The American History Podcast

A Program Of Virginia Foundation for the Humanities


‘They came to be visible’

There are few vistas more iconically American than the Statue of Liberty standing in New York Harbor, a symbol of our immigrant roots welcoming the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” It’s hard to imagine, but the statue nearly had a companion in New York Harbor – one intended not to celebrate arriving immigrants, but […]

Native Camp

By Andrew Parsons Ah, summer camp. Swims in the lake; hikes in the pines; making lanyards and friends. For many Americans, summer camp is a right of passage – the first time away from parents, siblings and school friends. Odds are good your camp had a Native American name, you were in a tribe and […]

Indians on the Gridiron

By Andrew Parsons In 1893, a group of young men at the Carlisle Indian Boarding School in Pennsylvania crowded into the superintendent’s office. They came with one request: to play football. The superintendent, a man named Richard Henry Pratt, had banned football at the school a few years earlier, after one student had broken his leg in […]

The Elephant(s) in the Room

In 1924, politicians from around the country gathered in a hot auditorium that reeked of elephants to select a leader. The event was the Democratic National Convention, the place Madison Square Garden. Delegates were meeting in a space that Barnum and Bailey Circus had just left to select the party’s candidate for the upcoming presidential […]

A Bronx Peace

By Andrew Parsons   Benjy Melendez says that as a teenager in the South Bronx, the lights on the street at night came not from streetlights, but fires set by arsonists. “You seen fire all over the place,” says Melendez. They could see the stars at night, too, since broken streetlights were seldom repaired, and […]

The Word We’d Been Waiting For

Today, gridlock is a focal point in public discussions. Partisan gridlock makes Congress ineffective, and nations must overcome years of gridlock to come to new agreements in international negotiations. Even Doctor Who has had to battle gridlock. But what most people don’t know despite all this gridlock is that the term itself originated just a few decades […]

Punish thy Neighbor?

  The classic story of the American Revolution most of us Americans learn in elementary school is a simple tale: oppressed British colonists (soon to be Americans), united in their desire for their self-evident rights and freedom, fight together against the hated redcoats. But not all the colonists were in favor of a break from […]

The Brain at the Heart of the Matter

In 1911, the last surviving member of the Yahi tribe walked out of the wilderness near Oroville, California. He spoke no English, wore few clothes, and seemed as surprised by the townspeople as they were by him. Local authorities, not sure what else they could do, handed him over to a group of anthropologists at UC […]

High Noons

  Take a moment and think back to this past New Year’s Eve at exactly 11:59 p.m. There’s a reasonable chance that at that precise moment, you were watching Ryan Seacrest on TV, joining him and a good fraction of the rest of the country in counting down the final seconds before the New Year. […]

Sleep Well?

Most of us have been hearing since we were kids about the importance of a good night’s sleep. The ideal, according to many experts ,is seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. But the idea that we need to sleep through the night is a new one in human history. Roger Ekirch, a historian at […]