BackStory

The American History Podcast

A Program Of Virginia Foundation for the Humanities

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A Century of Film Censorship

In 1927, “The Jazz Singer” hit theatres across the United States. The film was a sensation because it was the first to have both synchronized sound and audible dialogue. This success marked the beginning of the end for silent cinema, as well as the advent of the “talkie.” Every studio that had the funding to […]

Fair and Unbiased

  This year, the Pulitzer Prizes celebrates one hundred years of recognizing excellence and integrity in newspaper journalism and, more recently, other forms of media. However, prize founder Joseph Pulitzer wasn’t exactly known for honorable work during his lifetime. In fact, Pulitzer was a pioneer of yellow journalism. Early American Newspapers and Bias Eighteenth century […]

The Klan and The Catholics

    Alfred E. Smith was the first American Catholic to run for presidential office when he secured the Democratic nomination in 1928. A strong opponent of prohibition, Smith doubted that it could be effectively enforced and feared it might lead to an erosion of faith in the rule of law. As a result, he […]

A Chapel On Mr. Jefferson’s Grounds

  Unlike all other nineteenth century institutions of higher education—like Harvard, William & Mary, and Yale—the University of Virginia was founded without a designated religious affiliation. Although Thomas Jefferson envisioned an academic village in which students enjoyed religious freedom, UVA was not a truly secular institution. According to UVA professor, Alan Taylor, “He [Thomas Jefferson] did […]

Wheelchair Diaries

Editor’s Note: This radio piece was originally broadcast on PRI’s The World in June of 2013. Reid Davenport is a filmmaker and public speaker. He recently founded Through My Lens, an organization that enables college students with disabilities. Brigid McCarthy is the senior editor for BackStory. When Reid Davenport was in college, he planned to spend a semester […]

Pull Yourself Up By Your Bootstraps

  On September 18th, 1895, Booker T. Washington delivered  a speech calling for racial co-operation in front of a predominantly white crowd at the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta, Georgia. This address, now known as the “Atlanta Compromise,” was given at a time when race-related terrorism and oppression against African-Americans was at an […]

Land of the Free, Home of the Oppressed

The decision of Colin Kaepernick, quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, to kneel during the national anthem has sparked a media frenzy. Opponents call the display inappropriate and even anti-American. Yet, sales of Kaepernick’s jersey have skyrocketed and similar demonstrations are sweeping across the National Football League. Most notably, Seattle Seahawks players, staff and fans […]

BackStory Live: Presidents and the Press

Join the History Guys – Peter Onuf, Ed Ayers and Brian Balogh – as they explore the complicated relationship between America’s presidents and the fourth estate with a live audience and special guests: University of Purdue historian Kathryn Brownell Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter Carol Leonnig This free event will also celebrate the 100th anniversary […]

Top 10 Historian-Approved Historical Fiction

To celebrate the start of the summer reading season, we’ve put together a list of some of our favorite historical fiction. Help us add to the list with your own recommendations, and let us know what you think about our selections! Blindspot by Jane Kamensky and Jill Lepore (2009) What if historians wrote historical fiction? […]

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Last week, Great Britain voted to leave the European Union. The leave vote passed by narrow margins and wreaked havoc on the country’s economic and political systems. It also revealed a wide generational divide with younger Britons voting to stay, while older voters opted to leave. “I’m so angry,” a young Brit tweeted this week. […]