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American History Programs

Course

Jamestown: The First 100 Years

Monday, February 6, 2023 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET

While the early days of Jamestown were marred with struggle, conflict, and tragedy, the settlement would survive as the first permanent English colony in North America, from which the seeds of the United States grew. Unearth the tumultuous first century of Jamestown with Mark Summers, the public historian for the Jamestown Rediscovery archaeological project, in this lecture series. This session focuses on events between 1622 to 1646, including an uprising by the Powhatans.


Lecture/Seminar

"The Chinese Question": Gold Rushes and Global Politics of Exclusion

Tuesday, February 7, 2023 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET

Historian and author Mae Ngai narrates the story of the thousands of Chinese who left their homeland in the mid-19th-century in pursuit of gold, and how they formed communities and organizations to help navigate their perilous new world. But they later found themselves excluded from immigration and citizenship.


Lecture/Seminar

The Second Middle Passage: America’s Domestic Slave Trade

Tuesday, February 7, 2023 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET

Historian Richard Bell takes you inside the domestic slave trade that flourished in the Upper South, tracking its rise and its impact on the expansion of slavery into new territories and states.


Course

Jamestown: The First 100 Years

Monday, February 13, 2023 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET

While the early days of Jamestown were marred with struggle, conflict, and tragedy, the settlement would survive as the first permanent English colony in North America, from which the seeds of the United States grew. Unearth the tumultuous first century of Jamestown with Mark Summers, the public historian for the Jamestown Rediscovery archaeological project, in this lecture series. This session focuses on events between 1675 to 1699, including Bacon's Rebellion.


Lecture/Seminar

Winslow Homer: Capturing an America in Transformation

Wednesday, February 22, 2023 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET

In-Person Program Only: Winslow Homer (1836–1910) has often been called America’s favorite painter. His work was both quintessentially American and quietly replete with narratives for and about people of all races and ages. Drawing on his new biography, Winslow Homer: American Passage, William R. Cross offers an illustrated look at the man behind the art and examines Homer’s role in American culture. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)


Lecture/Seminar

I Do Solemnly Swear: A History of Supreme Court Nominations

Thursday, February 23, 2023 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET

Join historian Christopher Brooks as he surveys the history of the Supreme Court, its nominations process, and the politics that have played a role in shaping the Court into what we see today.


Lecture/Seminar

Frederick Douglass: Autobiographer

Thursday, February 23, 2023 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

During the 19th century, the great civil rights leader Frederick Douglass (1818–1895) was a celebrated orator, editor, and writer. Join Douglass scholar Robert S. Levine as he focuses on Douglass the autobiographer and considers the significant changes and additions he made to his later autobiographies, My Bondage and My Freedom and Life and Times of Frederick Douglass.


Course

Lunchtime with a Curator: Decorative Arts Design Series

Monday, February 27, 2023 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. ET

Join curator Elizabeth Lay as she hosts an image-rich series on decorative arts and design topics with guests. In this winter lunchtime program, Lay's guest is textile historian Natalie F. Larson, who uses primary sources to look at the variety of sleeping arrangements from slave dwellings and Indigenous populations to the homes of middle-class and upwardly aspiring Virginians.


Lecture/Seminar

1966: Black Power Challenges the Civil Rights Movement

Tuesday, February 28, 2023 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET

Journalist and author Mark Whitaker examines the dramatic events of 1966, in which a new sense of Black identity expressed in the slogan “Black Power” challenged the nonviolent civil rights philosophy of Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Lewis. He also discusses why the lessons from 1966 still resonate today.


Program

Studio House: A Setting for an Ambassador for the Arts

Thursday, March 2, 2023 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. ET

The distinctive Studio House on Washington, D.C.’s Sheridan Circle (currently owned by the Embassy of the Republic of Latvia) was built in 1903 for Alice Pike Barney, an artist, playwright, civic leader, and philanthropist. Join independent researcher Mona Khademi for an evening at the Studio House—now on the National Registry of Historic Places—as she examines its interesting links to history, culture, and creativity. Following the presentation, enjoy a light reception.


Lecture/Seminar

American Women and the Fight for Equality

Thursday, March 9, 2023 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

After what Susan B. Anthony called “the long, hard fight,” the Nineteenth Amendment enfranchising 26 million white and Black women, was added to the Constitution on August 26, 1920. Join author Elisabeth Griffith as she focuses on a diverse cast of characters, some notable, many unknown, as she highlights how the diversity of the women’s movement mirrors America.


Course

Lunchtime with a Curator: Decorative Arts Design Series

Monday, March 13, 2023 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. ET

Join curator Elizabeth Lay as she hosts an image-rich series on decorative arts and design topics with guests. In this winter lunchtime program, Lay's guest is textile conservationist Julia M. Brennan, who has built cultural bridges to preserve textile heritage.


Lecture/Seminar

Edith Wilson: The First (Unelected) Woman President

Tuesday, March 14, 2023 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET

While this nation has yet to elect its first woman president, just over a century ago Edith Bolling Galt Wilson effectively acted as one when her husband Woodrow Wilson was incapacitated. Rebecca Boggs Roberts, a leading historian on women’s suffrage and power, examines the complicated figure whose personal quest for influence reshaped the position of first lady into one of lasting political prominence.


Lecture/Seminar

Slavery and Freedom in the Shenandoah Valley

Tuesday, March 14, 2023 - 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

During the Civil War, Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley was the site of fierce conflicts, both on and off the battlefield. The region’s strategic location meant that enslaved and free African Americans navigated a borderland that changed hands frequently. Author Jonathan Noyalas continues the story and reveals the challenges African Americans faced from former Confederates during the Civil War Era.


Lecture/Seminar

Lost Opportunities: The Troubled History of African American and Irish Relations

Wednesday, March 15, 2023 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET

The histories of African Americans and Irish Americans have each been fraught with discrimination and hardship. Though both groups faced oppression and societal scorn as second-class citizens, they often found themselves at odds during the 19th century, with the competition for housing and jobs creating racial tensions. Historian Christopher Brooks discusses these parallel histories and how natural allies became historical rivals.


Lecture/Seminar

The Heart of John Brown

Thursday, March 16, 2023 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET

John Brown’s attack on the federal armory in Harpers Ferry—the first salvo in his battleplan to destroy American slavery—went wrong almost immediately and would eventually cost him his life. Historian Richard Bell examines how Brown’s execution made him a martyr and paved the way for Lincoln’s unprecedented election, the secessions crisis, and the coming of the Civil War.


Lecture/Seminar

True Tales from the Life of Alice Roosevelt Longworth

Thursday, March 23, 2023 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

In a rollicking, richly illustrated presentation, popular speaker Paul Glenshaw—in conversation with historian Callan Shea—peels back the fascinating layers and history of an iconic photograph featuring a presidential wild child, an electric car, and the first military airplane.


Lecture/Seminar

“See You in Orbit?”: A History of Space Tourism

Thursday, March 23, 2023 - 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

Though millions of dreamers have anticipated their chance to travel in space, fewer than 650 earthlings have viewed our planet from a spaceship. Alan Ladwig, former manager of NASA’s Space Flight Participant Program, examines the promise, expectations, principal personalities, and milestones surrounding space tourism and reviews what has remained constant for decades: our motivation to float among the stars.


Tour

Montgomery Meigs in Washington: Beyond the Civil War

Friday, March 24, 2023 - 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. ET

From the Capitol dome to the Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries Building, the work of architect and builder Montgomery Meigs is still part of our region’s landscape. Spend a day focused on Washington history and architecture to discover the many facets and achievements of the former Civil War officer who helped define and develop an enduring vision of the capital city. Lecturer in history, urban studies, and architecture Bill Keene leads the tour.


Lecture/Seminar

Sears Houses of Arlington

Monday, March 27, 2023 - 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

In the early decades of the 20th century, Sears Roebuck & Co. sold more than 70,000 prefabricated Modern Homes kits, offering all Americans the chance to own an up-to-date house. Historian Dakota Springston draws on period and contemporary images to lead a virtual tour through several historic Northern Virginia neighborhoods that boast a wide range of these distinctive houses, followed by a Q&A with a Sears Homes expert.


Lecture/Seminar

J. Robert Oppenheimer: Genius, Tragedy, Ethics, and the First Atomic Bomb

Tuesday, April 11, 2023 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

Robert Oppenheimer never really thought about the ethics of the atomic bomb until the successful test of a plutonium device at Alamogordo, New Mexico, in July 1945. Then, one of the most highly educated men of the 20th century felt an inrush of ethical anguish and spent the rest of his life trying to come to terms with what he, what America, and what humankind had done. Historian Clay Jenkinson examines the gated world of Los Alamos, the race to build the bomb, Oppenheimer’s ethical quandry about nuclear warfare—and the price he paid for it.


Course

Introduction to American Art

Thursday, April 13, 2023 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET

From the glorious vistas of American landscape painting to the bold splashes and strokes of Abstract Expressionism, American artists have captured the nation’s enormous energy and tumultuous growth. Art historian Bonita Billman introduces major artists and movements in American painting from the late 18th century to the present, revealing the connections between historical changes and artistic choices. (World Art History Certificate core course, 1 credit)


Tour

Doodlebugging Through Delaware

Saturday, April 15, 2023 - 7:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. ET

Hop aboard a private charter of an early 20th-century self-propelled railcar called the Doodlebug and take in the spring sights along the historic Wilmington and Western Railroad line. As you ride, tour leader Joe Nevin, a railroad historian, covers the colorful background of the W&W and offers stories of the once-bustling industrial towns along the branch line.


Tour

Military History in the Capital Area

Friday, April 21, 2023 - 8:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. ET

The timeline of America’s military history, marked by national and international conflicts and struggles, reaches beyond the founding of the United States and into the present. Much of this history is connected to the capital area—the backdrop for a day that explores three significant sites in a bus tour led by Brent Feito and Matt Seelinger of the National Museum of the United States Army. That relatively new museum is one of the stops on an itinerary that also includes Mount Vernon and the Smithsonian's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.


Lecture/Seminar

The Supreme Court’s Role in Our Constitutional Democracy

Monday, April 24, 2023 - 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. ET

Recent years have seen increasing controversy around the Supreme Court—contentious appointments, divisive opinions, and even leaks from inside. Kermit Roosevelt, a constitutional law professor, former Supreme Court clerk, and member of President Biden’s Supreme Court Reform Commission, assesses the court’s role in our democratic system, the forces driving the recent controversies, and what, if anything, we can do to make things better.


Lecture/Seminar

The Spanish in the American Revolution

Monday, April 24, 2023 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET

Between 1779 and 1782, Spanish rangers from the region around San Antonio herded more than 10,000 cows over 500 miles to Louisiana to help feed Spanish soldiers fighting the British in the American Revolutionary War. Spain had joined the war on the patriots’ side in 1779 and would spend the next four years contributing a deluge of soldiers, sailors, ships, and cows to the war effort. University of Maryland historian Richard Bell reveals the hidden history of Spain’s participation in the American Revolution.


Lecture/Seminar

Isabella Stewart Gardner: A Global Vision of Art

Tuesday, April 25, 2023 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET

Isabella Stewart Gardner assembled an extraordinary collection of art from diverse cultures and eras and built a Venetian-style palazzo in Boston to share her exquisite treasures with the world. Diana Seave Greenwald, assistant curator of the collection at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, shines new light on Gardner as a trailblazing patron and collector who created a museum unprecedented in its curatorial vision. She also discusses how Gardner’s far-flung journeys to fill that museum—recorded in her exquisitely crafted collaged travel albums—reveal the global influences of this legendary collector. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)


Lecture/Seminar

Alcatraz: 250 Years on the Rock

Wednesday, April 26, 2023 - 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

Alcatraz is America’s most notorious island, and its most misunderstood. Former National Park ranger and historian John Martini uncovers its fascinating multilayered history, including the island’s infamous past as a federal penitentiary, its role in American popular culture (especially the movies); the evolution of Alcatraz as a National Park site; its now-resurgent natural life; and the challenges of preserving its aging infrastructure.


Lecture/Seminar

Moviegoing in America: From Nickelodeons to Movie Palaces to IMAX to Streaming

Wednesday, May 3, 2023 - 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. ET

The silver screen has changed drastically since its beginnings in the 19th century. Media expert Brian Rose looks at the history of movie theaters and considers what might happen next in the age of streaming services. BYOP—bring your own popcorn!


Lecture/Seminar

To Have and Have Another: The Life and Times (and Cocktails) of Ernest Hemingway

Thursday, May 4, 2023 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. ET

In addition to being one of the 20th century’s greatest writers, Ernest Hemingway lived a big, bold, adventurous life filled with exploits all over the world. You could say that he traveled globally and drank locally. Author Philip Greene, a co-founder of the Museum of the American Cocktail, examines the life, prose, travels, and adventures of Hemingway through the lens of his favorite drinks, watering holes, and drinking buddies. Enjoy light snacks and four cocktail samples and raise a toast to Papa.


Lecture/Seminar

The Cuban Missile Crisis: Re-examining a Moment of Extreme Danger

Monday, May 8, 2023 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

Many Americans recall the Cuban Missile Crisis as an American-Soviet faceoff that the United States won. Allen Pietrobon, a global affairs professor at Trinity Washington University, disagrees. He argues that the crisis consisted of two sides that came perilously close to destruction and pulled through mostly due to both luck and fear. He examines some close calls and assesses what lessons the crisis can teach about the potential for future nuclear armed conflicts.


Tour

Frank Lloyd Wright: Masterworks in the Midwest

May 21 - 25, 2023, 6:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET

Frank Lloyd Wright left an indelible signature on the American Midwest: a legacy of buildings that trace the arc of his career as one of world’s most significant and innovative architects. A 5-day tour led by historian Bill Keene offers a one-of-kind opportunity for a close-up look at a wide range of Wright’s designs in Illinois and Wisconsin, as well as visits to seminal works by other architects of the early and mid-20th century. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1 credit)