All aboard for an exciting rail journey through West Virginia’s breathtaking mountain scenery. Led by a local railroad historian, this three-day tour features a trio of rail excursions, including a climb behind the geared steam locomotive of the Cass Scenic Railroad to the top of the second-highest point in the state.
The colorful history of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, which was in use for almost 100 years, is the focus of this excursion. Get a close-up view of the canal’s stunning natural features, tour a rehabilitated lockhouse, and learn about the lives of the lockkeepers, boat captains, and laborers who lived and worked along the canal. Your guides are Aidan Barnes, director of programs and partnerships for the C&O Canal Trust, and other Trust and National Park Service staff.
Aaron Burr was a hero of the Revolutionary War, a United States senator, and the third vice president, preceded only by John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Yet his legacy is usually defined by his role in the presidential election of 1800, his potential attempt to create a breakaway nation for which he faced a trial for treason, and most notably his 1804 duel with Hamilton leading to Burr’s indictment in two states for murder. Historian Ralph Nurnberger discusses the many facets of this fascinating early American political leader and whether he’s best remembered as a patriot or a villain.
The Treaty of Versailles, designed to be the final chapter of World War I, was the handiwork of British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, French Premier Georges Clemenceau, and American President Woodrow Wilson. Their idealistic goal of establishing "not Peace only, but Eternal Peace" was never realized. Historian Kevin Matthews explores how that unfulfilled legacy is still being played out in Asia and the Middle East and in Europe and the United States as well as how the men of Versailles created the world we live in.
There’s nothing "Mickey Mouse" about the impact the Walt Disney Company has had on the entertainment business. Media historian Brian Rose traces how the company evolved from a small cartoon studio in 1923 to one of the most powerful forces in worldwide entertainment today.
As members of the Religious Society of Friends, Quakers in colonial America were the first group of white Christians to confront slaveholding as a religious problem that demanded social action. Historian Richard Bell recounts this untold story, focusing on the dramatic antislavery crusades and wildly different tactics of three 18th-century Quakers: Benjamin Lay, a hermit; John Woolman, a shopkeeper; and Anthony Benezet, a schoolteacher.
For over a century, the Hampton Roads area has hosted Norfolk Naval Station, the largest navy base in the world and home to the U.S. Navy’s gigantic Atlantic Fleet. Spend a day exploring some of the world’s greatest ships with transportation expert Scott Hercik.
Relations between the United States and China are at their lowest point since the 1970s. The superpowers are still highly integrated through trade and conflict remains unlikely, but what President Biden calls an “extreme competition” is well underway. Three of Washington’s leading analysts provide insights into whether and how U.S.-China relations can be managed peacefully in a panel moderated by Robert Daly, director of the Wilson Center’s Kissinger Institute on China and the United States.
Long before the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling affirming the right to same-sex marriage, Washington, D.C., was a place where LGBTQ+ history was made. Join A Tour of Her Own tour leaders to explore feminist history through a queer lens in the nation’s capital. As you walk through downtown neighborhoods, stop to hear stories of defiance, resistance, and triumph at sites that include Black Lives Matter Plaza, the White House, and Ford's Theatre.
The Glass House, the iconic former Connecticut home of architect Philip Johnson, is now a National Trust for Historic Preservation site that serves as a center for art, architecture, and culture. Hilary Lewis, chief curator of the Glass House, examines it as a signature work of modern architecture, its roles as a laboratory for architecture and a salon for the arts, and the extraordinary and complex figure behind it. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)
Learn the history behind who made steel in the United States, starting with the time of the Civil War, and where steel is made today. Using dramatic imagery from the National Museum of Industrial History and the Historic American Engineering Record, historian Mike Piersa and photographer Jeremy Blakeslee vividly showcase the growth, evolution, and sometimes death of facilities that were capable of producing millions of tons of steel per year.
The U Street N.W. neighborhood has long been a vibrant corridor for the rich social, civic, and cultural life of Washington's African American community. Local guide Lynn O’Connell leads a walking tour that focuses on the neighborhood’s history, with sites ranging from the African American Civil War Memorial to legendary theaters to Little Ethiopia.
When Nazi Germany seized land from Czechoslovakia in 1938, the military force of an isolationist United States was smaller than Portugal’s. But that same year, President Franklin Roosevelt’s order to dramatically expand domestic U.S. airplane production was the first step in the monumental transformation of American enterprise that brought victory in World War II. Historian Craig Nelson shares how FDR’s skillful leadership turned a nation wary of war into an arsenal of democracy ready to take on the dangers of another world war.
Dorothy Liebes was one of the most influential textile designers of the mid-20th century. The exhibition “A Dark, A Light, A Bright: The Designs of Dorothy Liebes” opens at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum on July 7. Join organizers Susan Brown, associate curator and acting head of textiles, and Alexa Griffith Winton, manager of content and curriculum, to explore Liebes’ life and work.
From the vantage point of 71 years, the monumental Normandy invasion smoothly unfolded on June 6, 1944, according to a meticulously detailed plan, with 3 million men, 47 divisions, and 6,000 ships piercing Nazi defenses in an inevitable and unstoppable march to Berlin. In reality, Operation Overlord was an almost-impossible political and logistical nightmare to conceive and execute. David Eisenhower provides a wider panorama of the daring cross-Channel operation that opened a new Western front under the leadership of his grandfather General Dwight D. Eisenhower, supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force.
Off the coast of southern California, the 8 Channel Islands and their encircling waters are home to over 2,000 species of animals and plants—145 of which are found nowhere else on Earth. Jasmine Reinhardt, a National Park Service interpretation and education program manager, covers the diverse history, geography, and unique flora and fauna of these islands, as well and the people who were drawn to them over the centuries and those who protect them today.
The full mobilization of American society during the Second World War prompted a massive, multi-faceted advertising campaign from the federal government’s Office of War Information (OWI). The posters that emerged from the OWI remain some of the most eye-catching and memorable mass-audience images in memory. Historian Christopher Hamner explores those well-known posters, focusing on two important themes: the differing portrayals of America’s enemies, and the evolution of what were deemed acceptable roles for men and women amid the turmoil of war.
Washington’s movers and shakers once strolled the streets of Dupont Circle, where Massachusetts Avenue was the city’s most fashionable residential address with opulent mansions built to impress Washington society. After the Great Depression, many of these magnificent houses were converted into embassies, social clubs, and offices. Carolyn Muraskin, founder of DC Design Tours, offers stories of the capital’s ruling class and their links to the history of Washington’s premier promenade.
The year 1973 offered plenty of social and political drama, but amid the crises it was a remarkable one for filmmakers throughout the world. Grab your popcorn and join film historian Max Alvarez as he toasts a remarkable year at the movies, one in which theater screens (remember them?) lit up with The Exorcist, Amacord, The Way We Were, Last Tango in Paris, Paper Moon, and François Truffaut’s valentine to cinema Day for Night.
From pulled pork to ribs to brisket, African American barbeque has something to tempt everyone. In his first cookbook, pitmaster Ed Mitchell explores the method that made him famous: North Carolina whole-hog barbeque. Mitchell and his collaborators on Ed Mitchell’s Barbeque, his son Ryan Mitchell and food historian Zella Palmer, join barbeque historian Howard Conyers for a conversation on the rich history and traditions of African American barbeque.
Far from simply being a president who was assassinated weeks after taking office, James Garfield might be the most accomplished American statesman of the 19th century says his biographer C.W. Goodyear. He shines a spotlight on a forgotten president and progressive statesman who quietly shaped the rise—and fall—of Reconstruction and was a national peacemaker whose attempts to heal rifts in the postwar Republican Party resulted in his murder.
George Washington left America only once, when he sailed to Barbados with his half-brother Lawrence in 1751. Historian Ralph Nurnberger details this lesser-known but significant voyage and highlights the impact it had on the 19-year-old Washington, his career, and the outcome of the American Revolution.
Apart from a few “design heroines,” many of the women who gained prominence in the world of design in the first half of the 20th century are lost to the traditional narrative. In a two-part course, design historian and curator Elizabeth Lay brings them to light as she focuses on two generations of women working as skilled design professionals in the modern era—some of whom you might know and others whose work may be new to you. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)
Historian Dan Flores chronicles the epoch in which humans and animals have coexisted in North America—a place shaped by evolutionary forces and momentous arrivals of humans from Asia, Africa, and Europe. These arrivals precipitated a massive disruption of the teeming environment they found. In telling the story, Flores sees humans not as a species apart but as a new animal entering a place that had never seen our like before.
Join Grace Marston, arts educator at the Andy Warhol Museum, as she delves into how historical events affected Andy Warhol’s art and life. Marston presents artworks from the museum’s permanent collection, including works that are rarely on public display. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit per session)
America’s most famous avenue, connecting the White House and U.S. Capitol, hasn’t always been a grand thoroughfare. Pennsylvania Avenue and the surrounding neighborhood has been renovated, re-imagined, and revitalized over and over again. From Murder Bay, a center of crime, gambling, and prostitution to the stately boulevard of presidential inaugurations, Carolyn Muraskin, founder of DC Design Tours, unfolds the story of a metamorphosis along America’s Main Street.
Americans today expect their president to be not only chief executive, commander in chief, chief consoler, and chief crisis manager. They also expect our national leader to be our celebrity in chief. In an era in which media stardom is a key part of public life, a president needs to hold people's interest and entertain them, says Ken Walsh, a 30-year veteran of U.S. News & World Report’s White House beat. Join him as he surveys the presidents across the centuries who made the most effective use of their celebrity, those who didn’t—and why.
The history of medicine is replete with advances made by hard-working maverick doctors who made astonishing progress against humankind’s deadliest diseases. Yet surgeon Andrew Lam says one factor spurred more medical breakthroughs than any other: war. He reveals how D-Day, Luftwaffe bombing raids, top-secret Liberty ship cargo, and aerial dogfights bequeathed to humanity innovations in surgery, cancer treatment, and trauma care that still serve us today.
Perhaps no other single day in U.S. history was as threatening to the survival of the nation as August 24, 1814, when British forces captured Washington, D.C. This unique moment significantly altered the nation’s path forward, but the event and the reasons behind it are little remembered by most Americans. Historian Robert P. Watson examines the British campaign and American missteps that led to the fall of Washington during the War of 1812, the actions of key figures on both sides of the conflict, and the individuals who risked their lives to save priceless artifacts and documents from the flames.
Whatever their area of expertise, professional historians use a common set of skills—locating primary sources, placing them in context, reading texts closely and precisely, and corroborating multiple accounts—to make sense of the past. In a unique interactive full-day workshop, historian Christopher Hamner of George Mason University demystifies this process by guiding you in how to think about and interpret the past. Hamner introduces participants to the skills and thought processes of the historical profession, employing actual primary sources from 300 years of American history.
The history of Catholicism in America—and of America itself—cannot be told without the history of the Jesuits. David J. Collins, SJ, of Georgetown University offers a panoramic overview of the Jesuit order in the United States from the colonial era to the present and places it against the backdrop of American religious, cultural, and social history.
Washington, DC was built on American Indian land, but Indigenous peoples are often left out of the city’s narrative. Elizabeth Rule, an assistant professor at American University and Chickasaw scholar-activist, shines a light on the contributions of Indigenous tribal leaders and politicians, artists, and activists to the history of the District of Columbia.
During the American Revolutionary War, the British military made big promises to enslaved Americans. In return for taking up arms against the patriots, enslaved people won pledges from British commanders that they would be freed when Britain won the war. But what happened once Britain lost? Historian Richard Bell explores these Black fugitives’ extraordinary odyssey through the remainder of Britain’s global empire after 1783 to examine the ways they tried to pursue happiness and forge an African American diaspora.
The late 19th century in New York City was an era of exquisite mansions, beautiful parks and squares, and palatial public buildings—all magnificent markers of the Gilded Age and the wealth that made it possible. Yet the city was a study in dichotomies, an urban society whose facets were both celebrated and critiqued in the writings of Edith Wharton and Henry James and boldly exposed by Jacob Riis in his photographs of immigrant life. Lecturer George Scheper surveys the cultural panorama of New York and the contrasting realities of its inhabitants.
The Myth of the Lost Cause, created by ex-Confederates as a social and cultural movement to define the Confederacy’s value and justify the just-concluded Civil War, remains part of contemporary America. Historian Stephen D. Engle challenges the enduring Southern reverence for the Confederacy as he examines issues central to the myth over generations by targeting its origins during Reconstruction, its cultural endurance through the 1920s and the Great Depression, its challenges to the Civil Rights era, and its symbolism in rallying patriotism today.
Over the course of the more than three decades he lived or visited there, the Badlands of North Dakota transformed Theodore Roosevelt into not only the kind of vigorous outdoorsman that he’d idealized as a youth but also a passionate conservationist. During a 5-day study tour led by naturalist Melanie Choukas-Bradley, explore the area, including Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and gain insights into Roosevelt’s pivotal years in the Badlands.