BackStory on RADIO IQ, RADIO IQ w/BBC News & WVTF

Thursdays at 7:30 PM on WVTF and 3:00 PM Saturdays on RADIO IQ and RADIO IQ W/BBC News.

BackStory with the American History Guys  brings historical perspective to the events happening around us today.

On each show, renowned U.S. historians Ed Ayers, Peter Onuf, and Brian Balogh tear a topic from the headlines and plumb its historical depths. Over the course of the hour, they are joined by fellow historians, people in the news, and callers interested in exploring the roots of what's going on today.

Together, they drill down to colonial times and earlier, revealing the connections (and disconnections) between past and present. With its passionate, intelligent, and irreverent approach, BackStory with the American History Guys is fun and essential listening no matter who you are.


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Program Headlines

  • Friday, January 23, 2015 6:12pm
    Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is, of course, one of the most iconic speeches in American history. But in 1863, it got decidedly mixed reviews – one newspaper even called it “silly, flat and dishwatery.” So how did it become one of the most famous speeches in the United States? This episode of BackStory explores the evolution of an icon, and asks, more generally, what kinds of speeches – and speakers – endure in American history.
  • Friday, January 16, 2015 9:14am
    On January 1, 1863, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. It declared that all slaves in the rebellious states “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” Today, Lincoln is remembered as “The Great Emancipator,” but the story of emancipation is complex and contradictory. And the question of how we choose to commemorate this anniversary can be touchy. On this episode, we set out to understand the way Americans thought about emancipation in 1862, and reflect on its shifting meanings since then. Along the way, we make stops at the Emancipation Memorial in Washington D.C., the Civil War centennial commemorations in the height of the Civil Rights Era, and the former capital of the Confederacy today. And we hear the voices of former slaves themselves, remembering their first experiences of freedom.
  • Friday, January 9, 2015 11:58am
    At the beginning of the 20th century, oil was hardly on America's energy map. Coal was king, supplying as much as 90% of the nation's energy needs. And the second most used energy source? Wood. But in just a few short decades Americans would come to depend on oil to heat their homes, get to work, power their military, and supply the plastics for their appliances. By the dawn of the 21st century, President George W. Bush would declare America "addicted" to the substance. So in this episode, the guys and their guests look to the roots of that addiction, and explore how oil has shaped the American lifestyle and economy over time.
  • Friday, January 2, 2015 5:29pm
    Across history, Americans have dreamed of what the future will hold, from the flying cars and 3-hour workdays of The Jetsons to fears of World War III and nuclear holocaust. Sometimes, we’ve made those dreams come true… or at least tried. On this episode of BackStory, Brian, Ed and Peter ask what these past visions of the future have to tell us about the times that conjured them up.
  • Tuesday, December 23, 2014 11:06am
    Christmas may be the Big Kahuna of American holy days… but it wasn’t always so. For centuries it was a time of drunken rowdiness, when the poor would aggressively demand food and money from the rich. Little surprise, then, that the Puritans banned Christmas altogether. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1820s that the holiday was re-invented as the peaceful, family-oriented, and yes, consumer-driven ritual we celebrate today. In this year-end special, BackStory takes on the fascinating history of the “holiday season” in America.