Skip to main content
Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

American History Programs

Course
Friday, June 18, 2021 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

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)

Lecture/Seminar
Wednesday, June 23, 2021 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET

His role as Union Army quartermaster general is well known, but Montgomery Meigs was also an engineer, architect, inventor, and patron of the arts who left an indelible impression on the face of the capital city. Historian Bill Keene offers a virtual tour of sites in the Washington area associated with Meigs in his role of engineer and architect.

Lecture/Seminar
Wednesday, June 23, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

At the height of the Cold War, President John F. Kennedy saw outer space exploration as a race for survival—and America was losing to the Soviet Union. Author Jeff Shesol examines why John Glenn’s February 1962 mission into space had greater goals than circling the planet: It was to calm the fears of the free world and renew America’s sense of self-belief.

Lecture/Seminar
Saturday, June 26, 2021 - 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET

Historian and scholar Michele L. Simms-Burton, a former professor of African-American studies at Howard University examines the creators and the works that came alive during one of the most creative and intellectually productive eras in African American history, the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s.

Lecture/Seminar
Wednesday, July 7, 2021 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET

In the aftermath of the Civil War, a critic suggested that the quest to capture the American experience in one book—“the Great American Novel”—was too great a challenge. But over the years, many authors have made remarkable attempts. Explore seven books that seem to have found a way to tell the American story.

Lecture/Seminar
Wednesday, July 7, 2021 - 7:00 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

Rock Creek Park, the forested gem running through the heart of Washington, D.C., has delighted residents long before it was declared a national park by an Act of Congress in 1890—and now more than ever offers a welcome destination for outdoor lovers. Join author and naturalist Melanie Choukas-Bradley as she  introduces the story and natural history of a national park landscape as old as Yosemite.

Lecture/Seminar
Thursday, July 8, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

Photographer Dan Patterson and American historian Clinton Terry use historically accurate contemporary photos that restage the work of Virginia's first surveyor, George Washington, and his team to provide an interpretive look at the art and science of surveying in the 18th century—and how early America was initially divided and documented.

Lecture/Seminar
Monday, July 12, 2021 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET

Historian Marcia Chatelain explores how the social upheaval of the Great Migration, the mass movement of mostly rural Black Southerners to urban cores across the country between 1916 and 1970, continues to resonate in our lives today.

Lecture/Seminar
Tuesday, July 13, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

The Boston Tea Party was a response to the 1773 Tea Act, the latest of a series of parliamentary directives stretching back to the 1765 Stamp Act. Never intended to be so provocative, it triggered a reaction that marks the first major protest in America against corporate greed and the effects of globalization that set the stage for the American Revolution.

Lecture/Seminar
Tuesday, July 13, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

Neal Asbury and Jean-Pierre Isbouts trace the critical role that maps played in battles including those of the French and Indian War, and examine how British strategy during the Revolutionary War became entirely dependent on hastily engraved (and often flawed) charts of geographical features and enemy dispositions.

Lecture/Seminar
Thursday, July 15, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

Take a fascinating look at the vivid history of undercover reporters who exposed corruption and abuse in America—and in the process redefined what it means to be a woman and a journalist. (Part of the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative, Because of Her Story)

Lecture/Seminar
Tuesday, July 20, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

Join Allen Pietrobon, an assistant professor of global affairs at Trinity Washington University and an award-winning historian, as he examines the role that alcohol played in American life leading up to Prohibition. And how, in its defiance, did American society and culture change so dramatically throughout the 1920s?

Lecture/Seminar
Wednesday, July 21, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

Winifred Gallagher draws on her book New Women in the Old West: From Settlers to Suffragists, An Untold American Story, to bring to life the little-known women who played monumental roles in one of the most vibrant and transformative periods in the history of the United States.

Lecture/Seminar
Thursday, July 22, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

Although New York City’s first Gay Pride parade in June 1971 was a key marker in the progress of LGBT+ organizing, a lesser-known pivotal moment took place in Washington, D.C., 20 years later. Nikki Lane of American University examines how the city’s home-grown Black Pride event grew into a national and international model for celebrations of community, inclusion, and diversity.

Lecture/Seminar
Monday, July 26, 2021 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET

On February 23, 1961, Jacqueline Kennedy launched the most historic and celebrated redecoration of the White House in its history. James Archer Abbott and Elaine Rice Bachmann—co-authors of a new book that chronicles the undertaking—discuss the 60-year legacy of one of the most influential interior design projects in American history.

Lecture/Seminar
Monday, July 26, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

Explore the tangible connections between baseball and Latino culinary traditions and how Latinos have created culinary fusions and experiences that reflect broader themes and trends in American history—the themes explored in the National Museum of American History’s new exhibition ¡Pleibol! In the Barrios and the Big Leagues / En los barrios y las grandes ligas.

Lecture/Seminar
Tuesday, July 27, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

Award-winning journalist Alvin Hall and social justice trainer Janée Woods Weber share personal and powerful stories they collected during their 12-day, 2,021-mile road trip from Detroit to New Orleans inspired by The Negro Motorist Green Book, the historic guide African Americans relied on to travel safely at the height of segregation and the Jim Crow era.

Lecture/Seminar
Thursday, July 29, 2021 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

Arts journalist Richard Selden, a Baltimore resident since 2008, leads the first of several virtual visits to the city’s most historic and distinctive neighborhoods.

Lecture/Seminar
Tuesday, August 3, 2021 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET

Historian Sam Lebovic  traces the evolution of the Espionage Act to provide a new history of state secrecy today—and how it reveals American democracy’s struggles to balance security and liberty.

Lecture/Seminar
Thursday, August 5, 2021 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET

Artists, activists, and radio DJs transformed music into a political weapon and unifying force in the Civil Rights Movement, delivering powerful messages of hope to the Black community and beyond. Historian Leon Burnette explores how the music that grew out of a seminal era became an indelible part of America’s social and cultural heritage.

Lecture/Seminar
Thursday, August 5, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

Lena Richard, a Black chef and entrepreneur in New Orleans, built a dynamic culinary career in the segregated South, defying harmful stereotypes of Black women that severely diminished their role in the creation and development of American food culture and its economy.

This program is hosted in collaboration with the Southern Food and Beverage Museum where Lavigne is the Director of Culinary Programming.

Lecture/Seminar
Wednesday, August 11, 2021 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

Over more than a century, three generations of Wyeths have created a collective portrait of America. Art historian Bonita Billman traces the family tradition reflected in their disparate subjects and styles. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)

Lecture/Seminar
Monday, August 16, 2021 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET

During the harsh winter of 1777 when the Continental Army was camped at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, Gen. George Washington initiated a new set of drills and regimental regulations that helped to turn a rag-tag collection of enlistees into a professional fighting force. Historian Richard Bell tells the Valley Forge story through the perspective of Baron Friedrich von Steuben, an immigrant who trained the troops as he dealt with anti-German sentiments and rumors about his sexuality.

Lecture/Seminar
Wednesday, September 1, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

How did American transform from a country that relied on a relatively wholesome and nourishing food system to one in which the daily diet is laden with fats, sugar, and ultra-processed unhealthy foods? Historian Allen Pietrobon traces the changes in American cuisine since the end of WWII, highlighting key events that radically changed how and what Americans eat.

Lecture/Seminar
Thursday, September 9, 2021 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET

Historian Richard Bell examines Paine’s meteoric rise to celebrity status during the American Revolution and his equally dramatic fall from grace. Once lionized as our most relatable and revolutionary founding father, according to Bell, Paine died a pariah, too radical for the cautious new country he had helped call into being.

Lecture/Seminar
Saturday, September 11, 2021 - 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. ET

The Civil War was the largest slave revolt in world history—and a war for freedom that hurled American history off its rails. It would end with the destruction of American slavery and the passage of the 13th Amendment. Historian Richard Bell explores the antislavery fight, focusing on the people whose courage and personal struggle led to the final victory.