The American History Podcast

A Program Of Virginia Foundation for the Humanities


History Behind the Headlines: White Stories of Black Lives

At the Oscars on Sunday, the award for Best Picture went to “Green Book,” a film loosely based on the real-life relationship between classically-trained African American jazz pianist Don Shirley, and racist, Italian-American Tony “Lip” Vallelonga. Tony is Don’s chauffeur and unofficial bodyguard as they drive through the segregated South on tour in 1962. The […]

Today in Historiography: How an #MLKDay Tweet About a Confederate General Sparked a Debate

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, many followers of the Library of Congress Twitter account saw this post about the birth of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson on January 21, 1824: Today in History: Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson born, 1824 #hbd #otd #tih — Library of Congress (@librarycongress) January 21, 2019 Many responses to […]

The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: A Q&A with Author David Treuer

On the morning of December 29, 1890, U.S. Cavalry troops went into a Lakota camp near Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota to disarm its inhabitants. What happened next is up for debate because there are differing accounts of how the shooting that became known as The Wounded Knee Massacre started. Regardless of how it […]

History Behind the Headlines: Tom Brokaw and Assimilation

On Sunday, former anchor of “NBC Nightly News” Tom Brokaw indicated that Hispanics aren’t doing enough to assimilate into American culture. Brokaw, who now serves as a special correspondent for NBC since his retirement in 2004, appeared as part of a panel on the network’s weekly political roundtable, “Meet the Press.” During a discussion about […]

History Behind the Headlines: Government Shutdowns

The government shutdown will become the longest in US history if it persists through Saturday. With President Trump and the Democrat-controlled House at loggerheads over the issue of funding for a wall along the US-Mexico border, roughly 800,000 federal employees are either furloughed or working without pay. But while funding disputes have occurred as long […]

Recognizing the Best in Public History

For the first time ever, BackStory is acknowledging the work of other public history projects with a prize. The BackStory Prize recognizes excellence in public history – work that is often discounted or overlooked because it occurs outside of academia. Exhibitions, musicals, books, paintings, films and podcasts were all eligible. Buildings and other structures, like […]

The War Before the War: Q&A with Andrew Delbanco

Andrew Delbanco’s latest book, “The War Before the War,” explores American slavery and fugitive slaves, and the role these issues played from the founding of the United States to its disintegration in the years leading up to the Civil War. Delbanco examines the series of compromises created around these issues, and the moral and political […]

Preserving History: Martha A. Maxwell and the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition

Taxidermy may suspend the decay of animal specimens, but the process cannot completely protect the remains from the ravages of insects, humidity, and well, time. But, digitized artifacts can be preserved for posterity. So, thanks to’s digital archives, today we present American taxidermist Martha A. Maxwell.  You might recognize Maxwell from the cover art […]

Did Walter O’Malley Betray New York When He Took the Dodgers to California?

Adapted from “Baseball Goes West: The Dodgers, the Giants, and the Shaping of the Major Leagues” by Lincoln Mitchell.  From the New York perspective, the story of why the Dodgers and Giants left the New York is one with many potential villains and no heroes. The two individuals most often described as the villains in […]