Which fiercely contested 19th-century presidential election nearly resulted in two rival inaugurations? Which president has been invoked by all subsequent presidents – even Confederate President Jefferson Davis – in inauguration ceremonies?
As the nation pauses on the occasion of the inauguration of President Barack Obama to a second term in office, “BackStory” radio’s “American History Guys” connect present and past, tackling these and other questions in their characteristically irreverent take on the history of American presidential inaugurations during a live program in Flag Hall of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History on Jan. 19 at 11 a.m.
For those unable to attend in person, this special one-hour event will be streamed live by C-SPAN3, American History TV, which will simultaneously webcast the show. Audio of the program will later be available as a podcast from “BackStory.”
Join the Smithsonian and the National Endowment for the Humanities for this special presentation of “BackStory with the American History Guys.” Exploring scenes from past presidential inaugurations, historians-cum-radio-personalities Brian Balogh, Ed Ayers and Peter Onuf will examine what these moments reveal about the social and political forces at work around them, beginning with America’s first inauguration. The American History Guys will also reflect on the ways that 20th-century media technologies have shaped inaugurations and consider the transitional rituals that take place behind the scenes – in the ballrooms and cubicles of the capital city.
Audience members are invited to participate in the program with questions for the Guys. The show will feature an interview with Harry R. Rubenstein, chair of the Division of Political History at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, who will focus on the museum’s presidential history collection and display rarely seen inaugural artifacts. The event is made possible in part by funding from The History Channel.
“BackStory with the American History Guys” is a weekly public radio program and podcast that brings historical perspective to daily events. A program of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, the series is made possible with major support from the NEH, the University of Virginia, The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation and an anonymous donor. Each week the American History Guys – University of Virginia history professors Balogh and Onuf, and University of Richmond President and historian Ayers – tear a topic from the headlines and plumb its historical depths, to colonial times and earlier, revealing the connections between past and present.
“BackStory” can be heard on 23 public radio stations and in 57 communities nationally, and is available online as a podcast. All five of Virginia’s public radio stations, along with WAMU in Washington, WBEZ in Chicago, WFYI in Indianapolis, KVCR in San Bernardino, Calif., and Vermont Public Radio – plus other stations in Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin – have begun broadcasting the program weekly. Total “BackStory” podcast downloads through iTunes stand at more than 2 million.