Screenshot_2020-01-30 The United States of Anxiety 2020

[WNYC\”United States of Anxiety]
The United States of Anxiety will revisit…history, ask how relevant it is to the current election, and trace today’s political and cultural divides back to the Reconstruction era…The new season debuts today with a remarkable story of Black landowners from Quitman County, Mississippi.
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In the lead up to the 2020 Election, “The United States of Anxiety,” from WNYC Studios, is back with an exploration of the unfinished business of our history and its grip on our future.

Hosted by WNYC’s Kai Wright, the new season is driven by an overarching question—“Who is the U.S.A. for?”—a question that underlies our most passionate debates: who is allowed to live here, who should be able to prosper, who can get access to an adequate public school education, and whose lives matter. The United States of America is first and foremost an idea born in the aftermath of the Civil War: one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

But how many of us truly know the roots of that idea? How it came to be, who fought for it, and why?

Through deeply reported stories from across the country, The United States of Anxiety will revisit that history, ask how relevant it is to the current election, and trace today’s political and cultural divides back to the Reconstruction era. In the process, the series will reveal in concrete ways our ongoing struggle to live up to the radicalism of that era. 

The new season debuts today with a remarkable story of Black landowners from Quitman County, Mississippi. The Lester family land has been in the family for generations, but how it came into their possession is a mystery. Family legend holds that it came through “40 acres and a mule.” Host Kai Wright goes on a journey to find the truth, and in the process, he discovers a story about an old and enduring question in American politics: Who is the rightful owner of this country’s staggering wealth?

Additional episodes will explore:

  • How a community in one of California’s most progressive counties came to operate a segregated school, violating a 150-year old constitutional amendment and resulting in the isolation and neglect of Black and Brown kids at the traditional public school.
  • The multitude of ways that—even when adjusted for differences in income and education— the health care system treats Black bodies differently, and the compounding “weathering” effects of consistently inferior care.
  • How the U.S. immigration court system is starved of resources at the very moment it has a backlog of over one million cases, pushing the entire system to a potential breaking point, and how this battle dates back to Reconstruction-era debates about U.S. citizenship.
  • The founding and fate of “Better Homes of South Bend,” an effort in 1950 by 26 Black families to buy land and build homes in a historically white neighborhood in Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s hometown, and how the effects of segregation continue to linger.

One nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. These ideas don’t trace back to the start of our nation; they were developed in the years following the Civil War, as we rewrote our Constitution to codify freedom for millions of formerly enslaved Black people,” said Kai Wright. “In the stories, we tell in each episode, we reveal how people are still trying to make those ideas real in their lives and communities. And we’re reminded of a time in our nation’s history in which that goal felt truly attainable.”

Kai and the team behind The United States of Anxiety were among the few journalists who had the prescience to speak directly to Trump voters before the 2016 election,” said Andrew Golis, Chief Content Officer, WNYC. “Four years later, the team is taking us back to the roots of these divisions, which first emerged not years, but generations ago. This is the right team and the right time to tell stories that draw a direct line from the past to the present, as we as a nation consider our future.”

The first six episodes of The United States of Anxiety will be released weekly until March 5, then bi-weekly leading up to the November election. The series is available at UnitedStatesofAnxiety.org and all other platforms where podcasts are available.


Kai Wright is host and managing editor of The United States of Anxiety, a podcast about the unfinished business of our history and its grip on our future, produced by WNYC Studios. The Atlantic hailed the show as one of the “The Best Podcasts of 2018,” declaring that it “has always been able to swiftly explain current events through the lens of the past.”

In addition, Wright was the host of WNYC Studios’ other limited edition podcasts with social justice themes: The Stakes, There Goes the Neighborhood, and Caught: The Lives of Juvenile Justice, which was honored with an Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Award. He also served as one of the hosts of Indivisible, a national live radio call-in show that WNYC convened during the first 100 days of the Trump Administration to invite Americans to come together across divides.

Wright’s journalism has focused on social, racial, and economic justice throughout his career. Formerly, he was an editor at The Nation and the editorial director of Colorlines. As a fellow of Type Investigations, he covered economic inequality, access to healthcare, and racial inequity. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Mother Jones, and Salon, among other outlets, and his broadcast appearances include MSNBC and NPR. Wright is the author of Drifting Toward Love: Black, Brown, Gay and Coming of Age on the Streets of New York, as well as two surveys of Black-American history.


WNYC Studios is the premier producer of on-demand and broadcast audio, home to some of the industry’s most critically acclaimed and popular podcasts, including Radiolab, On The Media, Trump, Inc., The New Yorker Radio Hour, Death, Sex & Money, The United States of Anxiety, Snap Judgment, Nancy, and Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin. WNYC Studios is leading the new golden age in audio with podcasts and national radio programs that inform, inspire, and delight millions of intellectually curious and highly engaged listeners across digital, mobile, and broadcast platforms. Programs include personal narratives, deep journalism, revealing interviews, and smart entertainment as varied and intimate as the human voice itself.

For more information, visit wnycstudios.org.

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