Linton Weeks

Linton Weeks joined NPR in the summer of 2008, as its national correspondent for Digital News. He immediately hit the campaign trail, covering the Democratic and Republican National Conventions; fact-checking the debates; and exploring the candidates, the issues and the electorate.

Weeks is originally from Tennessee, and graduated from Rhodes College in 1976. He was the founding editor of Southern Magazine in 1986. The magazine was bought — and crushed — in 1989 by Time-Warner. In 1990, he was named managing editor of The Washington Post's Sunday magazine. Four years later, he became the first director of the newspaper's website, Washingtonpost.com. From 1995 until 2008, he was a staff writer in the Style section of The Washington Post.

He currently lives in a suburb of Washington with the artist Jan Taylor Weeks. In 2009, they created The Stone and Holt Weeks Foundation to honor their beloved sons.

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NPR History Dept.
10:58 am
Tue May 26, 2015

When 'Petting Parties' Scandalized The Nation

Originally published on Tue May 26, 2015 7:47 pm

To some social observers, petting parties of the 1920s were a natural, post-First World War outgrowth of a repressed society. To others, the out-in-the-open hug-and-kissfests were blinking neon signposts on the Road to Perdition.

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NPR History Dept.
10:43 am
Thu May 21, 2015

Muddled Messages In America's Past

Telegraph operator, 1908.
Library of Congress

Originally published on Thu May 21, 2015 6:17 pm

Do you ever feel like communication — in this Age of Communication — is more confused and confusing than ever? Does anybody even read whole messages anymore — beyond the subject line or the first screen? Do you get tangled up in threads and bewildered by attachments? Do txt msgs n-furi-8 u?

Here's the real question: Are all these communication devices truly improving interaction between humans or just providing more opportunities for miscommunication?

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NPR History Dept.
11:03 am
Tue May 19, 2015

The Repast Is Not Even Past: Old LA Menus

Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library

Originally published on Tue May 19, 2015 1:28 pm

Let's see — what shall we have? So much to choose from in the collection of historical menus at the Los Angeles Public Library.

There are some 9,000 items to consider — creative, colorful, delicious-looking. By just perusing the choices, we get a deep sense of the city's rich culture and juicy past.

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NPR History Dept.
1:03 pm
Thu May 14, 2015

The Curious World Of Baseball Re-Enactors

The Dirigo Vintage Base Ball Club in Maine.
Courtesy of Matt Muise

Originally published on Tue May 19, 2015 1:38 pm

Vintage base ball players — sort of like Civil War re-enactors who wield wooden bats instead of muskets — move among us. They glory in the past times of America's pastime.

Think: When Johnny comes sliding home.

Dressed in old uniforms, teams play each other using 19th century rules. Sometimes they don't wear gloves. Sometimes they pitch underhand. They spell "base ball" as two words. They call each other "ballists."

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NPR History Dept.
2:16 pm
Tue May 12, 2015

Do We Talk Funny? 51 American Colloquialisms

Jennifer Maravillas Ikon Images/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue May 12, 2015 9:25 pm

Has American English become homogenized? Have our regional ways of saying particular things — sometimes in very particular ways — receded into the past? Or do we talk as funny as ever?

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NPR History Dept.
11:31 am
Wed May 6, 2015

4 Hot-Button Kids' Books From The '50s That Sparked Controversy

NPR

Originally published on Thu May 7, 2015 7:58 am

The 1950s was a hinge decade for noteworthy and nation-changing civil rights events across the United States, including Brown v. Board of Education in Kansas, the bus boycott in Alabama and the National Guard-protected integration of Central High School in Arkansas.

Meanwhile, there was also a revolution brewing in bookstores and public libraries.

By design or by happenstance, a handful of children's picture books were focal points of the American movement toward integration in the '50s.

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NPR History Dept.
11:03 am
Tue May 5, 2015

Do We Really Need Libraries?

Bedford Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library — a gift from Andrew Carnegie, 1905.
New York Public Library

Originally published on Tue May 5, 2015 2:02 pm

In New York City, supporters of public libraries say that respect for — and repair of — the libraries is long, well, overdue.

A new campaign, Invest in Libraries, puts forth that in the past 10 years, the city government has reduced funding for public libraries by nearly 20 percent and 1,000 workers or so have been trimmed from the payroll. The campaign calls on the city to increase its support in various ways, such as restoring $65 million in operating funds.

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NPR History Dept.
11:44 am
Thu April 30, 2015

A Forgotten Tradition: May Basket Day

First lady Eleanor Roosevelt receives a May basket of flowers from young children in 1938.
Library of Congress

Originally published on Fri May 1, 2015 9:42 am

Maybe there really was a time when America was more innocent.

Back when May Basket Day was a thing, perhaps.

The curious custom — still practiced in discrete pockets of the country — went something like this: As the month of April rolled to an end, people would begin gathering flowers and candies and other goodies to put in May baskets to hang on the doors of friends, neighbors and loved ones on May 1.

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NPR History Dept.
11:43 am
Tue April 28, 2015

Nazi Summer Camps In 1930s America?

Originally published on Wed April 29, 2015 5:56 pm

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NPR History Dept.
11:03 am
Thu April 23, 2015

7 Lost American Slang Words

In the Roaring '20s, flappers were dancing and slang was advancing.
Library of Congress

Originally published on Sun April 26, 2015 7:13 am

In American English, some slang words come and go. And some stay and stay.

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NPR History Dept.
10:44 am
Fri April 17, 2015

Addiction In American History: 14 Vivid Graphs

Addiction.
Recovery.org

The language of addiction is always evolving. Maybe we need an addictionary.

For example, when the word "alcohol" was written or spoken in early 19th-century America. it was often used in the chemical and medical sense. This is from an article about drawing out the essence of stramonium, or jimson weed: "The virtues of stramonium," the New England Journal of Medicine reported in January of 1818, "appear to be seated in an extractive principle, which dissolves in water and alcohol."

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NPR History Dept.
10:54 am
Fri April 10, 2015

Defeating Polio, The Disease That Paralyzed America

A nurse prepares children for a polio vaccine shot as part of citywide testing of the vaccine on elementary school students in Pittsburgh in 1954.
Bettmann/CORBIS

Originally published on Sat April 11, 2015 8:57 am

Tens of thousands of Americans — in the first half of the 20th century — were stricken by poliomyelitis. Polio, as it's known, is a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

The hallmarks of the Polio Era were children on crutches and in iron lungs, shuttered swimming pools, theaters warning moviegoers to not sit too close to one another.

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NPR History Dept.
2:20 pm
Tue April 7, 2015

When Wearing Shorts Was Taboo

A golfer wears a long black skirt in mock protest of the USGA ban on golfing shorts in tournament play, 1953.
AP

Originally published on Tue April 7, 2015 2:52 pm

As the weather warms more and more and people wear less and less, it's sometimes hard for Americans to remember that there are cultures in other parts of the world that enforce severe dress codes.

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NPR History Dept.
11:16 am
Thu April 2, 2015

After Selma, King's March On Ballot Boxes

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking in Kingstree, S.C., as seen in the video clip.
University of South Carolina Archives

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — who was assassinated 47 years ago this week — will long be remembered for the many meaningful marches he led or joined, including ones on Washington in 1963, on Frankfort, Ky., in 1964 and from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., in 1965.

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NPR History Dept.
4:15 pm
Tue March 31, 2015

Media Mischief On April Fools' Day

Mickey Mantle was the subject of a newspaper hoax in 1961. Here he is that year taking practice swings at Yankee Stadium.
AP

Originally published on Wed April 1, 2015 9:04 am

In the annals of journalism, there is a long tradition of newsfolks — reporters, writers, broadcasters — pulling April Fools' Day tricks on readers and listeners. Sometimes the prank prevails; sometimes it fails.

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NPR History Dept.
11:48 am
Thu March 26, 2015

Board Games That Bored Gamers

iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed April 1, 2015 7:51 pm

Gaming is a way of life for Americans of all ages.

We play games on Facebook, on our phones, on phantasmagorical home systems. We play on fields and courts and dining room tables. Contemporary culture mavens speak of the gamification of education and the workplace and our day-to-day communications.

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NPR History Dept.
10:18 am
Tue March 24, 2015

Old-Timey Slang: 'Polking' Was A Vulgar Word

Originally published on Tue March 24, 2015 1:48 pm

"All slang words are detestable from the lips of ladies," Eliza Leslie said in 1867. She was the author of the Behavior Book, a 19th century etiquette manual published in Philadelphia.

How times have changed. Men and women in contemporary America sling slang around like hash — or like weed. From txt msgs to the Twitterverse, the jargon can be jarring.

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NPR History Dept.
9:23 am
Thu March 19, 2015

When The KKK Was Mainstream

Originally published on Thu March 19, 2015 1:44 pm

Recently I tumbled on this story from Kansas Humanities — and an earlier post from Only A Game — about a 1925 baseball game between Wichita's African-American team, the Monrovians, and the Ku Klux Klan.

Wait a minute. The Ku Klux Klan once had a baseball team?

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NPR History Dept.
12:23 pm
Tue March 17, 2015

7 Creative Wedding Ideas From History

Grant and Amanda Engler celebrate in jet packs at their wedding ceremony in 2012 in Newport Beach, Calif.
Lenny Ignelzi Associated Press

Originally published on Tue March 17, 2015 12:43 pm

Wedding websites today are aswirl with inventive suggestions, including 10 Unique Wedding Venues from Burnett's Boards; 23 Unconventional But Awesome Wedding Ideas from Buzzfeed and 21 Most Unique Ceremony Ideas from Emmaline Bride.

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NPR History Dept.
9:41 am
Fri March 13, 2015

A King Speech You've Never Heard — Plus, Your Chance To Do Archive Sleuthing

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1965.
AP

Originally published on Fri March 13, 2015 9:54 am

Historically speaking, I need your help.

Davis Houck, a communications professor at Florida State University, recently pointed me toward a little-explored archive at Stanford University called Project South.

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NPR History Dept.
10:48 am
Tue March 10, 2015

Who Takes 3,000 Photos Of NYC's Doors?

Roy Colmer New York Public Library

Originally published on Tue March 10, 2015 1:24 pm

Street View: New York City's Doors: A Special Research Project of NPR History Dept.

A door is for closing. And for opening.

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NPR History Dept.
11:18 am
Tue March 3, 2015

The Secret History Of Knock-Knock Jokes

Originally published on Tue March 3, 2015 7:54 pm

Knock knock.

Who's there?

Joe King.

Joe King who?

Joking like this used to be considered a sickness by some people.

The knock-knock joke has been a staple of American humor since the early 20th century. With its repetitive set-up and wordplay punchline, the form has been invoked — and understood — by people of all ages and sensibilities.

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NPR History Dept.
11:26 am
Thu February 26, 2015

How Black Abolitionists Changed A Nation

Originally published on Thu February 26, 2015 4:52 pm

This year we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution — abolishing slavery. So it's worth pointing out that the emancipation movement in 19th century America was pushed forward by many different forces: enlightened lawmakers, determined liberators of captive slaves and outspoken abolitionists — including an influential number who were black.

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NPR History Dept.
10:33 am
Tue February 24, 2015

The Courage And Ingenuity Of Freedom-Seeking Slaves In America

Originally published on Tue February 24, 2015 1:17 pm

In the opening of his new book, Gateway To Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad, Eric Foner lays out the inspirational story of Frederick Bailey — a young slave in Maryland who teaches himself to read and write; plans to escape slavery by canoe, but gets caught; boards a train wearing seaman's clothes and carrying false papers; and after several unsettling detours — and despite the fact that slave catchers are everywhere — arrives in the free state of New York.

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NPR History Dept.
11:12 am
Tue February 3, 2015

Reviving The Lost Art Of Logrolling

Catherine Gauthier and Bette Berkeley, who at 17 won a 1939 national women's logrolling title in Longview, Wash.
Courtesy of Forest History Society

Considered by many to be the sole purview of lumberjacks, the competitive sport of logrolling — in which participants pad about on a log in water and try to outlast one another — is hoping for new growth.

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NPR History Dept.
6:15 pm
Thu January 29, 2015

'Female Husbands' In The 19th Century

Originally published on Fri January 30, 2015 9:53 am

Questions of gender identity are nothing new. Way before Transparent and Chaz Bono and countless other popular culture stepping stones to where we are now regarding gender identity, there were accounts of "female husbands."

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NPR History Dept.
9:03 am
Tue January 27, 2015

Gamesmanship Or Cheating: A History Quiz

Official game balls for this year's Super Bowl sit in a bin before being laced and inflated at the Wilson Sporting Goods Co. in Ada, Ohio.
Rick Osentoski AP

Originally published on Tue January 27, 2015 2:18 pm

"The line between cheating and gamesmanship is constantly blurred," observes The New York Times in a recent story. The Times, and just about everyone else, is talking about the perhaps-tampering-with-gameballs allegations levied against the New England Patriots — specifically coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady.

Both Belichick and Brady have denied any wrongdoing.

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NPR History Dept.
8:00 am
Tue January 20, 2015

Beware Of Japanese Balloon Bombs

Originally published on Thu January 22, 2015 1:21 pm

Those who forget the past are liable to trip over it.

Just a few months ago a couple of forestry workers in Lumby, British Columbia — about 250 miles north of the U.S. border — happened upon a 70-year-old Japanese balloon bomb.

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The Protojournalist
11:13 am
Wed December 31, 2014

10 Final Thoughts Of The Protojournalist

Originally published on Wed December 31, 2014 3:02 pm

1) Change is constant. After a year and a half and more than 250 posts, The Protojournalist storytelling project has reached its finish line. This will be the last Protojournalist post — under my aegis.

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The Protojournalist
11:57 am
Wed December 24, 2014

A Very Native American Christmas

A Native American family gathers around a Christmas tree in Montana, ca. 1900-1920.
Library of Congress

Originally published on Wed December 24, 2014 12:28 pm

With the spread of Christianity among some Native Americans in the early 20th century came certain Christmas rituals — trees and presents and jolly old Santa Claus — that were folded into traditional wintertime celebrations.

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