The American History Podcast

A Program Of Virginia Foundation for the Humanities


Luisa Capetillo: Feminism and Labor In Puerto Rico

In 1915, Luisa Capetillo strolled the streets of Havana as the first Puerto Rican woman ever to wear pants in public. She was shortly stopped and arrested for “causing a scandal.” News outlets of the time reported that Luisa Capetillo petitioned ardently in her own defense. They quoted her as saying “Your Honor, I always […]

Old News, Fake News: The Many Deaths of Sitting Bull

On this week’s episode of BackStory we are looking at “fake news.” The term has been used alternatively to describe the mainstream media; false stories which proliferated on Facebook over the 2016 election cycle; and even stories which extend beyond the political sphere into issues like vaccinations and celebrity gossip. But while the phrase itself […]

In With The Old: Fort Des Moines and the Challenge of Keeping Museums Relevant

Fort Des Moines represents an essential space in the historical intersection of the United States military and the Civil Rights Movement. The fort served as the first Officer Candidate School for African American men during World War I, and then became the first school for Commissioned female officers in World War II. Countless human stories […]

History Behind the Headlines: Prison Strike

Today, prisoners across the country are set to begin a 19-day strike with the intent to end what they’re calling “modern-day slavery.” The inmates plan to stop working and end commissary spending. Those involved in what’s being called Prison Strike 2018 released their list of demands via the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee’s website. The second […]

History Behind the Headlines: Silent Sam

At the UNC Chapel Hill campus last night, a crowd of protesters tore down a Confederate statue known as “Silent Sam.” The statue has been a source of controversy on the UNC campus for decades, and tensions have been rising in recent years. Calls for its removal increased following the 2017 white supremacist rally in […]

The Legacy of the Children of the Manhattan Project

In 1982 I attended an anti-nuclear march in Manhattan. For me, it was part political statement, part personal milestone. My father, Ellis P. Steinberg, and uncle, Bernard Abraham were both scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project, and I’d struggled to reconcile my personal anti-nuclear convictions with a sense of loyalty to my father, especially. […]

The Journalists: My Hunt For Tokyo Rose pt. 2

This is post #2 in the series. Read post #1. As I further my exploration into the story of Iva Toguri (aka Tokyo Rose), I continue to come across blatant disregard for the truth. One such story is that of Clark Lee and Harry Brundidge. Lee quickly made a name for himself as a eyewitness […]

Spirits in the Albumen

William Mumler was a 19th century ghost photographer who was popular among spiritualists and other Americans seeking solace after the death of a loved one. BackStory, with help from, looks at some of the individuals in front of and behind the lens to learn what they thought of spirit photographs at the time. View […]

History Behind the Headlines: Recent Partisan SCOTUS Decisions

The Supreme Court made two very important rulings today. The first decision upholds President Trump’s travel ban on several mostly-Muslim nations. The second is the Court’s decision to strike down a California Law requiring nonprofit centers that perform abortion to inform clients of alternative options. The decision to uphold the President’s travel ban after months […]

Photographing Lincoln’s Ghost

In BackStory episode “The Camera Never Lies?,” Joanne and Brian looked at the history of photography in America – how the medium and its different forms changed the lives of everyday Americans One form taken was spiritual photography. First popular during the Civil War-era, spiritual photography was a way for people to connect with lost […]

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