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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

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MSNBC commentator Rachel Maddow intersects history with public dialogue in Northwestern, Chicago Humanities Festival talks

Emma Richman/The Daily Northwestern
Rachel Maddow spoke with history Prof. Kathleen Belew at the Chicago Humanities Festival.

Political commentator and author Rachel Maddow discussed historical fascism at Northwestern and the Chicago Humanities Festival Thursday. The talks centered around historic examples of figures protecting democracy from fascist ideologies portrayed in her new book, “Prequel: An American Fight Against Fascism.” 

Maddow currently hosts “The Rachel Maddow Show,” which airs on MSNBC. She has also authored four books. The most recent, “Prequel,” was released Tuesday.

Maddow headlined a small, closed event in Harris Hall in front of history faculty and graduate students. Alongside a panel of select NU history professors, the television host led a dialogue about the stories presented in “Prequel” and the intersections between history and public dialogue. 

History Prof. Kathleen Belew joined Maddow as a panelist at the University event.

“‘Prequel’ shows us that anti-fascist — that is to say, anti-Nazi — organizing has been part of mainstream American politics for a long, long time, and has fundamentally worked to support institutions, free elections and democracy,” Belew said. 

Maddow discussed her position as a non-historian author and the importance of engaging in conversations about history regardless of profession.

She said history plays an integral role in her work.

“I often turn to history just to make sense of things myself,” Maddow said.

Maddow said her inspiration for the book was wanting to expand on discussions of insurrectionist attempts that were featured in her 2022 podcast series, “Ultra.” She described a desire to tell a story that exhibits the “ordinariness of heroes.” 

Later in the day, Maddow and Belew engaged in a one-on-one conversation at the Chicago Humanities Festival. Over  1,000 people attended the sold out event at the University of Illinois Chicago.

Maddow spoke of the importance of telling stories that otherwise wouldn’t be told. She said that characters of “Prequel” could serve as an example of modern-day anti-fascist action.

“In the future, somebody will do a book or whatever future version is of a podcast, about our time,” Maddow said. “About our sort of turn on the chore wheel when this came around for us as Americans who are called upon to save democracy.” 

Attendee Lee Ann Searight said she went to the talk because she thought both the book and the Maddow-Belew discussion were very necessary. 

“My husband and I usually watch Rachel Maddow,” Searight said. ”We thought it is probably relevant to the time we’re in.” 

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated Prof. Kathleen Belew’s department. The Daily regrets the error.

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