Lindsay Graham has turned his passion for storytelling and human history into a podcasting career. He is the Webby Award-winning host of the podcasts American History Tellers, American Scandal, and American Elections: Wicked Games, and the executive producer of the audio dramas 1865 and Terms. Mary Payne speaks with Lindsay about his journey to the podcasting world, his storytelling methods, and his perspective on the importance of history.
From the Insurance Industry to Podcasting
Lindsay worked for an insurance company before he switched to a career in audio production. At first, he worked in audiobook production. In 2015, he began writing the script for his first podcast, a political thriller called Terms. Coincidentally, the podcast, which debuted in November 2016, follows a fictional election of a populist outsider who wins the White House (remind you of anyone?).
Terms used hired actors to voice the characters and Lindsay read the podcast’s advertisements in between the Acts-. Soon after the Terms debut, Lindsay received an offer by the podcast network Wondery to host American History Tellers, which debuted as the number one podcast on iTunes in January 2018.
American History from the Perspectives of Real Americans
American History Tellers gives listeners compelling, informative, and empathy-building stories about critical eras in American history. Each season comprises 5-6 episodes that look into a different era of American history (such as Prohibition, the Cold War, and the 1968 Chicago Protests). Each episode has three Acts, each including an historical description of the events along with reenactment that brings listeners into the experience of a real American involved in the historical episode.
The American History Tellers team includes a producer, editor, writer, as well as researchers. For each season, Lindsay’s team works with a subject matter expert who helps to conduct research and (sometimes) write the script. Some seasons conclude with a conversation between Lindsay and the subject matter expert.
History is Human
Once asked why he loved history, famed American historian David McCullough responded: “History is human.” Lindsay is drawn to history because he is interested in humanity and has a passion for telling human stories.
History helps us understand, appreciate, and learn from our predecessors. It forces us to come to terms with difficult and painful eras. For example, Lindsay and Mary Payne discuss the debate about what to do about Confederate monuments. Lindsay believes that monuments of Confederate generals are essentially emblems of white supremacy. In fact, many of these monuments were erected in the 1920s as part of white supremacists’ “revisionist history” campaign during the Jim Crow era. As such, he does not believe that we should honor Confederate leaders.
Overall, Lindsay believes that Americans can be simultaneously ashamed of notorious parts of our history, while also being proud American citizens. This perspective requires us to think about our history in a nuanced and complex manner. Reckoning with our past helps Americans understand ourselves and our fellow citizens.
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