As 2016 comes to a close, BackStory takes a look at the stories that resonated most with our audience. Here are the 10 most popular blog stories from this year:
- Jan. 12, 2016 – Lottery Fever by Diana Williams
The lead up to the largest lottery jackpot to date – the $1.6B Powerball jackpot hit on Jan. 13 and had only one ticket match all numbers, sold to John and Lisa Robinson of Munford, Tennessee – had Americans going crazy with dreams of hitting it big. BackStory Digital Editor & Strategist Diana Williams wrote about past lotteries and how Americans didn’t always look at them favorably.
- Jan. 16, 2016 – A Good Fellow by Melissa Gismondi
UVA PhD student (in history, of course!) and BackStory researcher Melissa Gismondi told the story of Murray Hall, a New York City politician who was remembered as a “man who liked cigars, poker, and good-looking women.” Hall was outed as a woman on a coroner’s report shortly after his death in 1901 and buried in women’s clothing. The subsequent news coverage started a conversation about gender fluidity decades before the term – and any idea of what it meant – entered the American lexicon.
- Jan. 31, 2016 – Murder Was The Case by Diana Williams
Before Aaron Burr shot and killed Alexander Hamilton, the two frenemies teamed up to defend Levi Weeks, a young man accused of murdering his alleged lover and disposing of her body in a Manhattan, New York well.
- Feb. 29, 2016 – “To My Old Master” by Diana Williams
In September of 1848, Frederick Douglass wrote to his former slave master, Thomas Auld. The beautifully written letter had made the rounds on the internet earlier this year. It left us wondering what happened after the letter was published. We turned to Yale historian David W. Blight for answers.
- Mar. 31, 2016 – The Best Little Whorehouse in NOLA by Diana Williams
While the Guys were discussing local power on the podcast, the blog explored local power through the eyes of one of New Orleans’ most beloved characters, Norma Wallace. Wallace was a smart, savvy businesswoman who just happened to be a madam. We talked to Chris Wiltz, who wrote a book about Wallace’s life.
- June 10, 2016 – Let’s Rap! by Ramona Martinez
“Hamilton” the musical swept both the country and the classroom. BackStory associate producer Ramona Martinez looked at how American students were both paying homage to A. Ham and enjoying their history classes by spitting rhymes Lin-Manuel Miranda style.
- July 1, 2016 – Top 10 Historian-Approved Historical Fiction by Melissa Gismondi
Melissa Gismondi is a voracious reader and has a knack for selecting books that appeal to history buffs – both amateur and professional. Her 2016 summer reading selections were for lovers of historical fiction.
- Sept. 12, 2016 – Land of the Free, Home of the Oppressed by Elizabeth McCauley
Colin Kaepernick took a knee and suddenly, many Americans were up in arms. Kaepernick’s act of kneeling during the national anthem, his way of peacefully protesting police brutality, sparked a media frenzy with many calling him unpatriotic. Some pointed out that the Star Spangled Banner has racist overtones and actually adds further insult to the injury many black Americans feel. BackStory fall intern Elizabeth McCauley asked former “Washington Post” editor Jefferson Morley to help us get to the bottom of the controversy by looking at the anthem’s history.
- Oct. 9, 2016 – Baldwin v. Buckley by Aidan Lee
In 1965, James Baldwin and William F. Buckley debated whether American progress had been made at the expense of African Americans. BackStory student writer Aidan Lee caught up with BackStory host Brian Balogh to gain insight on the impact of the debate and learn why its message still lives in contemporary discussions about race.
- Nov. 18, 2016 – Think Faithless Electors Will Change The Outcome of the 2016 Presidential Election? Think Again. by Diana Williams
Hillary Clinton earned 2.9 million more votes than President-elect Donald Trump. Still viewed by many as a stunning loss, the 2016 election had many questioning, again, the existence of the electoral college. With so many petitioning electors to change their minds, BackStory took a look at past examples of faithless electors and asked historians the odds of the faithless changing the election’s outcome.
Bonus stories from our photo blog:
- Aug. 8, 2016 – Coming To America
See what it was like to arrive in America via Ellis Island between 1902 and 1913.
- Oct. 31, 2016 – Creepy Tales From UVA Grounds
In honor of Halloween, BackStory fall intern Peyton Wall shared ghost stories and other ghoulish tales from the Grounds of the University of Virginia.