Reveal

The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX

There's More To The Story

  • 50 minutes 19 seconds
    40 Acres and a Lie Part 1

    Our historical investigation found 1,250 formerly enslaved Black Americans who were given land – only to see it returned to their enslavers.

    Patricia Bailey’s four-bedroom home sits high among the trees in lush Edisto Island, South Carolina. It’s a peaceful place where her body healed from multiple sclerosis. It’s also the source of her generational wealth.

    Bailey built this house on land that was passed down by her great-great-grandfather, Jim Hutchinson, who was enslaved on Edisto before he was freed and became a landowner. 

    “I know this is sacred land here,” Bailey says, “’cause it's my ancestors and I feel it.” 

    Union General William T. Sherman’s Special Field Orders, No. 15 – better known as 40 acres and a mule – implied a better life in the waning days of the Civil War. Hutchinson is among the formerly enslaved people who received land through the field orders, which are often thought of as a promise that was never kept. But 40 acres and a mule was more than that. 

    It was real.

    Over a more than two-year investigation, our partners at the Center for Public Integrity have unearthed thousands of records once buried in the National Archives. In them, they found more than 1,200 formerly enslaved people who were given land by the federal government through the field orders – and then saw that land taken away. 

    None of the land Bailey lives on today is part of Hutchinson’s 40 acres. Instead, her family’s wealth is built on her ancestor’s determination to get and keep land of his own, after losing what he thought he had gained through the field orders.

    This week on Reveal, with our partners at the Center for Public Integrity, we bring you the first in a three-part series in which we tell the history of an often-misunderstood government program. We explore a reparation that wasn’t – and the wealth gap that remains.

    15 June 2024, 4:00 am
  • 40 minutes 20 seconds
    A Battle Over Preserving the Lakota Language

    Many Lakota people agree it's imperative to revitalize their language, which has declined to fewer than 1,500 fluent speakers, according to some estimates. But how to do that is a matter of broader debate and a contentious legal battle. Should Lakota be codified and standardized to make learning it easier? Or should the language stay as it always has been, defined by many different ways of writing and speaking? The NPR podcast Code Switch explores this complex, multigenerational fight that's been unfolding in the Lakota Nation, from Standing Rock to Pine Ridge.


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    12 June 2024, 4:00 am
  • 49 minutes 38 seconds
    The Great Arizona Water Grab

    For years, a Saudi-owned hay farm has been using massive amounts of water in the middle of the Arizona desert and exporting the hay back to Saudi Arabia. 

    The farm’s water use has attracted national attention and criticism since Reveal’s Nate Halverson and Ike Sriskandarajah first broke this story more than eight years ago.

    Since then, the water crisis in the American West has only worsened as megafarms have taken hold there. And it’s not just foreign companies fueling the problem: Halverson uncovers that pension fund managers in Arizona knowingly invested in a local land deal that resulted in draining down the groundwater of nearby communities. So even as local and state politicians have fought to stop these deals, their retirement fund has been fueling them.

    Since we first aired this story in July, our reporting has spurred Arizona’s governor and attorney general into action. 

    On this week’s Reveal, learn about water use in the West, who’s profiting and who’s getting left behind.

    For more of Halverson’s reporting into a global scramble for food and water, watch “The Grab.” By Center for Investigative Reporting Studios and director Gabriela Cowperthwaite, the film will be in theaters and available to stream starting June 14.

    This is an update of an episode that originally aired in July 2023.

    8 June 2024, 4:00 am
  • 2 minutes 29 seconds
    40 Acres and a Lie Trailer

    Our new three-part series launches June 15th, exploring the legacy of America’s broken promise to formerly enslaved Black people.


    6 June 2024, 4:00 am
  • 50 minutes 35 seconds
    Sunblocked: Resistance to Solar in Farm Country

    Bill and Nancy Rasweiler thought they were making a smart decision when they decided to lease their land to Shepherd’s Run, a large-scale solar project that promised a steady income and offered them a way to contribute to renewable energy efforts. But when they presented their plan to the town of Copake, New York, they were met with widespread backlash. 

    “We never expected this kind of resistance,” Nancy Rasweiler recalled. “We thought it would be a win-win for everyone.” Instead, the Rasweilers found themselves at the center of a heated debate over the area’s future. 

    Residents in Copake are deeply divided: While some see it as a necessary step toward renewable energy, others fear it will harm the environment and disrupt their rural community. It’s been seven years, and the project’s future is still uncertain. 

    This week on Reveal, investigative reporter Jonathan Jones travels to Copake to explore the resistance to Shepherd’s Run, how the divide is affecting the town and what this fight means for renewable energy projects across the country. 

    This is an update of an episode that originally aired in January 2024.

    1 June 2024, 4:00 am
  • 47 minutes 30 seconds
    Not All Votes Are Created Equal

    As any schoolkid might tell you, U.S. elections are based on a bedrock principle: one person, one vote. Simple as that. Each vote carries the same weight. Yet for much of the country’s history, that hasn't been the case. At various points, whole classes of people were shut out of voting: enslaved Black Americans, Native Americans and poor White people. The first time women had the right to vote was in 1919. This week’s show is about a current version of this very old problem.

    For this episode, Reveal host Al Letson does a deep dive with Mother Jones correspondent Ari Berman about his new book, “Minority Rule: The Right-Wing Attack on the Will of the People – and the Fight to Resist It.”

    We go back to America’s early years and examine how the political institutions created by the Founding Fathers were meant to constrain democracy. This system is still alive in the modern era, Berman says, through institutions like the Electoral College and the U.S. Senate, which were designed as checks against the power of the majority. What’s more, Berman argues that the Supreme Court is a product of these two skewed institutions. Then there are newer tactics – like voter suppression and gerrymandering – that are layered on top of this anti-democratic foundation to entrench the power of a conservative White minority.

    Next, we trace the rise of conservative firebrand Pat Buchanan and how he opened the door for Donald Trump. Buchanan made White Republicans fear becoming a racial minority. And he opposed the Voting Rights Act, which struck down obstacles to voting like poll taxes and literacy tests that had been used to keep people of color from the polls. Buchanan never came close to winning the presidency, but he transformed White anxiety into an organizing principle that has become a centerpiece of much of today’s Republican Party.

    The final segment follows successful efforts by citizen activists in Michigan to end political gerrymandering and reinforce the democratic principle of one person, one vote. Berman argues that this state-based organizing should be a national model for democratic reform. 

    25 May 2024, 4:00 am
  • 50 minutes 35 seconds
    Lessons From a Mass Shooter’s Mother

    In 2014, in the college town of Isla Vista, California, a 22-year-old man murdered six people and injured 14 others before killing himself. The killer didn’t suddenly “snap” one day out of the blue; he planned the attack and spiraled into crisis in the years leading up to it. 

    The horrific incident left violence prevention experts wondering: What were the missed warning signs?

    One person who held some of the answers was the killer’s mother, Chin Rodger. She has long avoided the media, fearing that speaking publicly would only hurt the victims’ families more. But 10 years later, she’s come to see a greater purpose – that  sharing what she knows about her son’s behavior before the attack could help others identify similar warning signs and prevent further violence.

    By confronting and sharing the painful memories and evidence her son, Elliot, left behind, Rodger has contributed to the field of threat assessment – teams of people who specialize in collecting information on possible threats, connecting the dots and intervening before tragedy strikes. This week on Reveal, Rodger talks publicly for the first time with Mother Jones reporter Mark Follman.

    18 May 2024, 4:00 am
  • 50 minutes 5 seconds
    The Racist Hoax That Changed Boston

    Note: This episode contains descriptions of violence and suicide and may not be appropriate for all listeners. 

    In 1989, Chuck Stuart called 911 on his car phone to report a shooting. 

    He said he and his wife were leaving a birthing class at a Boston hospital when a man forced him to drive into the mixed-race Mission Hill neighborhood and shot them both. Stuart’s wife, Carol, was seven months pregnant. She would die that night, hours after her son was delivered by cesarean section, and days later, her son would die, too.

    Stuart said he saw the man who did it: a Black man in a tracksuit. 

    Within hours, the killing had the city in a panic, and Boston police were tearing through Mission Hill looking for a suspect.  

    For a whole generation of Black men in Mission Hill who were subjected to frisks and strip searches, this investigation shaped their relationship with police. And it changed the way Boston viewed itself when the story took a dramatic turn and the true killer was revealed.

    This week on Reveal, in partnership with columnist Adrian Walker of The Boston Globe and the “Murder in Boston” podcast, we bring you the untold story of the Stuart murder: one that exposed truths about race and crime that few White people in power wanted to confront.  

    To hear more of The Boston Globe’s investigation, listen to the 10-part podcast “Murder in Boston.” The HBO documentary series “Murder in Boston: Roots, Rampage, and Reckoning” is available to stream on Max. 

    11 May 2024, 4:00 am
  • 50 minutes 16 seconds
    We Regret to Inform You

    Bruce Praet is a well-known name in law enforcement, especially across California. He co-founded a company called Lexipol that contracts with more than 95% of police departments in the state and offers its clients trainings and ready-made policies.


    In one of Praet’s training webinars, posted online, he offers a piece of advice that policing experts have called inhumane. It’s aimed at protecting officers and their departments from lawsuits.


    After police kill someone, they are supposed to notify the family. Praet advises officers to use that interaction as an opportunity. Instead of delivering the news of the death immediately, he suggests first asking about the person who was killed to get as much information as possible. 


    Reporter Brian Howey started looking into this advice when he was with the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. He found that officers have been using this tactic across California, and the information families disclosed before they knew their relative was killed affected their lawsuits later. In this hour, Howey interviews families that have been on the receiving end of this controversial policing tactic, explaining their experience and the lasting impact. Howey travels to Santa Ana, where he meets a City Council member leading an effort to end Lexipol’s contract in his city. And in a parking lot near Fresno, Howey tracks down Praet and tries to interview him about the consequences of his advice. 


    This is an update of an episode that originally aired in November 2023. 


    4 May 2024, 4:00 am
  • 49 minutes 34 seconds
    The Spy Inside Your Smartphone

    Around the globe, journalists, human rights activists, scholars and others are facing digital attacks from Pegasus, military-grade spyware originally developed to go after criminals. Some of the people targeted have been killed or are in prison.

    In this episode, Reveal partners with the Shoot the Messenger podcast to investigate one of the biggest Pegasus hacks ever uncovered: the targeting of El Faro newspaper in El Salvador.

    In the opening story, hosts Rose Reid and Nando Vila speak with El Faro co-founder Carlos Dada and reporter Julia Gavarrete. El Faro has been lauded for its investigations into government corruption and gang violence. The newspaper is no stranger to threats and intimidation, which have increased under the administration of President Nayib Bukele.

    Reid and Vila also speak with John Scott-Railton of Citizen Lab, a Toronto-based digital watchdog group. Scott-Railton worked to identify the El Faro breach, and it was one of the most obsessive cases of spying Citizen Lab has ever seen.

    Over the course of one year, 22 members of the newspaper’s staff had their phones infected with Pegasus and were surveilled by a remote operator. Researchers suspect Bukele’s government was behind the spying, though officials have denied those allegations. The breach forced El Faro’s journalists to change the way they work and live and take extreme measures to protect sources and themselves. 

    Then Reid talks with Reveal’s Al Letson about growing efforts to hold the NSO Group, the company behind Pegasus, accountable for the massive digital attacks.

    27 April 2024, 4:00 am
  • 50 minutes 15 seconds
    After the Crash

    In November 2020, Blossom Old Bull was raising three teenagers on the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana. Her youngest son, Braven Glenn, was 17, a good student, dedicated to his basketball team. But he’d become impatient with pandemic restrictions, and his grandmother had just passed away from COVID-19.   

    One night, Glenn and his mother got in a fight, and he left the house. The next day, Old Bull got a call saying Glenn was killed in a police car chase, that he died in a head-on collision with a train. Old Bull was desperate for details about the accident, but when she went to the police station, she discovered it had shut down without any notice.  

    Mother Jones reporter Samantha Michaels follows Old Bull’s search for answers about her son’s death and discovers serious lapses in policing on the Crow and other Indian reservations. Old Bull encounters many roadblocks. She files a Freedom of Information Act request for the police report, but her request is denied. As months pass, she still doesn’t have basic information, like which officer chased her son and how he ended up on the train tracks.

    Next, Michaels traces the origins of the police force that chased Glenn. It was created by the Crow Nation’s chairman to address a lack of policing on the reservation. Before the new police force was launched, the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs was responsible for policing. But its force was underfunded and understaffed, with only four or five officers patrolling an area nearly the size of Connecticut. The new department was supposed to be a solution, but there were problems from the start. Old Bull learns from a former dispatcher that officers were not properly trained and the department was in chaos.

    Nearly three years after Glenn’s death, Michaels is able to obtain information about the accident and share it with Old Bull. Through a FOIA request, Michaels receives official reports about the accident that explain how Glenn ended up on the train tracks. The reports also show how the investigation into the chase was flawed. Old Bull processes the information and grapples with a disturbing fact: The federal government denied her own FOIA request, even though she’s Glenn’s mother, but handed over documents to Michaels, a White reporter with no connection to Glenn. Days later, Michaels brokers a meeting between Old Bull and the former tribal police chief. Old Bull shares how the department’s sudden closure – and the lack of information about her son’s death – affected her family.

    20 April 2024, 4:00 am
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