U.S. History

Benjamin J. Burton was a trailblazing entrepreneur once thought to be the wealthiest Black businessman in Rhode Island. His killing on October 6, 1885, polarized the Newport community.

A Gilded Age Tale of Murder and Money

The 1885 death of Black entrepreneur Benjamin J. Burton divided the close-knit community of Newport, Rhode Island

This year's picks include Half American, Saving Yellowstone and River of the Gods.

The Best Books of 2022

The Ten Best History Books of 2022

Our favorite titles of the year resurrect forgotten histories and illuminate how the nation ended up where it is today

Carol Burnett's charwoman costume from her award-winning variety show (above in 1973) is now held in the collections of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

The Stars Are Aligned at the National Museum of American History

Carol Burnett Reveals How She Came to Create the Charwoman

The indelible comedian opens up about her favorite TV moments

A young Sammy Fabelman (Mateo Zoryan Francis-DeFord) in The Fabelmans 

Based on a True Story

The Making of Steven Spielberg

"The Fabelmans" is a lightly fictionalized dramatization of the famous director's childhood

J. Edgar Hoover (second from left) stands behind Franklin Delano Roosevelt as the president signs a bill in 1934.

How World War II Helped Forge the Modern FBI

Under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, J. Edgar Hoover consolidated immense power—and created the beginnings of the surveillance state

Celia Cruz (above in 2001 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.) was "a phenomenon," says the Smithsonian's Ashley Mayor, one of the organizers of the new exhibition "Entertainment Nation," opening in December at the National Museum of American History.

The Stars Are Aligned at the National Museum of American History

The Enduring Legacy of Celia Cruz, the 'Queen of Salsa'

The performer's vivacious life takes the stage as part of the new Smithsonian exhibition, "Entertainment Nation"

The famed Ruby Slippers were worn by by Judy Garland in her portrayal of Dorothy Gale in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.

The Stars Are Aligned at the National Museum of American History

It's Showtime at the National Museum of American History

An inside look at how popular culture represents who we are as a nation

Felton advocated lynching Black men accused of raping white women—“a thousand times a week if necessary,” as she said in an infamous 1897 speech.

The Nation's First Woman Senator Was a Virulent White Supremacist

In 1922, Rebecca Latimer Felton, a Georgia women's rights activist and lynching proponent, temporarily filled a dead man's Senate seat

“I was the daughter of an enormously popular president and the first girl in the White House since Nellie Grant, and I looked upon the world as my oyster,” Alice recalled in her 1933 autobiography.

Women Who Shaped History

From a White House Wedding to a Pet Snake, Alice Roosevelt's Escapades Captivated America

Theodore Roosevelt's eldest daughter won the public's adoration with her rebellious antics

Actor Charlotte Cushman defied gender norms, often dressing in a masculine style represented in this 1853 portrait from the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery. She managed her own career and demanded equal pay with male actors.

The Stars Are Aligned at the National Museum of American History

The Rise and Fall, and Rise Again, of America’s First Celebrity—a Woman Who Loved Other Women

The world-famous actor Charlotte Cushman returns to the limelight, with her costumes going on view in a new Smithsonian exhibition

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian dedicated the National Native American Veterans Memorial Friday, November 11 as part of a three-day event to honor Native veterans.

A Long-Deserved Tribute to Native American Veterans

A ceremonial procession kicked off a weekend of events to dedicate the National Native American Veterans Memorial

In the more than 100 years since his death, William Still has been marginalized, sometimes even forgotten, by histories of the movements to which he contributed so much.

The Forgotten Father of the Underground Railroad

The author of a book about William Still unearths new details about the leading Black abolitionist—and reflects on his lost legacy

American ambassador Joseph C. Grew (left) meets with Japanese Foreign Minister Teijiro Toyoda (right) in October 1941, two months before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Untold Stories of American History

The American Ambassador Who Tried to Prevent Pearl Harbor

A new book explores the diplomatic efforts of Joseph C. Grew, who was assigned to Tokyo between 1932 and 1942

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The Biggest Fails in License Plate History

While vintage plates have grown popular, these older iterations show where officials got it wrong

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The Father-Daughter Team Who Reformed America

Meet the duo who helped achieve the most important labor and civil rights victories of their age

According to contemporary accounts, Crazy Horse carried himself with great humility.

How Would Crazy Horse See His Legacy?

Perhaps no Native American is more admired for military acumen than the Lakota leader. But is that how he wanted to be remembered?

Protesters attend a rally in support of affirmative action in college admissions on October 31, 2022.

History of Now

The Origins of the Term 'Affirmative Action'

The phrase was first used in early 20th-century employment laws

The Wright Flyer is among the iconic artifacts held at the Smithsonian. When visitors come to see it, they tend to fall silent, says curator Peter Jakab. “People often recognize that they’re standing in front of something special.”

A New Look for the National Air and Space Museum

How the Wright Brothers Took Flight

The remarkable story of how the duo grew to become world-changing inventors and international celebrities

Pro-choice protesters in 1972

Women Who Shaped History

The Underground Abortion Network That Inspired 'Call Jane'

A new film offers a fictionalized look at the Janes, activists who provided illegal abortions in Chicago before Roe v. Wade

Frances F. Denny (b. 1984). Shine, (New York, New York), 2017, from Major Arcana: Portraits of Witches in America series. Archival pigment print.

What Does It Mean to Be a Witch Today?

A new exhibition on the Salem witch trials explores how the meaning of the word "witch" has evolved through the centuries

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