Episode 204: Blake Scott Ball

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A native of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, Blake Ball originally wanted to be a musician. Then he got the history bug. He has a new book out and it's his first, Charlie Brown's America: The Popular Politics of Peanuts. He's also the head of the history department at Huntingdon College in Alabama.

When you think of Peanuts, you probably don't think of politics. But given the enormous popularity of the comic and TV shows, Charles Schulz felt obligated to address some of the major issues of the day, from civil rights to the women's movement and the Vietnam War. Schulz, however, often approached these subjects with ambivalence and ambiguity. One thing he was not "wishy washy" about, though, was his Christianity. And Schulz had to fight to have the Charlie Brown Christmas show contain an overtly Christian message at the end to remind people of the "reason for the season."

Schulz wrote Peanuts for fifty years, producing 17,000 comics. At its height, the strip reached 100 million people per day. That's a big readership, and it meant Schulz had to take on some big topics. He also had to do it in a way that wouldn't alienate his audience. In his well-written and engaging book, Blake Ball explores how Schulz did this.

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