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

American History Programs

Lecture/Seminar
Monday, January 31, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

Great art is timeless, and speaks to us across time, culture, and space. Yet great works come from real people living real lives. Paul Glenshaw examines Albert Bierstadt’s 1868 work Among the Sierra Nevada, California—a majestic depiction of the natural beauty of the American West that also served as part of a brazen self-marketing scheme, a lure to immigrants and settlers, and a reflection of the complex legacy of Manifest Destiny. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)

Lecture/Seminar
Thursday, February 3, 2022 - 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

General Black Jack Pershing’s 1916 “Punitive Expedition” into Mexico was intended to capture Pancho Villa in retribution for an attack on a small New Mexico town carried out by his revolutionary forces. Although it failed in its objective, historian Dakota Springston examines how the expedition changed American warfare and why the United States’ first truly mechanized conflict served as a testing ground for the country’s entry into WWI.

Lecture/Seminar
Monday, February 7, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

Though the guarantee of equality, liberty, and justice for all is enshrined in the Constitution, Black Americans have long confronted the gap between that promise and the realities of their lives. Join author Farah Jasmine Griffin as she examines how thinkers and leaders such as Frederick Douglass, Malcolm X, and Barack Obama vividly reflect in their works how these Americans have grappled with the founding ideals of the United States.

Lecture/Seminar
Tuesday, February 8, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

Join one of the most famous art detectives in the world to hear tales from a long FBI career solving art crimes. Drawing on the headline-making cases he worked on, Robert Wittman explores notorious art heists and daring recovery operations.

Lecture/Seminar
Wednesday, February 9, 2022 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET

Brian Rose, a professor emeritus at Fordham University, examines how advertising evolved during television’s first two decades and the important role it played in convincing viewers that the key to happiness quite literally lay in buying their way into the American dream.

Lecture/Seminar
Wednesday, February 9, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

Nick Charles, NPR’s new chief culture editor, leads a panel discussion that examines how inequality has been propagated throughout history, the many attempts to counteract these inequalities, and necessary next steps to move forward.

Lecture/Seminar
Wednesday, February 16, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

Military historians try to identify “decisive” battles or campaigns that either lead directly to the end of a war or shift the momentum to the ultimate victor. In the American Civil War, the consensus is that the two most decisive battles or campaigns were Gettysburg and Vicksburg. Military historian Kevin Weddle examines another viewpoint: that the 1862 Antietam campaign should be considered equally significant as those encounters.

Lecture/Seminar
Thursday, February 17, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. ET

Seventy years on, the global cataclysm known as World War II, as well as its withering aftermath, continues to capture the attention and imaginations of filmmakers around the world. Drawing on a variety of clips, film expert Marc Lapadula explores how several films portray historical figures and real-life incidents that profoundly impacted and devastated lives.

Lecture/Seminar
Thursday, February 17, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET

The debate in recent years about the politicization of sports may seem like a new topic, but in fact, these two arenas of American life have been connected for a long time. Drawing on fascinating historical anecdotes, historian Kenneth Cohen explores that link and offers a new perspective on the great game of American political hardball.

Lecture/Seminar
Tuesday, February 22, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. ET

No presidential election in American history carried stakes as high as the contest in November 1864. Historian Christopher Hamner examines the months leading up to the critical contest, held while the Civil War, in its third year, had already left hundreds of thousands of dead Americans strewn across battlefields from Mississippi to Virginia.

Lecture/Seminar
Thursday, February 24, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

Some of the most significant American losses and victories of the Revolutionary War took place in South Carolina, where the state’s brand-new Liberty Trail invites travelers to uncover lesser-known sites and fascinating figures related to the period. Emmy Award–nominated PBS television host Darley Newman shares how to get the most out of your exploration of the Liberty Trail, as well as tips about nearby attractions and great local food, drink, lodging, and hotspots along the way.

Lecture/Seminar
Tuesday, March 1, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

It's easy to think of fairy tales as something distinctly European or antiquated. But folklorists Sara Cleto and Brittany Warman discuss the fairy-tale traditions and stories that can be found around the United States, including the Jack Tales of Appalachia, Black folk and fairy tales from the South, and the rise of the Disney fairy-tale empire.

Lecture/Seminar
Thursday, March 3, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

Mark Twain's 1884 masterpiece The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been widely regarded as America's greatest novel. But its frequent use of a vile racial epithet has made it toxic as assigned reading material at any level of the American educational system. Hear the arguments surrounding the fate of a work of literature—and what is lost if it disappears. 

Lecture/Seminar
Monday, March 7, 2022 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET

For more than a century, Hollywood has relied on star power as the most reliable way to draw an audience. From the early days of silent movies, the film studios have recognized the crucial role stars played at the box office. Trace the history of movie stardom, how the star system was changed by television, and how actors have redefined what it means to be a star today with Brian Rose, a professor emeritus at Fordham University.

Lecture/Seminar
Tuesday, March 8, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

With its 18th- and 19th-century fabric largely intact and its sailor’s-bar heritage tidied up, Fells Point offers a unique perspective into Baltimore’s enduring identity as a port city on the Chesapeake. A virtual tour with arts journalist and former Baltimore resident Richard Selden surveys the waterfront neighborhood’s history and character.

Course
Wednesday, March 9, 2022 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET

From early megastars like Paderewski to marquee-name composers such as Tchaikovsky and Dvorák, America has long drawn members of Europe’s music world as a place to perform, work, and in some cases, settle. Speaker and concert pianist Rachel Franklin explores the siren call of America to musical artists and their lasting impressions on our cultural life.

Lecture/Seminar
Monday, March 14, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET

In 1775, the British Empire’s most valuable colonies in the New World were in the Caribbean. Historian Richard Bell discusses how fearful imperial officials struggled to insulate the British West Indies from the contagion of revolution that was overtaking its colonies on the mainland—and how those attempts ultimately failed.

Lecture/Seminar
Thursday, March 17, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET

In the years before, during, and after the Civil War, large numbers of Americans joined secret movements, paramilitary clubs, and partisan societies. Their activities cast a shadow on public attitudes toward democracy, race, immigration, slavery, and political violence. In our own era of polarization and division Jon Grinspan, a curator at the National Museum of American History, finds parallels with an earlier time when tribal political identities pushed many to walk the line between the right to assemble and seditious violence.

Lecture/Seminar
Wednesday, March 30, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

Up until the 1960s, recurring epidemics were simply a normal fact of daily life, always lurking in the background. Historian Allen Pietrobon highlights some of the lesser-known pandemics and epidemics, revealing how people throughout history dealt with such sudden disease outbreaks.

Lecture/Seminar
Tuesday, April 5, 2022 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET

From the beginnings of nightly network reports to the launch of CNN to 24/7 cable channels, television news has undergone remarkable transformations in the last seven decades. Brian Rose looks at these sweeping changes and examines the impact—both good and bad—of television journalism today.

Tour
Saturday, April 9, 2022 - 8:45 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. ET

The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, America’s first common carrier, was a pioneer in many components of railroading in the United States. Step into more than 100 years of its fascinating history on an insider’s visit to the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore guided by rail historian Joe Nevin.

Lecture/Seminar
Thursday, April 14, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. ET

Historian Christopher Hamner focuses on how three of Abraham Lincoln’s best-known speeches—his First Inaugural, Gettysburg Address, and his Second Inaugural—helped to move a war-weary citizenry toward a radical new understanding of the country’s own values and of the meaning of the war and of emancipation.

Tour
April 24 - 25, 2022, 7:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. ET

The Brandywine River Valley includes some of the loveliest and most historic areas of Delaware and Pennsylvania, and spring is an ideal time to sample its attractions. Join Hayden Mathews, an environmental and cultural history interpreter, on a two-day visit to sites that provide unique doorways into the region’s heritage.