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Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

American History Programs

Monday, August 17, 2020 - 6:45 p.m. ET

Pre-revolutionary America took center stage in the world’s first truly global war in the mid-18th century. Historian Richard Bell examines how this bitter contest among the great empires of Britain, France, and Spain played out on American soil and how it sowed the seeds of the imperial crisis that would culminate in the new nation’s independence.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. ET

Aviation writer and filmmaker Paul Glenshaw tells the story of the epic race between two engineering teams who ran a neck-and-neck race to be the first to fly in the fall and winter of 1903. One was a pair of brothers—Orville and Wilbur Wright. The other team was Dr. Samuel Langley, secretary of the Smithsonian, and his assistant, Charles Matthews Manly. We know who won—but do we know why?

Thursday, September 10, 2020 - 6:45 p.m. ET

The long shadow of the Civil War hangs over the series of great novels that William Faulkner wrote about a largely un-Reconstructed South. Author Michael Gorra sheds light on the inner and outer forces that shaped Faulkner’s literary imagination and discusses how the war is an inescapable point of reference in his characters.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020 - 6:45 p.m. ET

Pamela Nadell, director of the Jewish Studies program at American University, traces the history of anti-Semitism in the United States from colonial days to its dangerous contemporary rise and examines how that resurgence forces the nation to address its uniquely American forms.

Thursday, September 24, 2020 - 6:45 p.m. ET

The British passed it off as an “unhappy disturbance,” but to city leaders the March 1770 confrontation with Redcoats that left five Bostonians dead was “a horrid massacre.” Historian Richard Bell examines why the complicated story of the “affray on King Street” is even more fascinating than Paul Revere’s famous engraving of it has led us to believe.

Saturday, September 26, 2020 - 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. ET

In the early decades of the 20th century, Sears Roebuck & Co. sold more than 70,000 prefabricated Modern Homes kits, offering Americans of moderate means 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.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020 - 6:45 p.m. ET

The end of the Great War ushered in a decade of economic prosperity and cultural dynamism unprecedented in America. Stef Woods, a popular speaker on cultural topics, looks at the explosion of new directions in the 1920s, and considers what comparisons may be drawn between that still-resonant era and today, as our ’20s begins. 

Thursday, October 1, 2020 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET

In the 1950s, the spotlight on New York City’s abstract expressionist movement nearly always fell on male painters. Art critic Judy Pomeranz takes an in-depth look at five gutsy but overlooked women whose work in the groundbreaking Ninth Street Art Exhibition of 1951 boldly claimed their places in the postwar avant garde. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)

Thursday, October 8, 2020 - 6:45 p.m. ET

Nathan Raab, the preeminent American dealer in rare documents, tells the fascinating story of how he learned to tell the difference between real and forged artifacts, and of many amazing finds that were nearly lost to the ages.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020 - 6:45 p.m. ET

Seen through American eyes, July 4, 1776 marked a triumphant moment. To the British, the American Revolution looked quite different. Drawing on the latest scholarship, historian Richard Bell explores the birth of the new nation through a variety of contemporary British perspectives, arguing that it was an equally defining moment for its people and the future of the British empire.

Thursday, October 15, 2020 - 6:45 p.m. ET

The 1970 Apollo 13 mission almost ended in tragedy when an explosion occurred on its way to a moon landing. Learn how a possible disaster was turned into a global rescue mission.

Friday, October 16, 2020 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET

Using live commentary and recorded footage of Old Town locations that reflect the spirit of the 18th century, author and historian Garrett Peck leads a delightful virtual tour that spotlights churches, houses, taverns, and other sites in the place the first president considered his home town.

Monday, October 19, 2020 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET

Though voters usually hear that the current one is “the most important ever,” some presidential elections have proven more consequential and historic than others. As the 2020 vote approaches, historian Ralph Nurnberger looks back at memorable 19th-century contests that led to landmark political shifts, the dissolution of major political parties, changes in national policies, and some unexpected losers and winners.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET

In 1952, naval architect William Francis Gibbs completed the finest, fastest, and most beautiful ocean liner of his time, the S.S. United States, hailed as a technological masterpiece in period when “made in America” meant the best. Historian Steven Ujifusa tells a tale of ingenuity and enterprise as he examines how Gibbs and his vision transformed an industry.

Monday, October 26, 2020 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET

Though voters usually hear that the current one is “the most important ever,” some presidential elections have proven more consequential and historic than others. As the 2020 vote approaches, historian Ralph Nurnberger looks back at memorable 20th-century contests that led to landmark political shifts, the dissolution of major political parties, changes in national policies, and some unexpected losers and winners.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020 - 6:45 p.m. ET

Naval historian David Rosenberg and three retired U.S. Navy officers examine the tensions and strategies that grew out of the face-off between America and the Soviet Union over Russia’s decision to place nuclear missiles in Cuba. They reveal how the USS Sam Houston, a Polaris submarine deployed in the Mediterranean, played a significant but little-known role in assuring European security against potential Soviet aggression.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020 - 6:45 p.m. ET

Historian Allen Pietrobon explores American food culture since 1850 and how, throughout American history, food has been a battleground where culture, ethnicity, race, and identity clash.