Michaelis and PBS director David Van Taylor about their surprising discoveries of the life of Charles Schulz.


Jon Cleary

NOTE: This blog entry frist appeared in July 2010

by Chad Campbell, senior producer 

Jon Cleary shares his natural habitat with Bob and GeoffreyHave you ever heard someone complain that they were meant to be born in a different era or another decade? Well it seems like Jon Cleary was born in the wrong place. But as he told us, if he actually was a New Orleans native, he might have been obsessed with British music instead. Cleary was born in 1962 and grew up in a musical family in Kent, England. One of his uncles used to visit New Orleans frequently and he would come back with stories about the culture of the place - and with records by local legends like Professor Longhair. As soon as he could manage it, Cleary took his guitar and moved to The Big Easy. He quickly determined that the piano was a better fit, so he watched and learned for a couple of years, teaching himself the city’s keyboard stlye. Cleary has now been in New Orleans for more than 30 years, easily the majority of his life and he lives in Bywater, the city’s “last forgotten, old funky neighborhood.” He lives above an old hardware store and his home studio shares the downstairs storefront space with his seamstress wife’s costume design workshop. Bob sat next to Cleary at one of his FOUR pianos and got a New Orleans musical history lesson as Cleary answered questions about himself and played samples from local legends like Jelly Roll Morton, James Booker and Professor Longhair. Here’s a video of one of the demos he gave us.

Bob (wearing his New Orleans hat) outside Jon Cleary’s houseCleary has soaked it all in, including a love for Cuban piano music, a close musical cousin of New Orleans style, and plays it through his own musical filter. He could probably play anything on piano, but prefers “funky and syncopated” with his regular band, The Absolute Monster Gentleman. But right now Cleary is touring with Piano, Bass and Drums, a new side project he assembled which delivers a stripped down sound. They’re currently touring the UK, then Cleary returns for a solo show in New Orleans on August 11, then he takes PB&D to Brazil for a few shows.


Click here to see more pictures of our first New Orleans adventure.



The Bob Edwards Show Schedule (February 16-20, 2015)


Monday, February 16, 2015: Today is President’s Day, but it’s also the day before Mardi Gras.  Instead of presidential biographers, we decided to go with New Orleans music and we begin with Bob’s interview backstage at the 2010 Jazz Fest with Dr. John.  Then we spend some time with a musical import to New Orleans. Jon Cleary was born and raised in a musical family in a sleepy English town, but thanks to a traveling uncle he was introduced at an early age to the music and culture of New Orleans. Now Cleary has been living there for most of his life, made the switch from guitar to piano and possesses an amazing grasp of the secret ingredients of the city’s music. Cleary shares the recipe with Bob on one of the four pianos in his home studio in the Bywater neighborhood.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015: Today is Mardi Gras, the day that residents of New Orleans party the day away - the feast before the famine -  the good times ahead of the self-sacrifice of Lent.  Since we can’t take you to a parade or feed you King Cake, we’ll do the next best thing and replay our visit to Preservation Hall.  It’s located in the heart of New Orleans’ French Quarter and was founded in 1961 by Allan and Sandra Jaffe. Ben Jaffe has assumed his late father’s role as director of Preservation Hall.  Jaffe shows Bob around the Hall and discusses the state of post-Katrina New Orleans, the history of the band and of Preservation Hall itself, which dates to the 1750s.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015: Bob talks with Nobel prize-winning author Toni Morrison. They discuss her most famous work, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Beloved, a story about slavery set in 1855 Cincinnati.  As well as her politics, career and her 2008 prequel to Beloved – a book titled A Mercy, which takes place in Virginia around 1690.  Morrison said she wrote the book because she was “wondering was what it must have felt like to be a slave before racism.” Today is Morrison’s 84th birthday. 


Thursday, February 19, 2015: During Mardi Gras week, we continue our celebration of Black History Month with two legends of New Orleans music – first with pianist, composer, arranger, and producer Allen Toussaint.  He began in the studio, writing dozens of hit songs and performing as a session player. Over five decades in the music business, he’s built a reputation as an eager collaborator, working with everyone from Irma Thomas to Elvis Costello to Trombone Shorty. Toussaint says that in the years after Hurricane Katrina, he’s toured and played live more than ever before. He talks with Bob about his early days in the business and the future of music in New Orleans. Then, we travel to the home of Irma Thomas, known as “The Soul Queen of New Orleans,” to learn all about her life and music. There were some struggles along the way but Thomas tells us about winning her first Grammy award in 2007 for her album After the Rain.


Friday, February 20, 2015: More New Orleans music and black history as we conclude Mardi Gras week. We begin today with Roger Lewis, a founding member of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Lewis talks with Bob about his band’s progression from revolutionary upstarts more than thirty years ago to becoming established — though still inventive — old masters. Lewis spoke with Bob in the green room of the famous club Tipitina’s, in Uptown New Orleans.  Then, we take the ferry across the river to Algiers and sit down with drummer Stanton Moore for a New Orleans music lesson.  He’s the drummer for local funk band Galactic, leads his own jazz trio and plays with lots of other bands and musicians around town. Finally, Bob grabs a table at a cafe on Frenchman Street with Troy Andrews, better known as Trombone Shorty to discuss his young career and the music from his album Backatown.