The American History Podcast

A Program Of Virginia Foundation for the Humanities


Shouldn’t Have Said That

Throughout the  2016 presidential election, candidates and pundits have pushed boundaries and raised questions regarding speech. “Political gaffes” made during speeches are often pointed to as the beginning of the end for many careers. The idea of political gaffes and political correctness is not new. In BackStory’s “Politically Incorrect,” you can hear about the efforts of […]

Q&A with Yale scholar

Brian Balogh, University of Virginia and Beverly Gage, Yale University FBI interference in U.S. elections is nothing new. Last week, FBI Director James Comey reopened an investigation of Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state. On Sunday, Comey announced the investigation was complete, and that there was no evidence that warranted […]

A Thing Of Beauty

  Porcelain teacups might not mean much today, but in early America, “porcelain was something as luxurious and expensive and desirable as sterling silver,” said Alexandra Kirtley of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Porcelain looked, felt, and even sounded different from more affordable, heavy earthenware pottery. Beginning around 1500, porcelain art and tableware was produced […]


History is full of unsung heroes. Consider Samuel Prescott, the Revolutionary colonel who actually completed the midnight ride to warn colonists that the British army was marching towards Concord (Paul Revere was captured). Or Claudette Colvin, an African-American teenager arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a segregated bus nine months before Rosa […]

Baldwin v. Buckley

  On Oct. 26, 1965, James Baldwin and William F. Buckley debated at the Cambridge Union debating society for and against the following motion: “The American Dream is at the Expense of the American Negro.” Each man was allotted 15 minutes to make his argument. Although both speakers exhibited rhetorical mastery, Baldwin, a writer and […]

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 […]

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