As Season 5 has come to a close, the Reel South team has thought it would be worth it to share podcasts about the South to fill our southern story desires until next season.
We connected with N’Jeri Eaton, who is the director of planning and new audiences at NPR, and lives and breathes podcasts.
“I think podcasts present a new change in the way to present histories and to tell [young people] the histories,” she said during a phone interview. “I’m really excited about the future of podcasts.”
While podcasts hold their own weight, Eaton feels there’s something special about podcasts from and about the South.
“My entire family is from Alabama and my own work focuses on telling stories from the South,” Eaton said, who helps produce NPR’s White Lies. “I think the South is a part of the country where we don’t really hear enough stories about and it’s often centered around the Civil Rights Movement, but there are long, strange, complicated histories and present stories to tell about what’s happening in the South, so I’m really glad that podcasts give storytellers another opportunity to share their own narratives.”
Reel South’s full list of suggested podcasts about and from the South can be read below, but Eaton suggested the first three herself, which include Bottom of the Map, In the Dark (Season 2), and Buried Truths.
“I love any podcast about the way our world is shaped through pop culture,” Eaton said of Bottom of the Map, which explores the connection of Southern hip-hop culture has to broader topics like politics and society. “Pop culture is an incredibly important tool that we professionally or personally learn from. When we look at things from a pop culture lens, it can offer an entry point to an idea that you might have been otherwise resistant to.”
Eaton is excited for the future of podcasts because of how far she’s seen them come and how far she envisions them to go. She is most excited to connect with younger listeners (ages 18-24 or younger) through working with teachers to include podcasts in their curriculum, largely because of the vast education possibilities solidly-produced podcasts have to offer — like Dolly Parton’s America.
“Look at Dolly Parton’s America,” Eaton said. “You learn so much through her music and this podcast — like sexism and the challenges in the workplace and labor laws. There’s so much to unpack [through pop culture].”
Explore Reel South’s top picks for podcasts from and about the South below.
About: Curtis Flowers has been tried six times for the same crime — the 1996 murders of four people at the Tardy Furniture store in Mississippi. For more than 20 years, Flowers has maintained his innocence. He's won appeal after appeal, including the U.S. Supreme Court overturning his latest conviction and death sentence, but every time, the prosecutor just tries the case again. What does the evidence reveal? And why does the justice system ignore the prosecutor's record?
About: Each season investigates still-relevant stories of injustice, resilience and racism in the America South. Season 1 focused on Isaiah Nixon, voter suppression and new beginnings and Season 2 explores police privilege, racial conditioning and community activism through the story of A.C. Hall, a black teenager mistakenly identified as stealing a gun in Macon, Georgia in 1962.
About: Join the passionate exploration of Southern hip-hop and its ties to broader topics like politics, society, and culture.
About: In 1965, white Civil Rights activist Rev. James Reeb was murdered in Selma, Ala. Three men were tried and acquitted, but no one was ever held to account. Fifty years later, two NPR journalists from Alabama return to the city where it happened, expose the lies that kept the murder from being solved and uncover a story about guilt and memory that says as much about America today as it does about the past.
About: Go beyond the lines of Southern stereotypes and explore the stories of people who are pushing the South into a forward-looking and better direction. From the South’s ties with immigration to the South’s liquor of choice to the varying music of the South and beyond, the Bitter Southerner Podcast touches on various aspects of Southern culture.
About: The Atlantic’s Floodlines investigates the events following Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and the series unearths human stories that take listeners to the heart of the tragedy; they investigate the failures of politicians and the media; and they question the officials who were in charge: the tormented former police chief of New Orleans, and the former FEMA chief Michael Brown—“Brownie”—among them.
About: More than 25 black children, adolescents, and young adults go missing from 1979 to 1981 in Atlanta, only to be found later, their bodies disposed of in remote areas as a real-life boogeyman was left uncaught. Then 22-year-old Wayne Williams was convicted of two murders and the authorities close the majority of the child killings, attributing them to him. But did they get the right man? Questions still linger and Atlanta Monster tries to answer them 40 years later.
About: WNYC Studios highlights one of the few things everyone still seems to agree on — Dolly Parton. But why? This question leads to a deeply personal, historical, and musical rethinking of one of America’s great icons.
About: Explore the history of country music made in the 20th Century, from Merle Haggard to Loretta Lynn. Learn the truth of country music’s wild and amazing roots because of the artists’ wild and amazing roots.
About: The South has a dark underbelly connected to the historic and contemporary true crime stories based in the South. This independent podcast gives detailed accounts of wrongful convictions, murder/suicides, arsonists, missing persons, and cold-blooded murders.
About: This 11-part series from Texas Monthly and Imperative Entertainment highlights the history between the Permian Basin and the Texas oil industry.
About: Dallas Morning News journalist Scott Farwell spent two years reporting on a brave, troubled woman named Carol, who is a former church camp counselor, lifelong heroin addict and top informant against one of the most violent gangs in Texas.
About: Typically, stories about Asian Americans are centered on the experiences of those who grew up on the coasts — New York, Southern California, the Bay Area. In this podcast, though, the audience experiences what it means to be Asian American in the American South.