NEW Collection of ‘BackStory’ Episodes Contributed to the American Archive of Public Broadcasting

The American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) is pleased to preserve 154 episodes of BackStory, the popular public radio series and podcast on timely topics in American history. The series, which delves into the history, or “backstory” of current events and ideas in the U.S., is produced by Virginia Humanities, a state humanities council tasked with connecting Virginians to their state’s history and culture. BackStory began as a monthly public radio show in 2008 with hosts Ed Ayers, Peter Onuf, and Brian Balogh known collectively as “The American History Guys.”

In 2017, BackStory began publishing as a podcast only. Onuf transitioned to a consulting and guest host role and historians Nathan Connolly and Joanne Freeman joined the team. In episodes, BackStory’s hosts, all renowned historians and educators, discuss connections between the present and the past in a way that, according to the show’s website, “makes learning about history like going to a lively cocktail party.” Along with the hosts, episodes regularly feature guest historians and questions from audience callers. Episodes in the collection feature conversations about how subjects with deep roots in American history and culture – censorship, conspiracy theories, maps, dating and courtship, death and mourning, the color green, taxation, guns, populism, satire, and women in politics – have impacted American lives, often in surprising ways. Subjects in this collection include American history, women, race, racism, social life, education, religion, politics, economics, health, immigration, war, and holidays.

BackStory, produced by Virginia Humanities, began in 2008 as a monthly public radio series and podcast with hosts Ed Ayers, Peter Onuf, and Brian Balogh. By 2012, the series expanded to a weekly, national format, and in 2017 expanded further to include hosts Joanne Freeman and Nathan Connolly, as Peter Onuf transitioned to a contributor role. BackStory wrapped production in July of 2020. Featured programs include topics such as Banned Censorship, Grassy Knolls: Conspiracy Theories, Here to There: Maps, Love Me Did: A History of Courtship, The Green Show, and Women in Politics.

Access the BackStory Collection at

About the Hosts

Ed Ayers has been named National Professor of the Year, received the National Humanities Medal from President Obama at the White House, and won the Bancroft, Beveridge, and Lincoln prizes in American history.

Brian Balogh is a Professor of History at the University of Virginia and the recipient of the American Historical Association’s 2015 Nancy Lyman Roelker Award honoring those “who taught, guided, and inspired their students in a way that changed their lives.”

Nathan Connolly is the Herbert Baxter Adams Associate Professor of History at Johns Hopkins University. His first book, “A World More Concrete: Real Estate and the Remaking of Jim Crow South Florida,” received the Liberty Legacy Foundation Book Award from the Organization of American Historians, the Kenneth T. Jackson Book Award from the Urban History Association, and the Bennett H. Wall Award from the Southern Historical Association.

Joanne Freeman is a professor of History and American Studies at Yale University and author of the award-winning “Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic.” She is also the editor of “The Essential Hamilton: Letters and Other Writings,” and “Alexander Hamilton: Writings,” one of the Atlantic Monthly’s “best books” of 2001.

Peter Onuf is the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Professor of History, Emeritus, at the University of Virginia and Senior Research Fellow for the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello. Onuf is the author and editor of twelve books including “The Mind of Thomas Jefferson.”

For more, visit

About the American Archive of Public Broadcasting   
The American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) is a collaboration between the Library of Congress and the WGBH Educational Foundation to coordinate a national effort to preserve at-risk public media before its content is lost to posterity and provide a central web portal for access to the unique programming that public stations have aired over the past 70 years. To date, over 110,000 digital files of television and radio programming contributed by more than 120 public media organizations and archives across the United States have been preserved and made accessible for long-term preservation and access. The entire collection is available on location at the Library of Congress and WGBH, and more than 52,000 files are available online at  

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s