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Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

American History Programs

Tour
Wednesday, January 27, 2021 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET

You’d likely be surprised that the nation’s capital is home to several significant sites connected to the beginnings of the airplane. Join Wright scholar Paul Glenshaw for an interactive virtual tour that visits locations across the Washington area to discover a story of large and small moments that helped launch flight as we know it today.

Lecture/Seminar
Wednesday, January 27, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. ET

Mel Brooks, Johnny Carson, and Carol Burnett—all recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors—made it look easy, but nothing is harder than comedy that seems effortless. Join Sara Lukinson, filmmaker and writer for the annual event for 38 years, for an evening full of laughs as she covers the remarkable lives of these legendary entertainers and screens clips of their hilarious performances.

Lecture/Seminar
Thursday, January 28, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. ET

Iran and America’s current fraught relationship has its roots in one that was long grounded in friendship and opportunity. Historian John Ghazvinian draws on his new book, America and Iran: A History, 1720 to the Present, to trace how and why the link between these former allies eroded and offers a glimpse of what lies in store for both nations.

Lecture/Seminar
Thursday, February 4, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. ET

The American victory over British forces at Saratoga in September 1777 stunned the world and changed the course of the War of Independence. Kevin J. Weddle of the U.S. Army War College analyzes the strategic underpinnings of the historic Saratoga campaign, considers why events unfolded as they did, and offers a new interpretation of George Washington’s role in the American success.

Course
Saturday, February 6 to 27, 2021 - 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. ET

From the Revolution to the Civil War to the postwar boom and the tech boom, Arlington County has always been a canvas for American history. Historian Kathryn Springston follows its story through four centuries of social and economic change.

Course
Monday, February 8, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. ET

Washington, D.C., has given much to the musical world beyond its best-known exports Duke Ellington and the punk and go-go scenes. In a 3-session series, join musician, broadcaster, and historian Ken Avis as he explores the area’s lesser-known, remarkable, and fascinating musical avenues across the decades and why they could only have developed here. This session focuses on D.C.'s jazz legacy.

Tour
Thursday, February 11, 2021 - 6:30 p.m. ET

Sherri Wheeler, the Smithsonian’s director of visitors services, is ready to give you a lively introduction to its 19 museums and galleries, 9 research centers, and one beloved zoo—a whirlwind virtual tour that covers destinations from D.C. to New York City, Massachusetts to Florida, and even Panama.

Lecture/Seminar
Wednesday, February 17, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. ET

Despite America's newly won independence, a bitter dispute over whether to have a capital and where to locate it almost tore the young nation apart. It is a little-known tale of founding-period intrigue and an underappreciated side of Washington's exceptional political skill and leadership. Historian Robert P. Watson, examines the key role George Washington played in settling this question, the forces that influenced Washington's passion and vision for the capital city, and the intense political struggle to build it.

Lecture/Seminar
Thursday, February 18, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. ET

The walls of Blenheim, a 19th-century brick farmhouse in Fairfax, Virginia, are a fascinating treasure trove: Their plaster is covered with a collection of Civil War soldiers’ names, regiments, hometowns, dates, personal messages, and graffiti. See how advanced digital imaging technology is revealing new layers of the history of the war and an ordinary Virginia house that played a part in it.

Lecture/Seminar
Thursday, February 18, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. ET

In an entertaining and provocative discussion, best-selling author Simon Winchester discusses how we acquire land, how we steward it, how and why we fight over it, and finally, how we sometimes share it. 

Lecture/Seminar
Saturday, February 20, 2021 - 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET

African Americans threw themselves into the cause of the American Revolution with more enthusiasm and with more at stake than did many white colonists. But after the transformative moment of victory, Black fortunes would diverge dramatically in the North and the South. Historian Richard Bell explores the revolution and its aftermath from the unfamiliar perspective of enslaved and free African Americans.

Course
Monday, February 22, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. ET

Washington, D.C., has given much to the musical world beyond its best-known exports Duke Ellington and the punk and go-go scenes. In a 3-session series, join musician, broadcaster, and historian Ken Avis as he explores the area’s lesser-known, remarkable, and fascinating musical avenues across the decades and why they could only have developed here. This session focuses on D.C.'s country music past.

Lecture/Seminar
Thursday, February 25, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. ET

Frederick Douglass was a prophet who could see a better future that lay just beyond reach. Yet his life bursts with contradiction and change. Historian Richard Bell examines this many-sided figure’s life to reveal more than another great man on a pedestal.

Lecture/Seminar
Thursday, March 4, 2021 - 8:00 p.m. ET

The Badlands of North Dakota transformed Theodore Roosevelt over the course of more than three decades, reinventing himself into the kind of vigorous outdoorsman he’d idealized as a youth—and that shaped his public image as president and a passionate conservationist. Roosevelt scholar and historian Clay Jenkinson tells the story that brings you into the heart of TR’s beloved west and the national park that bears his name.

Course
Monday, March 8, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. ET

Washington, D.C., has given much to the musical world beyond its best-known exports Duke Ellington and the punk and go-go scenes. In a 3-session series, join musician, broadcaster, and historian Ken Avis as he explores the area’s lesser-known, remarkable, and fascinating musical avenues across the decades and why they could only have developed here. This session focuses on D.C.'s rock, go-go, and rhythms and blues legacy.

Tour
Wednesday, March 10, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. ET

A private club with a public mission to foster the arts in the nation’s capital, the Arts Club of Washington has welcomed sculptors, painters, poets, musicians, architects, writers, dancers, and arts lovers since 1916. The club’s historian Martin Murray offers an illustrated overview of the architecture and history of the elegant Federalist-era clubhouse and a lively history of how notable Arts Club members helped shape—and sometimes shake up—Washington’s cultural landscape.

Lecture/Seminar
Wednesday, March 17, 2021 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET

In the years after World War II, television blossomed as a creative medium, with live dramatic shows like “Kraft Television Theater” and “Playhouse 90” showcasing the talents of soon-to-be-famous performers, directors, and writers. But this golden age was a short one, as was New York City’s dominance as a center of production. Brian Rose, professor emeritus at Fordham University, explores the forces behind the demise.

Lecture/Seminar
Tuesday, March 23, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. ET

Join Chef Kevin Mitchell and historian David S. Shields for a delicious dive into the culinary specialties of the Charleston region, which include the famous rice and seafood dishes of the Low Country. Cook along as the chef demonstrates one of the region’s signatures dishes: Hoppin’ John.

Lecture/Seminar
Wednesday, March 24, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. ET

From a highly decorated WWII combat aviator to the head of a gonzo air cargo company to the president of Alaska Airlines—and with a dive into politics along the way—Charles Fountain “Whiskey” Willis lived an adventure of constant re-invention. Aviation historian Paul Glenshaw recounts the tale of how a scrappy upstart who ignored rules, risk, precedent, and protocol shaped a remarkable career.

Lecture/Seminar
Saturday, March 27, 2021 - 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. ET

From a Dutch artist’s workshop and a Frankfurt classroom in the 17th century to the streets of Washington in the early 1900s to musical stages today, women have been making strides in their fields that have often been overlooked, uncredited, or forgotten by time. Celebrate Women’s History Month by spending a fascinating day with four experts who bring to light an array of remarkable women who have lived in the shadows of history far too long.

Lecture/Seminar
Monday, March 29, 2021 - 6:30 p.m. ET

What began in 1946 in a family kitchen in Queens, became The Estée Lauder Companies, one of the world’s leading marketers of beauty products. Chairman emeritus Leonard A. Lauder tells the story of a great company founded by his mother—a woman who was pushy, but in a nice way.

Lecture/Seminar
Wednesday, April 7, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. ET

In a virtual exploration of collections at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, Maryland, learn how culture has been shaped by the intertwining of land and water around America’s largest estuary.

Lecture/Seminar
Thursday, April 8, 2021 - 6:30 p.m. ET

Michael Eric Dyson, a scholar of race, religion, and contemporary culture, draws on his new book to share how he grapples with the cultural and social forces that have shaped America since slavery, examines how the country can reckon with race, and suggests ways to move forward.

Lecture/Seminar
Monday, April 12, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. ET

The most expensive civilian scientific and technological program in U.S. history, Project Apollo symbolized the caliber of America’s capability in space exploration. On the 60th anniversary of the first human spaceflight, Smithsonian curator Teasel Muir-Harmony examines another aspect of the program: its role as a political strategy to foster a global community aligned with America’s Cold War interests.

Tour
Wednesday, April 14, 2021 - 6:30 p.m. ET

Join Bill Keene on a walking tour to discover the Mall’s history, design, and architecture, from its earliest vision to the latest developments. View and compare a wide range of architectural styles from the Gothic-revival Smithsonian Castle to the rich symbolism of the Museum of African American History and Culture to the latest addition to the Mall, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial by architect Frank Ghery. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)

Lecture/Seminar
Saturday, April 17, 2021 - 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET

In the 1960s and ’70s, the Black Arts Movement permeated rural and urban cities and towns in the U.S., drawing on the blues, jazz, and Black folk culture and idiomatic expressions as its foundation. Michele L. Simms-Burton, scholar of African American and Africana studies, explores the cultural producers working in music, literature, art, theater, film, and the press who defined the movement.

Lecture/Seminar
Monday, April 19, 2021 - 6:30 p.m. ET

Joe Biden began his presidency after four years of turbulence in the White House. How well has he been doing? Journalist and historian Ken Walsh reviews Biden’s first 100 days in office.

Lecture/Seminar
Wednesday, April 28, 2021 - 6:30 p.m. ET

The 1783 Treaty of Paris, which formally ended the War for Independence, can be seen as a triumph for U.S. diplomacy that reset relations with Britain. Historian Richard Bell examines why the agreement also irreparably damaged the U.S.–French alliance and left Native Americans, loyalists, and fugitives from slavery to fend for themselves in a newly independent nation.

Lecture/Seminar
Wednesday, April 28, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. ET

During the Gilded Age (1875-1900), the United States was on the path to becoming the most economically powerful country in the world, even as the wealth gap grew wider. Join Allen Pietrobon, an assistant professor of global affairs at Trinity Washington University and an award-winning historian, for a look back at the tumultuous time.

Lecture/Seminar
Monday, May 3, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. ET

The trauma of the slave trade forever altered Africa’s cultural history. Art historian Kevin Tervala examines the Atlantic and Indian Ocean slave trades, with a focus on how African artists—and the societies that they were a part of—reacted to the sudden and brutal disruption and transformation and depopulation of the world’s second-largest continent. He also highlights how the slave trade simultaneously brought great wealth, and with it, luxurious arts made in silver and gold. (World Art History Certificate elective, ½ credit)

Lecture/Seminar
Wednesday, May 5, 2021 - 6:30 p.m. ET

How did the name of a Continental Army general become a synonym for treason? Historian Richard Bell reconstructs the life and times of Benedict Arnold, the reasons he turned on his country, and the larger problems of betrayal and desertion that dogged George Washington’s army.

Lecture/Seminar
Thursday, May 13, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. ET

In the 19th century, Transcendentalism emerged as the first major American movement in arts and letters that left a lasting imprint on the nation’s mind and imagination. Richard Capobianco, a professor of philosophy at Stonehill College, examines the major themes of Transcendentalism and their far-reaching influence on American life.

Tour
Tuesday, June 8, 2021 - 10:00 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. ET

Photographer Bruce White has spent much time in and around the White House, shooting it for books published by the White House Historical Association. As the author of At Home in the President’s Neighborhood, he’s the perfect guide for a vitual tour of the area most closely connected with the residents of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Lafayette Park.