BackStory show


Summary: BackStory is a weekly public podcast hosted by U.S. historians Ed Ayers, Brian Balogh, Nathan Connolly and Joanne Freeman. We're based in Charlottesville, Va. at Virginia Humanities. There’s the history you had to learn, and the history you want to learn - that’s where BackStory comes in. Each week BackStory takes a topic that people are talking about and explores it through the lens of American history. Through stories, interviews, and conversations with our listeners, BackStory makes history engaging and fun.


 299: Haunted Histories: A BackStory Halloween Special | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 2144

On this episode, Joanne brings you a sampling of some of our spookiest segments just in time for Halloween.

 298: Rallying Behind Racism: The Women of White Supremacy | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 3239

On this episode of BackStory, Brian, Nathan and Joanne dig into the little known history of white women and white supremacy.

 "The Schizophrenic Sixties" from episode "States of Mind" | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 640

In this excerpt from the 2014 episode "States of Mind," sociologist Jonathan Metzl talks with Brian about the rise of black protest in the 1960s and 70s, and how it was increasingly redefined in psychiatric terms.

 297: How Reconstruction Transformed the Constitution: A Feature Conversation with Pulitzer Prize-winning Historian Eric Foner | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 2123

On this episode, Ed sits down with Eric Foner to talk about public perceptions of Reconstruction, the landmark amendments to the Constitution and how they have the power to change the country today.

 "Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight" from episode #0136 "Where There's Smoke" | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 770

In this segment from BackStory’s 2015 show, “Where There's Smoke: A History of Fire,” host emeritus Peter Onuf presents a story by reporter Chelsea Davis about how San Francisco’s thriving Chinatown emerged from the ashes of the 1906 Earthquake and the fires that followed, despite efforts to suppress it.

 Sponsored: Introducing American Elections: Wicked Game | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 430

American Elections: Wicked Game is a new podcast from the host of Wondery’s American History Tellers (Lindsay Graham) that will explore all 58 presidential elections, leading up to the big day in November 2020. From the inevitable election of George Washington in 1789, to Donald Trump’s surprise electoral victory in 2016, we’ll attempt to discover if there ever was a “good ol’ days,” or if presidential politics have always been played dirty. Listen now at

 296: Darkness Over the Plain: The Bison in American History | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 2787

On this episode of BackStory, Brian and Nathan explore the history of bison in America.

 231: Life After the Oval Office: Presidential Legacies | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 2857

Joanne, Brian, and Nathan explore the ‘afterlives’ of presidents: what do they do with their time once they’re out of office — and how do we remember them once they’re gone?

 295: Impeachment Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: High Crimes and Misdemeanors in American History | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 1721

On this episode of BackStory, Joanne, Nathan and Brian talk about impeachment in the past, present and (possibly) future of American history.

 Sponsored: Introducing Lost at the Smithsonian with Aasif Mandvi | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 395

Check out Lost at the Smithsonian, a new podcast from Stitcher! Comedian and pop culture fanatic Aasif Mandvi gets up close and personal with the most iconic artifacts at the National Museum of American History. Join Aasif and his guests as they explore how vintage clothing, ratty furniture, and mismatched shoes transformed into Fonzie's leather jacket, Archie Bunker's chair, and Dorothy's ruby slippers and became defining symbols of American culture along the way. Lost at the Smithsonian is out NOW - listen wherever you get your podcasts. Subscribe to Lost at the Smithsonian in Apple Podcasts: 968631

 294: The Long Shadow of the Plantation: How a Weighted Past Creates a Complicated Present | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 3363

On this episode of BackStory, Ed, Joanne, and Nathan explore how people are repurposing plantations and engaging with the sites' nuanced histories.

 218: Close Encounters: UFOs in American History | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 3672

On this episode of BackStory, Nathan, Brian and Ed discuss the things in the sky we struggle to explain – unidentified flying objects.

 216: What’s in a Number?: Thirteen in American History | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 3045

On this episode of BackStory, Joanne, Nathan and Brian explore stories of superstition and the surprising roles the number 13 has played across American history.

 "Trade Winds" from episode #0141 “They Might Be Giants: China and the U.S.” | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 688

In this segment from BackStory’s 2015 show, “They Might Be Giants: China and the U.S.,” host emeritus Peter Onuf talks to historian John Haddad about how Americans smuggling opium into China during the 19th century led the Chinese to crack down on trade that was already very restrictive.

 293: Standing Rock and the History of Indigenous Resistance in the United States | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 2189

On this episode of BackStory, Nathan talks with historian and activist Nick Estes about his experience at Standing Rock, the history of Indigenous resistance, and the current state of the Dakota Access Pipeline.


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