BackStory' Public Radio Show Offers Historians' Look at Memorial Day

May 21, 2009 — A Memorial Day episode of "BackStory with the American History Guys," a public radio program hosted by a trio of historians with University of Virginia connections, will hit the airwaves this weekend.

"Grave Subjects: A History of Death and Memorialization," can be heard locally on WMRA (103.5 FM) on Saturday at 4 p.m., and on WVTF (88.5 or 89.3 FM) on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

The hosts of "BackStory" include Ed Ayers, president of the University of Richmond and former dean of U.Va.'s College and Gradate School of Arts & Sciences; Peter Onuf, U.Va.'s Thomas Jefferson Foundation Professor of History; and Brian Balogh, U.Va. associate professor of history and co-chairman of the Governing America in a Global Era Program at U.Va.'s Miller Center of Public Affairs.

In this episode, the History Guys look at the ways Americans have remembered their dead, from the Revolutionary War up through the present. Have technological and medical advances changed our attitudes about dying? Has death become more invisible, and if so, what are the implications? When did we start burying the dead in park-like settings, and how did modern funeral traditions come into being? Do war memorials tell us more about wartime, or about the peace time that follows? How have region, class and race influenced the ways Americans die?

Highlights include Drew Gilpin Faust, historian and president of Harvard University, discussing the cultural impacts of unprecedented levels of death in the American Civil War; Ayers visiting Richmond's historic Hollywood Cemetery; and a Gold Star mother explaining why she advocated for the media to have access to services for returning military members killed in the line of duty.