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.


 278: The Year of the Woman: A History of Women in Congress | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 3236

On this episode of BackStory, Brian and Joanne look at the history of women in Congress.

 277: The Civil War in the 21st Century: A New Museum Marks an Old Conflict | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 3289

On this episode of BackStory, Ed and senior producer Melissa Gismondi get an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the American Civil War Museum.

 275: Alternative Facts, Falsehoods and Delusions: The Lies We've Told Ourselves and Each Other in American History | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 1739

On this episode of BackStory, Nathan digs into the BackStory archives to bring you a selection of segments that look at alternative facts in American life.

 274: Death on the Assembly Line: Industrial Tragedies in American History | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 4217

On this episode of BackStory, Brian and Nathan consider the history of industrial disasters and how they’ve changed the nature of American capitalism.

 273: All the Presidents’ Vetoes: A Brief History of Saying No to Legislation | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 2327

On this episode of BackStory, Joanne and Brian look at presidential vetoes through two periods in American history.

 236: Teen Activists: A History of Youth Politics and Protest | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 3877

On this episode of BackStory, Joanne, Brian and Ed talk about the role young people have played in American politics.

 272: Burnt Corks & Cakewalks: The Toxic Legacy of Blackface in American History | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 3966

On this episode of BackStory, Ed, Nathan and Brian explore the history of blackface and look to explain its long life in American culture.

 243: Shore Thing: A History of the Beach | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 3035

On this episode of BackStory, Ed, Joanne, and Brian dip their toes into four tales from America’s shoreline.

 271: Oh, Bloody Hell: BackStory’s History of Profanity in America | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 3322

On this episode of BackStory, Ed, Brian and Nathan look at the history of profanity in America.

 270: Shattering the Glass Ceiling in America: BackStory Celebrates Women's History Month | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 2303

On this episode of BackStory, Brian showcases our favorite segments that highlight female achievement in American history.

 269: Man vs. the Machine: Technophobia and American Society | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 2448

What drives people to reject technology? Though American society has been driven by technological leaps forward, not everyone has come along for the ride. We explore the strain of technophobia in American society from Neo-Luddism to Sabbatarianism and the anti-technology terrorism of the Unabomber. About the image: Original Film Title: METROPOLIS. English Title: METROPOLIS. Film Director: FRITZ LANG. Year: 1927. Credit: U.F.A / Album. Source: Album / Alamy Stock Photo

 268: Love Off Limits: A History of the Relationships Once Considered Taboo in America | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 2979

In this episode, Joanne, Brian, and Nathan discuss stories of love that challenged social norms and transcended class, race, and gender. They explore how people subverted laws banning interracial marriage, and why a wave of heiresses running away with their coachmen caused a moral panic in the Gilded Age.

 267: The Faces of Racism: A History of Blackface and Minstrelsy in American Culture | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 2113

Nathan talks with historian Rhae Lynn Barnes about Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s 1984 yearbook page and its link to a long and disturbing history of blackface minstrelsy. They discuss how white civic organizations used minstrel shows for fundraising, why the era known as Jim Crow is named after a minstrel character, and what must happen to prevent people from donning blackface going forward. THIS EPISODE CONTAINS SOME LANGUAGE THAT PEOPLE MIGHT FIND OFFENSIVE. 

 266: BlackStory: BackStory Celebrates Black History Month with a Compilation | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 3123

Nathan showcases some of BackStory’s best content about African American history in honor of Black History Month. In this episode, hear about one historian’s heartbreaking research into the human effects of lynching to the extraordinary story of Korla Pandit, the turban-wearing showman of California’s cocktail lounges. We’re also sharing a segment from “Scene On Radio” about the racial cleansing in Corbin, Kentucky that took place 100 years ago, but mostly remains hidden from the town’s official history. Note: This episode contains previously broadcast content. About the image: "Civil Rights mural at Martin Luther King Memorial Park in Atlanta,” May 18 2013 by denisbin via Flickr. Used under  CC BY-ND 2.0 ( 

 265: Nixon Beyond Watergate: A History of the Presidency Before the Scandal | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 3849

Today the Presidency of Richard Nixon is mostly remembered for how it ended - with the Watergate scandal, impeachment and resignation. But what about early Nixon, the man sworn into office in January 1969? As Nathan, Ed and Brian discover, Nixon ran a more imaginative and ideologically flexible administration than its ignominious ending might suggest. 


Login or signup comment.