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Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

American History Programs

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

Joe Biden is facing one of the most challenging and polarized political environments ever experienced by a new president. How well has he been doing? Journalist and historian Ken Walsh looks at the high and low points of the new presidency so far as he reviews Biden’s first 100 days in office.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET

Great art is timeless. Paul Glenshaw explores one of the most iconic patriotic images in American art—and one of the most reproduced—to reveal a surprising history that includes its creation in, of all places, Germany.  (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)

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.

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.

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)

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.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021 - 7:00 p.m. ET

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the emerging profession of architecture in America was very much a man’s world—but talented and tenacious women created doorways into it. Lecturer Bill Keene examines the notable careers of three of those pioneers and their importance in the development of the field.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET

A fascinating look at the history of movie theaters examines how the experience of moviegoing has changed over the decades—and whether movie theaters will even survive in the age of streaming services.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021 - 6:30 p.m. ET

In January 1942, a German U-boat surfaced in New York Harbor. This American oversight inspired Operation Paukenschlag, or “Drumbeat,” a little-known Nazi campaign to bring World War II to our shores. George Mason University history professor Kevin Matthews explores this little-known period of the war and how, with help from Britain’s Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, America turned back the Nazi attacks.

Thursday, May 13, 2021 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET

Kathleen Bashian, a certified master guide in Washington and a popular Smithsonian study leader, leads a virtual memorial pilgrimage through the city, examining the aesthetics of memorials as works of art and architecture, their origins, and their impact on contemporary visitors.

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.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021 - 10:00 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. ET

George Washington ordered the laying out of a 10-mile-square district to be the seat of government, directing that boundary stones mark one-mile intervals along its border.  Historian Dakota Springston tells the story of the people who surveyed and placed the stones—and helped turn the idea of an American federal city into a reality.

Saturday, May 22, 2021 - 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET

No event has altered the United States more profoundly than the American Civil War. Yet the question remains: Why have Americans returned to the war to find answers in their present? Historian Stephen D. Engle traces 150 years of an ever-changing narrative of the Civil War and why we still struggle to reach an acceptable version of its legacy.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. ET

In a two-part series, Jon Grinspan, curator of political history at the Smithsonian’s American History Museum, delves into the deep and sometimes wild history of American democracy to uncover a period of extreme division in the late 1800s. This session focuses on political struggles from the Civil War into the 1890s.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. ET

Space historian and television host Amy Shira Teitel tells the fascinating story of two women pilots who spent years as adversaries in search of the same goal: creating a place for women in the male-dominated arena of aviation and space flight.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. ET

In a two-part series, Jon Grinspan, curator of political history at the Smithsonian’s American History Museum, delves into the deep and sometimes wild history of American democracy to uncover a period of extreme division in the late 1800s. This session focuses on political reforms put in place in the 20th century.

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.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET

The Mouse rules! Over the last nine decades, the Walt Disney Company has transformed every facet of the entertainment business. Author Brian Rose examines the secrets behind the development of this still-growing powerhouse, tracing the remarkable evolution of a small cartoon studio in 1923 into the most powerful force in worldwide media today.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021 - 6:30 p.m. ET

David Eisenhower, director of the Institute for Public Service at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, examines Operation Overlord, the daring cross-Channel invasion that was a meticulously detailed plan—and a logistical nightmare.

Thursday, June 10, 2021 - 7:00 p.m. ET

The oyster is one of the most enduring symbols of the Chesapeake Bay. But in the mid-19th century through the 1950s, oyster pirates, legal watermen, and authorities engaged in violent disputes. Historian Dakota Springston examines how the Oyster Wars led to the oyster’s near extinction, and eventually, protection.

Monday, June 14, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. ET

Washington, D.C., is Indian land. The city is built on the traditional ancestral homelands of the Piscataway and Anacostan peoples. Join Elizabeth Rule, director of the AT&T Center for Indigenous Politics and Policy at George Washington University, to explore the history and legacy of Native Americans in the nation’s capital, as well as a new digital guide and mobile app that maps local sites of Indigenous importance.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021 - 7:00 p.m. ET

The extensive journals that chronicle the Lewis and Clark expedition’s trek from St. Louis to the Pacific and back offer a vivid look at one of the most remarkable adventures in American history. Clay Jenkinson, a preeminent Lewis and Clark and Jefferson scholar, examines the dynamics of the journals, how they were written, and what they included in their entries—and what they did not—to offer a deeper understanding of the greatest land exploration in North America.

Friday, June 18, 2021 - 6:30 p.m. ET and Saturday, June 19, 2021 - 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 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)

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.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021 - 6:45 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.

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.