BackStory

BackStory

Canada

BackStory with the American History Guys is a nationally syndicated, hour-long, weekly public radio show. We're based in Charlottesville, Virginia at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. Each week we take a topic that people are talking about and explore its roots in American history. Through stories, interviews, and conversation with our listeners, we turn the things Americans take for granted inside out. And while we're at it, we have a lot of fun. Join us.

Episodes

Charlottesville: Our Town, Our Country  

Brian, Ed, Joanne, and Nathan share their personal reactions to last week’s violence in Charlottesville, when white supremacists and Neo-Nazis showed up in town, some of them heavily armed.  Violent clashes left one counter protester dead, and 34 injured.  The BackStory hosts also discuss the meaning of Confederate statutes, and why they’re suddenly so polarizing. They conclude the conversation with why we’re seeing this resurgence in white nationalist activism in 2017.   

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Revisionist Climate: Americans & the Atmosphere  

On this week’s episode, Nathan, Brian and Ed, talk about how Americans have interacted, dealt with, and tried to actively change the North American climate. 

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Are We There Yet?: Americans On Vacation  

As Americans hit the road and take to the skies for summer vacation, Joanne, Ed, and Nathan explore the ways Americans have spent their time off.




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Too Good To Be True?: Myths in American History  

On this week’s episode, Brian, Joanne, and Nathan explore some of the stories Americans tell about our past and find the kernels of truth that lie at the heart of a few American legends.  




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Campus Protests, First Female “Doctor Who”  & Voter Suppression  

In this History Grab Bag, Nathan, Ed, Brian and Joanne discuss the history behind stories in the news. They look at the changing nature of student protests on campuses and the reaction to the first time a woman is cast to play “Doctor Who,” the title role in the BBC’s hit sci-fi TV series. They also talk about the Supreme Court’s decision to hear a case on the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering.

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Skin Deep: Whiteness in America  

This week, BackStory looks at whiteness in America by broadcasting segments from podcasts we admire. These stories -- from the podcasts Scene on Radio and What’s Ray Saying along with a segment from BackStory’s archives -- explore what it means to be white in America, and how the concept of whiteness has fundamentally shaped our country. 






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Hometown History: Local Stories From Across The Country  

This week, BackStory looks at local history by broadcasting segments from podcasts we admire. These stories -- from Chicago, New Orleans, St. Louis and San Francisco -- illuminate big themes in American history and tell us something about what makes these places so unique. 


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iPhone Turns 10, The Health Care Mess & Political Violence  

In this History Grab Bag, Nathan, Ed, Brian and Joanne discuss the history behind stories in the news. They’ll look at the introduction of the iPhone 10 years ago, and the dimming prospects for the Senate Republicans’ health care plan. They also welcome back an old friend of the show, who talks to Joanne about two recent incidents of political violence. Plus, BackStory celebrates its 200th show this week with a few favorite pieces from the archives and footnotes!

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Crowning Glory: A History of Hair in America  

From Katy Perry’s new pixie to cut to Lebron James going bald - hair (or the lack of) is in the headlines a lot recently. On this episode, Brian, Joanne and Nathan explore some of the many meanings Americans have attached to hair - as a marker of personal identity, a living connection to distant loved ones, and even as the root of business empire. 

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Contested Landscape: The Battle over Confederate Monuments  

Communities from New Orleans to Charlottesville, Virginia have been debating the presence of Confederate monuments. On this episode of BackStory, Ed, Nathan and Brian discuss when and why many of the nation’s Confederate statues were erected, and what they stood for.  They’ll examine the many meanings of the Confederate flag and hear a Civil War re-enactor take a closer look at his Southern heritage. 



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Prying Eyes: Privacy in America  

Is privacy a guaranteed American right? Or is it just continually under threat? On this episode, Joanne, Ed and Nathan explore the places where the private and the public collide. We’ll look at voting in the 19th century, surveillance of gay employees in the federal government, the newsworthiness of your private life, and find out if there was ever a golden age of privacy in America. Image credit: The Right to Privacy by Unarmed Civilian via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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Body Politics, JFK at 100 and African American Memorials  

In this episode of BackStory, Brian’s off, but Joanne, Ed, and Nathan are holding it down and talking about the history behind items in this week’s news. They’ll discuss the art of the Presidential Handshake, John F. Kennedy’s 100th birthday and public monuments of African Americans.

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Call To Arms: Enlistment In America  

Memorial Day honors those who’ve died while serving in the military. In this episode of BackStory, Ed, Joanne, and Brian look at the many reasons for joining the U.S. armed services - from a sense of patriotism, to escaping poverty, to earning American citizenship. They’ll discuss the struggles of the Continental Army to find enough soldiers during the Revolutionary War and how thousands of Filipinos became American citizens by enlisting in the US Navy after World War II.

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National Lampoon: A History of American Satire  

The election of Donald Trump has been a boon to political satirists.  Saturday Night Live is enjoying its highest ratings in 20 years, andThe Late Show with Stephen Colbert is now the most successful late night program on TV.  Joanne, Ed and Brian look at the long history of political satire in America - how Mark Twain became the country’s most famous satirist by mostly sticking to safe subjects, a look at the 1987 Supreme Court case that made political satire protected speech, and talk to the star and director of “Ask a Slave”, the satirical web series.


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The Habit: Opioid Addiction in America  

Opioid addiction is a national epidemic. According to the U.S Department of Health & Human Services, "drug overdose deaths are the leading cause of injury death in the United States." In this episode, Nathan, Ed and Brian look at America's long history with opioids - like opium, morphine and heroin. They’ll discuss how late 19th century doctors spurred the nation’s first addiction crisis and how race and class have shaped our perception of addicts and addiction.  

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History Grab Bag 5.5  

In this History Grab Bag, Joanne, Ed, Brian and Nathan discuss the history behind items in this week’s news. They’ll discuss why the Civil War and its monuments remain so divisive, consider the varied paths of ex-Presidents, and talk about this week’s Supreme Court decision that says cities can sue big banks over predatory lending.

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American Hoarders: Saving History  

How is the history of a nation remembered? Well -- it all depends on what you keep. We're talking about recipes, old record collections, wedding dresses, newspapers, family letters or even your own personal diary. These are the types of documents future generations depend on to understand past American culture.


On this episode, Joanne, Ed and Nathan talk about the people who took it upon themselves to collect stuff they knew someone would one day care about -- even if some thought it weird. We'll tell the story of a U.S. congressman who collected his colleagues' discarded notes and talk to his 21st-century counterpart -- someone trying to archive the daily culture of the internet.



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History Grab Bag 4.21  

In this History Grab Bag, Joanne, Ed, Brian and Nathan discuss the history behind items in the news. They’ll look at the deep history of sanctuary cities and rule of law, and look at America’s history of boycotts all the way back to the Boston Tea Party. The hosts will also talk about why it’s so hard for presidents from Nixon to Trump to actually shrink the federal government. Plus, footnotes! 

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Over There: America Enters WWI  

This April marks the 100th anniversary of the United States’s entry into World War I. So on this episode of BackStory, Brian, Joanne, and Ed discuss how this oft-forgotten war set the stage for the American century. 
We’ll explore how Woodrow Wilson led a decidedly isolationist country into war. We’ll also discuss the repressive ways Wilson and his administration cracked down on anti-war sentiment. 

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Seeing Red: A History of U.S./Russia Relations  

In recent years, the White House’s relationship with the Kremlin has dominated the headlines in America --  from Syria to Ukraine. According to CNN, Vladimir Putin denounced last night's U.S. airstrike against Syria (a response to a Syrian chemical weapons attack earlier this week) as "aggression against a sovereign state in violation of the norms of international law." In addition, an FBI probe into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russians in the 2016 election has turned into a full-blown political scandal.  It can be tempting to view these events through the familiar lens of the Cold War, but in this episode, Joanne, Ed and Brian probe the deeper history of our relationship with Russia — and discover moments of comity as well as conflict.

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