Episode 76: “Howard Thurman: Theologian, Mystic, Activist”

Howard Thurman was a mid-20th century theologian, writer, activist, and mystic who had a profound influence on the leaders of the Civil Rights movement. Thurman’s writings–especially his 1949 work Jesus and the Disinherited–provided an intellectual and spiritual guide to those trying to make sense of an era of racial and social unrest. Our guest in this episode is historian Paul Harvey, the author of Howard Thurman & The Disinherited: A Religious Biography (Eerdmans, 2020).

Listen at:

Apple Podcasts






And other podcatchers!

If you like what you hear, or perhaps you are new to the work of The Way of Improvement Leads Home blog, please consider supporting our work.

Click here to become a patron.

We have some big changes in the works for 2021. I can’t say anything yet, but it’s going to be huuuuge!  Stay tuned.

If all goes well, we will drop an episode every Sunday until mid-January 2021. We have some incredible guests lined-up!

And yes, mugs and signed books are still available for patrons!

Did I mention you can click here to become a patron?

And for our loyal patrons: THANK YOU for your ongoing support!

Episode 74: An Independent Woman in Revolutionary America

In this episode we talk with historian Lorri Glover about Eliza Lucas Pinckney, a woman who lived through the American Revolution in South Carolina. Pinckney’s story sheds light on gender, agriculture, politics, and slavery in this era and unsettles many common assumptions regarding the place and power of women in the eighteenth century.

Listen at:

Apple Podcasts






And other podcatchers!

If you like what you hear, or perhaps you are new to the work of The Way of Improvement Leads Home blog, please consider supporting our work.

Click here to become a patron.

We have some big changes in the works for 2021. I can’t say anything yet, but it’s going to be huuuuge!  Stay tuned.

If all goes well, we will drop an episode every Sunday between today and mid-January 2021. We have some incredible guests lined-up!

And yes, mugs and signed books are still available for patrons!

Did I mention you can click here to become a patron?

And for our loyal patrons: THANK YOU for your ongoing support!

Episode 73: Cowboy Evangelicalism


What does it mean to be a man in white evangelical Christianity? In this episode we talk with historian Kristin Kobes Du Mez, author of Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation. We discuss definitions of masculinity, the Gospel Coalition, Beth Moore, Donald Trump, the 2016 election, the differences between White and Black views of Christian manhood, and how the thesis of her book might be applied to American evangelical culture during the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can also listen at your favorite podcatcher, including Apple Podcasts

Episode 71: Writing History for Young Readers


Have you ever wanted to write a children’s, middle-grade, or young adult history book? How do you get started? What is the process like? Do I need an agent? In this episode, we talk about writing history for young readers with former Smithsonian educator and author Tim Grove. Tim is the author, most recently, of Star Spangled: The Story of a Flag, a Battle, and the American Anthem. Learn more about his work at TimGrove.Net.

Listen here.

Resources on the History of Race in America from The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast


We have done several episodes on race in America at The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast. They are now more relevant than ever as people are showing an interest in learning more about the African-American experience.

Episode 8: Historians Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter Onuf on Thomas Jefferson

Episode 16: Historian Manisha Sinha talks about the history of the abolitionist movement.

Episode 25: Historian Kelly Baker talks about religion and the history of the KKK.

Episode 27: Historian Julian Chambliss discusses the relationship between race, the environment, and Mar-a-Lago.

Episode 28: Public historian and Stax Museum director Jeff Kollath talks about the “Memphis Sound.”

Episode 39: Historian Nicole Hemmer on the one-year anniversary of the 2017 Charlottesville, Virginia race riots.

Episode 43: Public historian Chris Graham on how a Richmond, Virginia congregation is coming to grips with its racist past.

Episode 48: Historian Jemar Tisby on Christianity and race in America.

Episode 58:  Historian Richard Bell on the “reverse underground railroad.”

Episode 63: Historian Tom Mackaman on the 1619 Project

Episode 69: Sports historian Paul Putz on the legacy of Michael Jordan

Episode 68: The History of the Presidential Cabinet


The members of Donald Trump’s controversial cabinet are regular features of the 24-hour news cycle. He has fired members of his cabinet who challenge his thinking on a host of foreign and domestic issues. Just ask Rex Tillerson, James Mattis, and Jeff Sessions. But how did our first president, George Washington, imagine the role of the cabinet? In this episode, we think historically about this important part of the executive branch with historian Lindsay Chervinsky, author of The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution.



Are You Listening to The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast?


If not, you are missing a great season:

  • Johann Neem (Western Washington University) on the meaning of college
  • Lawrence Glickman (Cornell University) on the history of free enterprise
  • Darren Dochuck (University of Notre Dame) on evangelicals and oil
  • Sarah Myers (Messiah College) on the Women Airforce Service Pilots
  • Richard Bell (University of Maryland) on “the reverse underground railroad”
  • Mandy McMichael (Baylor University) on the Miss America Pageant
  • Melissa Ziobro (Monmouth University) on a Bruce Springsteen museum exhibit
  • Jeffrey Engel (Southern Methodist University) on presidential impeachment
  • Drew Dyrli Hermeling (The Stone School) on his retirement from the podcast
  • Thomas Mackaman (World Socialist Web Site and Kings College) on the 1619 Project
  • Gillis Harp (Grove City College) on Protestants and American conservatism

Forthcoming: Eric Miller on Christopher Lasch; Serena Zabin on the Boston Massacre; Katherine Stewart on the Christian Right; Lindsay Chervinsky on the first presidential cabinet; and more!

Download episodes or subscribe at Apple Podcasts.

We operate on shoe-string budget. If you would like to support our work (and possibly receive valuable gifts!), head over to our Patreon page and make a pledge or a one-time gift.

Thanks for listening!

Episode 63: The 1619 Project


In August 2019, The New York Times Magazine published The 1619 Project, an attempt to reframe American history by “placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.” American historians have praised and criticized the project. In this episode we talk with Thomas Mackaman, a history professor at Kings University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and a writer for World Socialist Web Site. Mackaman has not only criticized The 1619 Project, but has interviewed other critics of the project, including several award-winning historians. Why are socialists so upset about this project? What is the backstory behind Mackaman’s interviews with Gordon Wood, James McPherson, Clayborne Carson, and other 1619 Project critics? Anyone interested in debates over how historians do history and connect the past to present political and social issues will learn something from this episode.


Episode 62: Farewell Drew!

PodcastFor four years Drew Dyrli Hermeling has been the heart and soul of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast. We are saddened that he has decided to step away from his work here, but excited that he will have more time to devote to his history students at The Stone Independent School, a college-prep school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Drew joins us for one final episode to reminisce with John about their work together on this project.


Episode 61: Impeachment 101


Are you watching Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial?  Are you trying to make sense of it all?  We want to help.  In this episode we talk with CNN presidential historian and Southern Methodist University professor Jeffrey Engel on the history of impeachment. Engel sheds light on the debates over impeachment in the Constitutional Convention, the historic meaning of “bribery” and “high crimes and misdemeanors,” and the inevitable political and partisan nature of American impeachments.

The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast Needs Your Support!


As we enter the end of the year, I hope that some of you might find a space for The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast in your holiday budget!  It’s pretty easy to give a one-time gift or an extended pledge of $1 (shilling), $5 (pound), $10 (sterling), or $20 (gold) more a month.  Just head over to our Patreon site for the details.

Season 5 is well underway.  So far we have chatted with:

  • Historian Robert Whitaker on how the past is interpreted in popular video games.  (Coming next week!)
  • Public historian Chris Graham on race, public history, and religious congregations.
  • Arizona State history professor Catherine O’Donnell on Catholic saint Elizabeth Ann Seton.
  • Georgetown University historian Michael Kazin on the history of populism in America.
  • Messiah College historian Paul Putz on “Sportianity
  • University of Virginia historian Nicole Hemmer on race and history in Charlottesville, Virginia.

We already have some great guests lined-up for the rest of the season, including Sam Wineburg and Daniel Rodgers.

And, of course, previous episodes are always available at your favorite podcatcher.  Listen to interviews with:

  • Nancy Tomes on the history of health care in America
  • Annette Gordon Reed and Peter Onuf on Thomas Jefferson
  • Frances Fitzgerald on the history of American evangelicalism
  • R. Marie Griffith on sexual politics and the Christian Right
  • Amy Bass on the thrilling story of the Somali refugees who won a Maine state high school soccer title
  • Erin Bartram on graduate school in history
  • Randall Stephens on Christian rock music

And many, many more!

Thanks so much for your support.  All pledges and one-time donations go directly into the production of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.

The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast at Harvard’s “Sound Education” Conference

Podcast Conference 2

The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast co-host and producer Drew Hermeling is in Cambridge, Massachusetts this weekend.  He is doing a presentation on the podcast at Sound Education: A Conference for Educational Podcasts and Listeners.  Harvard University is hosting the event.

Here is a description of his session:

Seeing Early America Everywhere: Connecting Eighteenth-Century History to Unexpected Places with Andrew Hermeling (The Way of Improvement Leads Home)
@ Divinity Hall, Room 106

Colonial Puritans and Colin Kaepernick. Mount Vernon and Mar-a-Lago. Eighteenth-century midwifery and Obamacare. These may seem like odd connections, but in their efforts to prove that #everythinghasahistory, early American historians and podcasters John Fea and Drew Dyrli Hermeling regularly demonstrate that today’s hot-button issues have eighteenth-century antecedents. If you look close enough, you can see early America everywhere.

There are some great podcasters at Harvard this weekend.  Here are a few that caught my attention:

Nate DiMeo of The Memory Palace.  (Listen to our interview with Nate in Episode 6 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast)

Ed O’Donnell of In the Past Lane

Blair Hodges of the Maxwell Institute Podcast

Marshal Poe of New Books Network

Liz Covart of Ben Franklin’s World (Listen to our interview with Liz in Episode 24 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast)

Dan Carlin of Hardcore History

We will try to get Drew to write a report of the conference and post it here.  Stay tuned.

Podcast Conference 1

It looks like Drew is playing to a good crowd

The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast is on Summer Break, But We Still Need Your Help!


Season Four  at The Way of Improvement Leads Home podcast is a wrap! We will be back later this month with two bonus episodes (stay tuned!), but we are done recording episodes.  I am writing because we could really use your hope as we start preparing for the possibility of a fifth season. in the Fall.

For those unfamiliar, the podcast brings interviews and commentary related to American history, historical thinking, and the role of history in our everyday lives. In each episode we talk to someone doing innovative, creative, and thoughtful work in American history.  Our guests include historians, authors, filmmakers, museum professionals, teachers, public intellectuals, podcasters, and journalists.

Our guests have included:

  • Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Frances Fitzgerald on American evangelicalism
  • National Book award finalist Nancy MacLean on libertarianism and democracy
  • Bancroft Prize-winning historian Nancy Tomes on the history of American healthcare
  • Historian R. Marie Griffith on sexual politics
  • Historian Amy Bass on sports and community
  • Author Scott Hartley on the need for the humanities in the Silicon Valley
  • Filmmaker Martin Doblmeier on Reinhold Niebuhr
  • Mount Vernon CEO Doug Bradburn on George Washington’s legacy
  • National Book award finalist Manisha Sinha on the history of abolitionism
  • NPR reporter Sarah McCammon on covering Donald Trump
  • Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Annette Gordon-Reed on Thomas Jefferson
  • ESPN writer Paul Lukacs on nostalgia and the history of sports uniforms
  • Stanford professor Sam Wineburg on historical thinking and public schools
  • Atlantic editor Yoni Appelbaum on presidential politics and “useable pasts.”

And much, much more!

The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast relies on the support of patrons like you.  If you appreciate what we do, please consider heading over to our Patreon page and joining our support team!

And yes, mugs and books are still available!

Thanks for Supporting The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast


I just checked the Patreon crowdfunding page for The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast and noticed that we have picked up a few extra patrons over the past few weeks.  If you are one of them, thank you for your support!!

It takes a lot of work to produce a podcast.  I write every episode.  Our producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling schedules the guests, works with our hosts at Recorded History Podcast, schedules our recording sessions, works with our patrons to get them free goodies, edits every episode, and, most importantly, provides creative energy to make this thing happen.

We could not live without our studio producer Josh Lowrie.  He is a master of the sound board and spends several hours on every episode taking out all of our mistakes and making us and our guests sound good.  He also reserves the studio.

The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast is a labor of love, but we still have expenses. At this point, I do not make a cent on the podcast.  Most of the support we received via Patreon helps pay for the production work of Drew and Josh, but even that is not enough.

We were able to launch the podcast with a gift from an angel donor.  That money is now almost gone and we are in the process of trying to figure out how to move forward without it.

This is where you can help.  In addition to sharing the podcast on your social media feeds, reviewing it at ITunes or another podcatcher, and downloading episodes, we also need financial supporters.

For those new to the podcast, we are committed to landing great guests who are doing all kinds of amazing history-related things.  Here are just a few of the folks we have talked to over the last four seasons:

  • Princeton University historian Kevin Kruse on life as a #twitterstorian
  • Sports historian Amy Bass on her new book One Goal
  • Historian of American religion R. Marie Griffiths on her new book on sexual politics and American evangelicalism
  • Pulitzer prize-winner Francis Fitzgerald on American evangelicals
  • National Book Award finalist Nancy MacLean on libertarianism and democracy
  • Bancfroft Prize-winning historian Nancy Tomes on the history of healthcare
  • National Book Award finalist Manisha Sinha on the history of abolitionism
  • Pulitzer prize-winner Annette Gordon Reed on Thomas Jefferson
  • Historical thinking guru Sam Wineburg on teaching history in schools
  • The Atlantic‘s Washington Bureau Chief Yoni Appelbaum on history and politics.

And much, much more!!!!

Please consider heading over to our Patreon page and become a patron or make a one-time donation!  Thank you.

What People Are Saying About The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast


Podcasts take a lot of work.  We have a staff of three at The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.  As the creator and host of the podcast, I work for free.  Our producer, Drew Dyrli Hermeling (who some of you met in St. Louis this past weekend), is paid through our of the Patreon campaign.  Our studio producer, Josh Lowrie, is paid (at least until May) by a single angel donor.  Needless to say, we operate on a shoestring budget and we could really use your help.  Please consider investing in our work.

Here are some of our ITunes reviews:

Engaging exploration of the historian’s craft, American history, religion, politics, and more…Can’t wait to hear more!”

“Some podcasts are intellectual, but boring; some are fun, but shallow.  Some are hosted by bellicose personalities.  Some are hosted by posers.  It may take a lot of history podcast browsing before you land on one that is engaging for both an academic audience and non-academic audience, while at the same time is hosted by people you would like to invite to your house for dinner.  Fea and Hermeling make a great team.  They are both historians, and while they differ on some issues, they obviously are good friends and have superb rapport.  The guest so far have been top shelf, and the hosts engage them professionally and intelligently.”

“John Fea consistently pushes listeners to think critically using the discipline of history.  Using timely applications, he illustrates the power historical thinking has to gain insight into the world around us.  Everything has a history.  TWOILH podcast is worth your time because it will encourage you to think clearly.”

“I learned the value of thinking historically through reading Fea’s blog and listening to him speak.  I had no idea what I was missing.”

“I, like most people, subscribe to too many podcasts.  However, there are a few that I make sure to listen to every time they post.  In less than 5 episodes, The Way of Improvement Leads Home has become one of them. If you are interested in history or just in thinking deeply about the world around you, I would highly, highly recommend the podcast.”

“Just listened to the first four episodes while on spring break.  Whether you make a living in the profession of history or are someone who simply likes history, this is for you.  Terrific reflections on the practice of history and the events and outlooks of the past.”

“I have listened to every episode from the beginning and this is one of the best history podcasts around.  It is balanced, provides good scholarship, and thought-provoking interviews.  I have used many different components in my own history classes.”

“As a teacher it can be difficult to juggle the demands of lesson planning, assessing, and managing your classroom and still find time for expanding your own depth of knowledge.  This podcast helps to solve that problem.  With a keen focus on the teaching of history and engaging guests, The Way of Improvement Leads Home helps me stay connected to the scholarly world of historical study in an accessible and engaging manner.  Add it to your playlist and reap the benefits!”

“I so much appreciate the mix of broad overview of theory and big picture stuff Fea gives before the actual interview.  The casual nature of the interaction between Fea and Hermeling and their undergraduate technical assistant especially make this accessible.  My husband, who isn’t a historian, loved the podcast on sports we listened to while preparing Thanksgiving dinner.  Thanks for connecting the past to the present and I especially appreciate how frequently women scholars are featured–this is vital when so few podcasts feature women hosts.”

If you feel led to support us please head over to our Patreon page and become a patron or make a one-time donation.  Thanks in advance!  And if you can’t support us, please tell your friends about us or write a review at your podcatcher of choice!

A Big Podcast Announcement

TWOILHWe have some exciting news to announce here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home!

At the end of last year, we were approached by a couple of podcast producers who were in the process of forming a new network of history podcasts, the Recorded History Podcast Network. They have asked us to join as one of a wide range of historically-minded productions.

As we continue to explore the best ways to make the production of the podcast sustainable, we jumped at the opportunity to join forces with others doing similar work.

While we will retain full creative control over the podcast, listeners will notice some changes in 2018. First and foremost, joining the network gives us access to advertisers. This is a great monetization opportunity for us, but it does mean that advertisements will begin appearing throughout the podcast. Ads will be placed at the beginning and end of each episode and there will be a short advertising break in the middle. Additionally, you will start hearing cross-promotions for other podcasts on the network. We believe this will be a great way to spread the word about what we’re doing and introduce other podcasters’ work to our listeners.

Finally, you can also see that there have been some small changes to our visual identity as our podcast logo has been redesigned to include a tag with the Recorded History logo.

This will not change our current relationship with our patrons. In fact, we are working with the network to provide an ad-free option for our patrons as an added perk. So we still need your support. If you have not done so already, please head over to our Patreon campaign website and join the team!

We are very excited about the continued growth of the podcast and our dedicated and growing listenership. We always need good historical thinking, but in times of great social change, we need it more than ever. We believe that the Recorded History Podcast Network presents a wonderful opportunity for making historical thinking more accessible.