Historians Joanne Freeman and Nathan Connolly Join BackStory


BackStory with the American History Guys, produced by Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, is pleased to announce that Joanne Freeman of Yale University and Nathan Connolly of Johns Hopkins University will join BackStory in 2017.

Freeman and Connolly will co-host alongside Ed Ayers and Brian Balogh beginning February 3.

Freeman is a professor of History and American Studies at Yale, author of the award-winning “Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic,” and editor of “Alexander Hamilton: Writings.” A specialist in revolutionary and early national American history, her work focuses on political violence and the culture of politics. Her extensive knowledge of dueling and research into the life of Alexander Hamilton influenced Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator and star of Broadway’s “Hamilton” the musical.  In a New York Times story, Miranda credited Freeman’s book “Affairs of Honor” and her edited volume of “Alexander Hamilton: Writings” as “indispensable.”

Joanne Freeman
Nathan Connolly

Connolly is the Herbert Baxter Adams Associate Professor of History at Johns Hopkins University and the author of “A World More Concrete: Real Estate and the Remaking of Jim Crow South Florida.” Connolly’s research and writing focuses on the “interplay between racism, capitalism, politics, and the built environment in the twentieth century.” A self-described desegregationist, Connolly is the first African American author to win either the Kenneth T. Jackson Book Award from the Urban History Association or the Bennett H. Wall Award from the Southern Historical Association. Connolly is also the co-author of “Trump Syllabus 2.0” and the first black U.S. historian to earn tenure at Johns Hopkins.

Longtime host Peter Onuf will continue to contribute to the program.

Peter Onuf in the VFH radio studio. Photo by Tom Cogill.

“Peter Onuf’s rambunctious sense of humor, iconoclastic insight, broad vision, and passion have given BackStory much of its energy, irreverence, and relevance,” said Ayers. “We’re delighted that Peter will remain a part of BackStory, with guest appearances on the show, and we know our listeners will always be happy to hear his resonant voice.”

BackStory’s audience is already familiar with the voices of both Freeman and Connolly as guests and as co-hosts. This year, Connolly guest-hosted “Well-Regulated Militias” and Freeman guest-hosted “Judaism in America.”

“I can’t wait to start working with Joanne and Nathan on a weekly basis. It’s about time that they earned an honest living,” Balogh said. “All kidding aside,” he continued, “I am honored to work with two such fine scholars, who have advanced their fields but not lost sight of the big picture.”

BackStory recently made the decision to shift the focus from its weekly, hour-long broadcast format to creating and publishing the podcast. Episodes will be available via most podcast apps and stations will have shorter, radio-friendly segments available for broadcast. The move allows BackStory to become more flexible and nimble while continuing to provide the high-quality content the show is known for distributing. With the addition of two more hosts, the show will also benefit from the new perspectives Freeman and Connolly will bring.

“BackStory strikes a chord with listeners who want the long view of popular culture and the year’s headlines,” said Connolly. “Now, as I join the BackStory crew, I look forward to the distinct advantages and challenges of introducing listeners to a past they think they already know.  You have no idea what you’re in for!”

Freeman is also looking forward to joining the show. “I’m excited—and honored—to be joining the BackStory team, and to get the chance to explore the American past and present with Brian, Ed, and Nathan,” she said. “Given my deep dives into early American culture and my expertise in dirty nasty politics, I’ve got lots of juicy insights to offer.”

BackStory relaunches with new episodes in 2017.

About BackStory with the American History Guys

BackStory with the American History Guys brings historical perspective to the America of today. Each week, U.S. historians Ed Ayers, Brian Balogh, Joanne Freeman and Nathan Connolly look at current issues and trace them back to their roots in American history. From the days of the Early Republic to the 21st century, BackStory reveals the connections (and disconnections) between the past and the present. BackStory makes history accessible for listeners – not only in the United States, but around the globe.

BackStory with the American History Guys is freely available on iTunes, SoundCloud, Stitcher or other favorite podcast apps.

About Virginia Foundation for the Humanities

The mission of Virginia Foundation for the Humanities (VFH) is to connect people and ideas to explore the human experience and inspire cultural engagement. VFH reaches an estimated annual audience of 23 million through community programs, digital initiatives, grants and fellowships, radio programs, and the Virginia Center for the Book. To learn more, visit VirginiaHumanities.org.