'BackStory with the American History Guys' Goes Weekly Today

May 11, 2012 — "BackStory with the American History Guys," a one-hour public radio show featuring three current or former University of Virginia history professors and produced by the U.Va.-based Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, is "blowing up," as the kids say.

With major support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, VFH today launches "BackStory" as a national, weekly show. The program had been produced on a monthly basis since it began in 2008.

"The show provides a national broadcast audience with an enjoyable and accessible way of engaging challenging themes in American history and how they connect to today," executive producer Andrew Wyndham said.

Hosted by the American History Guys – renowned historians Peter Onuf and Brian Balogh of U.Va.'s College of Arts & Sciences, and former U.Va. professor and dean Edward L. Ayers, now president of the University of Richmond – the program's "energy emanates from the hearts and minds of its hosts. Their unscripted brilliance reflects a warmth and rapport that comes from their longtime friendship," Wyndham said.

Each episode features lively interviews with a diverse roster of scholars, experts and ordinary citizens from around the country; listener calls; host discussions; and produced pieces. Topics are as diverse as college sports, reenactments, sugar, memorials, domestic terrorism, birthing, home ownership, the post office and childhood – all examined in the context of American history.

Since "BackStory" began, episodes have been broadcast by more than 130 primary stations in 39 states, including 29 in the top 50 U.S. markets. Podcasts have been downloaded 1.4 million times.

"BackStory's" initial weekly episodes include:

• May 11 – "Born in the USA," which explores the history of childbirth in America
• May 18 – "Home! Bittersweet Home!" Where does the American dream of home ownership come from and who has been excluded from it?
• May 25 – "Monumental Disagreements." For Memorial Day, a look at how and what Americans have memorialized.
• June 1 – "Of Monkeys and Men." The ups and downs of the evolution debate.
• June 8 – "Weathering the Storm." Weather in its strangest and scariest permutations – hurricanes, blizzards, tornadoes – is explored.
• June 15 – "The War of 1812: Which One Was That?" It was America's first war, and to this day it's the one Americans know least about.
• June 22 – "Committed to an Institution." How Americans have historically valued and worked to change or preserve the institution of marriage.
• June 29 – "City Upon a Hill." The changing meanings of "American exceptionalism."

You can hear the shows in Central Virginia on WCVE (88.9 FM) on Saturdays at 3 p.m., Radio IQ (88.5 FM) on Saturdays at 7 p.m., WVTF (89.3/89.7 FM) on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., and, starting July 1, on WMRA (103.5 FM) on Sundays at 4 p.m.

Email ideas for new "BackStory" episodes to backstory@virginia.edu.

– by Rebecca Arrington