The American History Podcast

A Program Of Virginia Foundation for the Humanities


Protective Gaze

It might have been hard for Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg to “lean in” a century ago. It’s not that women weren’t in the workforce back then. Millions of women flocked to factories every day. But she would have been hampered by legislation protecting her from her employers — “protective laws,” as these statutes were known. […]

Binary Coeds

By Andrew Parsons You might be aware of the controversy Newsweek stirred with its February cover story, “What Silicon Valley Thinks of Women.” Critics say the cover art perpetuates exactly the female stereotypes the story challenges. But like it or not, Newsweek has sparked once again a conversation over the lack of women in tech […]

What We’re Reading

As we put together each show, we producers read… a lot. Here are a few of the books and articles that helped us put this episode together. Buyways: Billboards, Automobiles, and the American Landscape Catherine Gudis Routledge, 2004 As urban Americans left their homes by foot, by train or by car, they were sure to […]

One of these days, straight to the moon!

By Emily Gadek There are few moments more iconic in 20th-century history than July 20, 1969 — the day Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men to walk on the moon. It took a giant leap in technology and science to reach that moment. But it took more than technology to get the […]

Smoke gets in your eyes

By Andrew Parsons Taboos are tough to overturn in American society. It can take generations, and sometimes court decisions, for Americans to accept such transformative social change as interracial marriage, or to adjust to others as simple as wearing shorts in public. Or maybe all it takes is a really good ad campaign. That’s what […]

Where’s My Jetpack?

By Andrew Parsons When you think about the future,  what are the first images that pop into your mind? If Sleek, futuristic homes in the sky? Flying cars? Robot maids? You may owe it all to The Jetsons – even if you’ve never seen the show. Despite an initial run of just one season, Americans have been […]

Black History Month 2015 Playlist

In preparation for this year’s Black History Month, 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. Episodes   Legislation Impossible: […]


The business of managing oil prices is a tricky one. One the one hand, producers benefit from having high prices. On the other, prices that are too high discourage consumers from, well, consuming.   By the 1950s, the many American companies that had set up shop in the Middle East had perfected this balancing act by […]

Spirit wells

In the 150 odd years since Americans first discovered how to get oil out of the ground, we have come to rely on the stuff in nearly every aspect of our daily lives. We’re extraordinarily dependent on a steady supply of it, but you only have to look to the recent huge drop in oil […]

Here’s How Oil Workers Lived 100 Years Ago

By Andrew Parsons At the turn of the 20th century, Texas found itself in a gold rush… well, a black gold rush, actually. Just like gold rush towns in the Sierra and the Klondike, Texas oil towns bubbled with an influx of workers – and the vices they attracted. Gambling, saloons, prostitution, and high murder […]

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