David Remnick is joined by The New Yorker’s award-winning writers, editors and artists to present a weekly mix of profiles, storytelling, and insightful conversations about the issues that matter — plus an occasional blast of comic genius from the magazine’s legendary Shouts and Murmurs page. The New Yorker has set a standard in journalism for generations and The New Yorker Radio Hour gives it a voice on public radio for the first time. Produced by The New Yorker and WNYC Studios.
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The Newspaperman Who Championed Black Tulsa
In the years leading up to the horrific Tulsa massacre of 1921, the Greenwood district was a thriving Black metropolis, a city within a city. Buoyed by money from Oklahoma’s oil boom, it was home to the original Cotton Club and to one of the first Black-owned daily newspapers in the United States, the Tulsa Star. The Star’s founder and editor was A. J. Smitherman, a lawyer and the Alabama-born son of a coal miner. He addressed his eloquence and his ire at local nuisances like prostitution and gambling halls, as well as the gravest injustices of American life. The Radio Hour’s KalaLea is the host of “Blindspot: Tulsa Burning.” She looks in this story at how Smitherman documented Greenwood at its height, and how he tried to prevent its destruction.
“Blind Spot: Tulsa Burning” is a six-part podcast co-produced by the History Channel and WNYC Studios, in collaboration with KOSU and Focus Black Oklahoma. The team includes Caroline Lester, Alana Casanova-Burgess, Joe Plourde, Emily Mann, Jenny Lawton, Emily Botein, Quraysh Ali Lansana, Bracken Klar, Rachel Hubbard, Anakwa Dwamena, Jami Floyd, and Cheryl Devall. The music is by Hannis Brown, Am’re Ford, Isaac Jones, and Chad Taylor. The executive producers at the History Channel are Eli Lehrer and Jessie Katz. Raven Majia Williams is a consulting producer. Special thanks to Herb Boyd, Kelly Gillespie, Shelley Miller, Jodi-Ann Malarbe, Jennifer Lazo, Andrew Golis, Celia Muller, and Andy Lanset. Maurice Jones was the voice of A. J. Smitherman. Additional voices: Terrance McKnight, Dar es Salaam Riser, Javana Mundy, John Biewen, Jack Fowler, Tangina Stone, Emani Johnston, Danny Wolohan, and Jay Allison.
Naftali Bennett and the New Hard Line in Israeli Politics
In 2013, David Remnick published a profile of Naftali Bennett. He wrote that Bennett was something new in Israeli politics, a man who would “build a sturdy electoral bridge between the religious and the secular, the hilltop outposts of the West Bank and the start-up suburbs.” Though religiously observant, Bennett was cosmopolitan: fluent on Facebook, and as quick to quote Seinfeld as he was the Talmud. He had been a leader of the settler movement, and, although he lived in a modern house in a well-to-do Tel Aviv suburb, there was no ambiguity about Bennett’s hard-line stance on the Palestinian question. He disdained the peace process of an earlier time. “I will do everything in my power to make sure they never get a state,” he told Remnick. “No more illusions.”
Bennett has now unseated his former boss, Benjamin Netanyahu, as Prime Minister of Israeli. Remnick spoke with two writers in the region about this political upheaval. Raja Shehadeh, who is based in Ramallah, says that the changing of the guard will mean little on the West Bank, where the recent bloody conflict was a propaganda victory for Hamas. Ruth Margalit, who is based in Tel Aviv, says that, while the peace movement seems all but dead, the changing of a political epoch, and the presence of the first Arab-Israeli party ever represented in the Knesset, has to be seen as an opportunity for change.
A Rift over Racism Divides the Southern Baptist Convention, Plus, the Fallout from Gamestop
The largest Protestant denomination in America is in crisis over the group’s reluctance to acknowledge systemic racism; our reporter talks with the Reverend Dwight McKissic, who considered himself a loyalist but may have reached a breaking point. Plus, our producer looks at the GameStop squeeze of last winter and tries to figure out the motives of the small investors on r/WallStreetBets. Are they out for vengeance on the Man? Are they after lulz? Or are they just trying to make a buck?
Jon M. Chu on “In the Heights”
It’s easy to see why the director Jon M. Chu was adamant that the release of “In the Heights” wait until this summer, when more people could see it in theatres: it’s big, it’s colorful, the dance sequences are complex—it’s a spectacle in the best sense of the term. “In the Heights,” based on Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit stage musical, is a love letter to the largely Latino community in Washington Heights, in upper Manhattan. The characters are dreaming big and wrestling with what happens when those dreams start to pull them away from the neighborhood. For Chu, who directed the enormous hit “Crazy Rich Asians,” directing the film was a risk—it’s said that Miranda teased him by writing “Don’t fuck this up” on his copy of the script. As an Asian-American from California, Chu “was already one step removed from this neighborhood,” he tells David Remnick. “How do you make sure you don’t miss a detail? The director is probably the only person on set who can stop everything and say, ‘Let’s discuss this.’ . . . That’s what made me nervous, making sure I was always present to hear those things.”
Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax on Beethoven’s Politics of the Cello
Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax have both been playing Beethoven’s Cello Sonata No. 3 in A Major for over forty years. But it took a global pandemic for the two of them to fully understand it. “This is such open, hopeful music,” Ax said. But when Beethoven dedicated the original piece to a friend, he signed the manuscript, “amid tears and sorrow.” Beethoven, Ma and Ax reflected, finished the sonata during a tumultuous period in which Napoleon was at war with Austria and the composer was losing his hearing. “I thought this was a good piece for this moment,” Ma told The New Yorker’s music critic Alex Ross. “Because people are suffering, and we do think that music can give comfort.” The musicians spoke to Ross and performed from an empty concert hall as part of the New Yorker Festival.
The segment originally aired November 13, 2020.
A Vaccinated Day at the Ballpark, and Sarah Schulman on ACT-UP
The staff writer Patricia Marx checks out the new vaccinated sections at New York’s Major League Baseball parks. The author and activist Sarah Schulman talks with David Remnick about her new book on the early years of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power. The group’s radical tactics forced changes in government policy and transformed how America saw gay people and AIDS patients.