The American History Podcast

A Program Of Virginia Foundation for the Humanities


The ever-changing afterlife of Alexander Hamilton

On July 11, 1804, Alexander Hamilton was shot and mortally wounded by Vice President Aaron Burr in a duel in Weehawken, New Jersey. He died the next day. But the way he died is probably the least interesting aspect of Hamilton’s life. He rose from a life of poverty as a de facto orphan in […]

Steamy stuff from President Warren G. Harding

“You…set me aflame with the fullness of your beauty and the fire of your desire…” Steamy stuff from President Warren G. Harding, and he wasn’t talking about his wife! The Library of Congress is finally making Harding’s love letters to his mistress public later this month, shedding light on a scandal that could have been – if […]

Wisconsin Death Trip

Back in 1967, author and historian Michael Lesy stumbled across a collection of late-19th century photographs taken in a small town in Wisconsin called Black River Falls. Intrigued by what he saw, he started reading the town newspapers from the same period. Artfully arranging the photos and newspaper fragments in sequences, Lesy published them under […]

It’s Squirrel Week!

We’re so excited about the Washington Post’s “Squirrel Week,” that we dug up a great interview from our archives – on squirrels as pets in early America. In it, historian Sarah Hand Meacham reads from a poem she found in the Virginia Gazette, written in 1768, where a young lady mourns the passing of her pet squirrel. Here’s the […]

Great GREEN Moments in American Literature

As we were putting together our show about the color green, we got a great idea from Shelley NiTuama, one of our listeners, who suggested several American books and poems in which green has taken center stage. Inspired by Shelley’s suggestions, we added a few of our own to start a special BackStory compilation: great […]

The HISTIES, 2014

Forget about the Oscars. We’re all about the HISTIES here at BackStory! The HISTIE is our newly-minted award for the movie which does the best job of dealing with a historical subject. The guy’s made the case for their Histie-nominees on this week’s show, and now we want your VOTES! Along with the guy’s shortlist […]

Black History Month Playlist

February is Black History Month, so we’ve put together a selection of BackStory episodes and segments that illuminate the African-American experience in the story of the United States. You can easily browse and download these Black History Month segments on our SoundCloud page, where we’ve put them together as a playlist. You can also download these […]

Great American Speeches

As we work on our upcoming show about American Oratory, we’re compiling a list of the greatest speeches in American history, as suggested by BackStory listeners. Here’s what we have so far: General George Washington’s “Newburgh Address” in 1783, delivered to officers of the Continental Army who were threatening to overthrow the government. “The Meaning of the Fourth of […]

A Bill for BackStory

BackStory is enmeshed in a grammatical crisis – and we need your help to resolve it. Divisions are forming, banners are flying, and a war of words might break out at any second over a critical question of BackStory policy: which indefinite article to use with the noun “historian”? “AN HISTORIAN” OR “A HISTORIAN”? Our hosts took […]

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