BackStory Radio Show Wins NEH Grant To Go Weekly

(Charlottesville, VA… August 1) The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities’ public radio program and podcast, BackStory with the American History Guys (, co-hosted by three nationally known, widely published U.S. historians, will soon be going from monthly to weekly broadcast.

Thanks to a $350,000 production grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), along with additional contributions and commitments of $436,000, the show is hiring additional staff, ramping up for weekly production, and will initiate a two-year pilot sequence of four broadcasts per month by next spring. The program has previously received both a development grant and Chairman’s discretionary award from the NEH, along with an array of funding from other sources.

Reflecting on BackStory’s variety and diversity, Jim Leach, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, describes the programwhich has won a national humanities award and been featured by, among others, the Chronicle of Higher Education and HUMANITIES magazine—as “exploring and celebrating the story of America and its people from multiple perspectives.” The show, Leach says, “offers an uplifting forum for connecting the past with the present,” placing listeners “in the context of the challenges and achievements, heroism and sacrifice of prior generations.”
BackStory has already achieved wide national airplay, focusing on a broad spectrum of topics from show to show. The “Guys”—historians Peter Onuf, Ed Ayers, and Brian Balogh—have seen their program, designed to link past and present, broadcast episodically by more than 200 stations in 39 states.

In the last year alone, BackStory was featured 218 times as specials on 74 public radio stations nationwide, 27 of those in top 50 radio markets by population. During the same period, individual mp3s of the show were downloaded 296,778 times. In April BackStory, which has been regularly featured by iTunes and iTunes U, passed the 1,000,000 download mark.

A three-part series on the Civil War, geared to the sesquicentennial, has proved especially popular with stations and listeners, as has a very timely episode (“Borrowed Times”) on the history and significance of a national debt.
The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, established in 1974, encourages discovery and connection through the humanities by supporting and producing programs for a wide public audience.  It works with individuals and communities to explore the past, confront issues of the present, and discover a promising future.

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