The American History Podcast

A Program Of Virginia Foundation for the Humanities


No such thing as a free lunch

  Eleven years before the start of the Civil War, as the abolition movement was reaching new heights, a man named William Alcott gathered his supporters together for a discussion about slavery–but not the kind that you’re probably thinking about. “There is no slavery in this world like the slavery of a man to his […]

His “Accidency”

By Andrew Parsons One night in April 1841, John Tyler rose from bed to find out the President of the United States was dead. The news was a big deal because Tyler had been sworn in as William Henry Harrison’s Vice President barely a month before. Harrison, who famously gave the longest inauguration speech in U.S. […]

An Unhappy Franksgiving

By Andrew Parsons These days everyone seems to be concerned with the growing power of the executive branch. But there are limits to the public’s tolerance for a president’s authority…and apparently, it’s the holidays, as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt discovered seventy-five years ago when he stood before the press, and casually announced that he was moving […]

Drawing a New World

As early European explorers and colonists fanned out across North and South America, those who stayed in Europe grew more and more curious. What – and who – were these early explorers encountering? Many of the earliest illustrations depicted the people they encountered as savages and cannibals. In some, Indians were painted in front of […]

‘They came to be visible’

There are few vistas more iconically American than the Statue of Liberty standing in New York Harbor, a symbol of our immigrant roots welcoming the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” It’s hard to imagine, but the statue nearly had a companion in New York Harbor – one intended not to celebrate arriving immigrants, but […]

Native Camp

By Andrew Parsons Ah, summer camp. Swims in the lake; hikes in the pines; making lanyards and friends. For many Americans, summer camp is a right of passage – the first time away from parents, siblings and school friends. Odds are good your camp had a Native American name, you were in a tribe and […]

Indians on the Gridiron

By Andrew Parsons In 1893, a group of young men at the Carlisle Indian Boarding School in Pennsylvania crowded into the superintendent’s office. They came with one request: to play football. The superintendent, a man named Richard Henry Pratt, had banned football at the school a few years earlier, after one student had broken his leg in […]

The Elephant(s) in the Room

In 1924, politicians from around the country gathered in a hot auditorium that reeked of elephants to select a leader. The event was the Democratic National Convention, the place Madison Square Garden. Delegates were meeting in a space that Barnum and Bailey Circus had just left to select the party’s candidate for the upcoming presidential […]

A Bronx Peace

By Andrew Parsons   Benjy Melendez says that as a teenager in the South Bronx, the lights on the street at night came not from streetlights, but fires set by arsonists. “You seen fire all over the place,” says Melendez. They could see the stars at night, too, since broken streetlights were seldom repaired, and […]

The Word We’d Been Waiting For

Today, gridlock is a focal point in public discussions. Partisan gridlock makes Congress ineffective, and nations must overcome years of gridlock to come to new agreements in international negotiations. Even Doctor Who has had to battle gridlock. But what most people don’t know despite all this gridlock is that the term itself originated just a few decades […]

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