BackStory

BackStory

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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

Fit to Print?: A History of Fake News  

Since the 2016 election, concerns about “fake news-” widely circulated news stories that are inaccurate, misleading, or completely made-up - have dominated the headlines. A Buzzfeed study found that in the three months before the election, false news items were shared on social media more than mainstream news. 
On this episode, Nathan, Joanne and Ed will look at other times in history when Americans had to be a bit more careful about what they read.

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On the Outs: Restricting American Immigration  

On Thursday, a federal appeals panel unanimously rejected President Trump’s move to reinstate the ban on travel from seven largely Muslim nations into the United States. The restriction, put into effect by executive order on Jan. 27, is commonly believed to be a ban on Muslims. So, on this episode of BackStory, Ed, Brian, and Joanne look back at sweeping immigration restrictions in the 19th and 20th centuries, and how immigrant communities navigated these changing rules.

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Worlds Apart: Urban/Rural Divides in America  

According to the New York Times, the 2016 election “highlighted a growing rural-urban split.” So, on this episode of BackStory, Brian, Ed and Nathan look at what happens when urban and rural Americans collide.

They’ll tell the story of one coastal couple’s proposal to make part of the Great Plains a vast nature preserve and how it wasn’t received too kindly by the residents of those states. They’ll look at how attitudes towards small town voters shaped American politics in the 1920s. Finally, they’ll explore the urban/rural divide during the Founding Era, when city slicker Alexander Hamilton challenged Thomas Jefferson’s vision of a country composed of humble yeoman farmers.









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PREVIEW - Worlds Apart  

According to the New York Times, the 2016 election “highlighted a growing rural-urban split.” So, on this episode of BackStory, Brian, Ed and Nathan look at what happens when urban and rural Americans collide. They’ll tell the story of one coastal couple’s proposal to make part of the Great Plains a vast nature preserve and how it wasn’t received too kindly by the residents of those states. They’ll look at how attitudes towards small town voters shaped American politics in the 1920s. Finally, they’ll explore the urban/rural divide during the Founding Era, when city slicker Alexander Hamilton challenged Thomas Jefferson’s vision of a country composed of humble yeoman farmers.

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Best of BackStory Pt. 2  

Best of BackStory Pt. 2 by BackStory with the American History Guys

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Preview  

BackStory is going through some big changes. Take a listen to this preview and learn about everything that's going into the new BackStory - premiering on Feb. 3!

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Best Of BackStory Pt. 1  

We’ll spend our last regularly scheduled broadcasts reviewing some of BackStory’s most memorable moments. We’ll revisit BackStory interviews with history makers, the Guys’ expeditions to see history being made, and the unexpected stories behind some of the 21st century’s most basic assumptions. You’ll hear portions of the very first broadcast of BackStory in 2008, Brian Balogh’s roadside conversation with a man from a jail’s work gang, Ed’s interview with a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and Peter’s epic turn as a movie director for a film version of the War of 1812.

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Four More Years: Presidential Inaugurations [rebroadcast]  

As Washington prepares for the next four years, BackStory looks back at some of the more dramatic presidential transitions from the past. On this show, the Guys explore several high-stakes presidential inaugurations and learn what each one tells us about the social and political forces at work at the time. From George Washington’s trembling voice while taking the Oath of Office to the general apathy surround Lincoln’s second inauguration, we’ll remember why inaugurations really matter.

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Health Nuts: A History of Nutritional Advice [rebroadcast]  

Health Nuts: A History of Nutritional Advice [rebroadcast] by BackStory with the American History Guys

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History For The Headlines: 2016 In Review  

As 2016 comes to a close, we’re turning back the clock and looking back on the history behind some of the year’s biggest headlines. From the partisan gridlock over President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, and the Broadway hit Hamilton, to the nomination of Hillary Clinton and the partisan battle cry over “Political Correctness,” we replay some of our favorite backstory moments from 2016.

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Short Take: Hidden Figures - The People Behind The Story You Know  

The movie "Hidden Figures" comes to theaters this month. The film looks at the lives of a group of African American women who worked for NASA as "human computers" - the brains behind the calculations necessary for human space flight. In this Short Take, Brian talked to Margot Lee Shetterly (the author of the book the movie is based on) about the work the women did on projects Mercury and Apollo and the impact they had on the 20th century.

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Judaism In America [rebroadcast]  

On Dec. 24th, Jewish communities across the country begin celebrating Hanukkah. The annual holiday celebrates the victory of the Jews over the Greeks, and marks the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in the 2nd century BC. Roughly 2% of the U.S. population is Jewish, but the influence of American Jews far outweighs their relatively small numbers. In this episode of BackStory, the Guys (along with guest host Joanne Freeman of Yale University) explore the history of Judaism in America.

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Counter Culture: A History of Shopping [rebroadcast]  

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Or is it? The holiday season is notorious for bringing out the beast in shoppers. On this episode of BackStory, the Guys plunge into the history of shopping in America—the glitz and glamour, the overflowing shelves, and the cheesy Muzak. They’ll consider the role that consumption played in the revolutionary politics of the colonies, look at the curious rash of shoplifting among well-heeled women in the country’s first department stores, and reveal the connection between the Wizard of Oz and window shopping.

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Separation Anxiety: Church & State In America  

From the persecution of Quakers in colonial Massachusetts, to 21st century battles over nativity scenes in public squares, the wall separating church and state is hardly set in stone. On this episode of BackStory, the History Guys explore the often blurry line between church and state in America - from Congress’ attempts to block the first Mormon Senator in the early 1900’s, to the federal government’s imprisonment of religious pacifists who refused to fight in the first world war.

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Short Take: Native Americans, the U.S. Government, and a History of Treaties  

On Sunday, the Army Corps of Engineers refused to issue a permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline. The water protectors, which includes members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and other tribes (as well as climate activists), celebrated the decision. But the celebration was brief as the opposition realized that this might be just another battle won in an ongoing war that has spanned centuries. In this Short Take, Brian talks to Robert T. Anderson, a Professor of Law and Director of the Native American Law Center at the University of Washington, about the history of colonization and treaties between the government and indigenous people. (Image credit: Protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline by Fibonacci Blue via Flickr.)

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New & Improved: Advertising in America [rebroadcast]  

Nieman-Marcus’ 2016 Christmas Book, which was first published nearly a century ago as a 16-page leaflet, is 300 pages long. According to Advertising Age, catalogs remain an effective way to reach consumers all year round. This episode of BackStory tackles the tangled history of American advertising - from the nation’s first billboards to catchy radio and TV jingles. When did the industry come into being and how did advertising executives sell Americans on the idea of lunar exploration? We’ll answer these questions and more.

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Short Take: A History Of Rigged Elections  

President-elect Donald Trump said the election was rigged because millions of non-citizens voted (although there is no evidence to support the claim), 2016 Green Party Presidential Candidate Jill Stein has requested audits in multiple swing states with Wisconsin being the first to begin a recount, and Hillary Clinton's campaign is willing to go along with a recount despite that Clinton allies are, according to Politico, "irritated with Jill Stein." Even with all of the talk of tampering, the actual chances of voter fraud are very slim now. The past, however, is a different story. In this BackStory short take, the Guys take a look at the history of rigged elections. (Image credit: Voting Machine Bumpersticker by GalacticWanderlust via Flickr)

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American As Pumpkin Pie: A History Of Thanksgiving [rebroadcast]  

If a Pilgrim were to attend a contemporary Thanksgiving celebration, he or she would probably be stunned by our “traditional” foods. In this episode of BackStory, The Guys discuss Puritan foods with historian James McWilliams, and religion scholar Anne Blue Wills reveals the surprising, 19th century origins of our national holiday. We’ll also hear from legendary NFL quarterback Roger Staubach about what it was like to spend every turkey day on the football field.

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A Whole New World: A History of Utopias  

In his recent book “Utopia for Realists,” Rutger Bregman advocates a 15-hour workweek, universal basic income, and open borders. Sounds like paradise to us! From the Oneida Community’s dream of open, or “complex marriage” to the rise and spectacular fall of Pullman’s model company town, the Guys look at why the idea of “utopianism” has such strong appeal to Americans.

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American Exodus: A History of Emigration [rebroadcast]  

With Donald Trump vowing to keep undocumented Mexicans out of the U.S. with a wall and Hillary Clinton promising the same immigrants a path to citizenship, immigration was a big issue in the 2016 presidential election. But what about the flip side – emigration? In this episode of BackStory, we ask who’s chosen to leave the U.S. and what parts of their American identities they took with them - from the free blacks who sailed to Liberia in search of true freedom to the Depression-era refugees who moved to the Soviet Union.

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