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‘Grounding them in truth’

Northwestern historians and MSNBC host Rachel Maddow discuss reaching the public with history
rachel maddow
Northwestern historians conversed with Rachel Maddow on how to inform an audience, crafting stories for different mediums and the possibility that people change over time. Photo by Shane Collins

Three-time Emmy and Grammy Award-winning broadcaster Rachel Maddow paid a visit to Northwestern’s history department Oct. 19.

At the invitation of associate professor Kathleen Belew, Maddow spent two hours with faculty and graduate students exchanging questions and ideas about ways to cross the academic divide and inform the public about timely and complex historical topics.

Joining Maddow in conversation were four Northwestern history professors whose books touch on fascism, the topic of Maddow’s newest book, “Prequel: An American Fight Against Fascism.” They included Belew (“Bring the War Home”); Deborah Cohen (“Last Call at the Hotel Imperial”); Daniel Greene, ( “Americans and the Holocaust” co-editor); and Lauren Stokes, (“Fear of the Family: Guest Workers and Family Migration in the Federal Republic of Germany”).

Their conversation topics ranged from how to inform an audience without overwhelming them, crafting stories for different mediums, and the real possibility that people change over time.

“Writing history that reads like a novel is good history,” Maddow said. “It can reach and move millions and make them better people. It can teach them truth. Grounding them in truth is even better than changing their opinion.”