U.S. History

Two unidentified Gullah Geechee women photographed by Lorenzo Dow Turner in the early 1930s

How the Memory of a Song Reunited Two Women Separated by the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade

In 1990, scholars found a Sierra Leonean woman who remembered a nearly identical version of a tune passed down by a Georgia woman’s enslaved ancestors

Elroy and Sophia Williams stand inside the Hopewell School, a site on the National Register of Historic Places. Once freed from slavery, Sophia’s grandparents, depicted in the artwork she holds, acquired and then donated land for the school, one of nearly 5,000 built for African American children across from 1912 to 1937.

Smithsonian Photo Contest Galleries

These 15 Moving Photos Celebrate Black History Month

To mark the February heritage month, these images from the Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest offer proof that African American history is timeless

Members of the National Negro Opera Company pose backstage during a 1941 performance of Aida.

Women Who Shaped History

The Founder of This Trailblazing Opera Company Put Black Singers at Center Stage

Mary Cardwell Dawson created unprecedented opportunities for aspiring Black musicians

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There's More to That

How to Separate Fact From Myth in the Extraordinary Story of Sojourner Truth

Two historians tell us why the pioneering 19th-century feminist, suffragist and abolitionist’s legacy has so frequently been misrepresented

Lincoln Cemetery was established in 1867, two years after the Civil War ended.

Untold Stories of American History

Near the Site of the Gettysburg Address, These Black Civil War Veterans Remain Segregated, Even in Death

Denied burial alongside Union soldiers killed during the Battle of Gettysburg, the 30 or so men were instead buried in the all-Black Lincoln Cemetery

John Smith claimed Pocahontas saved him from execution when she was just 11 or 12 years old. Whether the story happened the way Smith tells it—or even at all—is up for debate, a 2017 Smithsonian Channel documentary explains.

The True Story of Pocahontas Is More Complicated Than You Might Think

Historian Camilla Townsend separates fact from fiction in the life of the Powhatan "princess"

While most of the fripperies at Tiffany & Co. were out of reach for average New Yorkers, Charles Lewis Tiffany priced his telegraph cable souvenirs at just 50 cents each—about $19 today.

Untold Stories of American History

To Make Tiffany & Co. a Household Name, the Luxury Brand's Founder Cashed in on the Trans-Atlantic Telegraph Craze

Charles Lewis Tiffany purchased the surplus cable from the 1858 venture, turning it into souvenirs that forever linked his name to the short-lived telecommunications milestone

The city’s classic sign, 25 feet tall, was designed by commercial artist Betty Willis in 1959.

How the Dazzling Las Vegas Strip Rose Up From the Desert

The story behind the glitzy stretch of highway that became the destination for America’s most sublime—and most sordid—aspirations

A diver prepares to enter the water of Malakal Harbor in Palau, where the plane flown by U.S. Navy pilot Jay Ross Manown Jr. was shot down in September 1944.

Recovering the Lost Aviators of World War II

Inside the search for a plane shot down over the Pacific—and the new effort to bring its fallen heroes home

A white Baptist woman named Harriet M. Buss taught Civil War hero Robert Smalls (pictured) how to read and write.

Untold Stories of American History

What a Teacher's Letters Reveal About Robert Smalls, Who Stole a Confederate Ship to Secure His Freedom From Slavery

Harriet M. Buss' missives home detail the future congressman's candid views on race and the complicity of Confederate women

A close-up of Sojourner Truth’s face in statue created by Woodrow Nash. An 1883 New York Times obituary described Truth’s “tall, masculine-looking figure” and “deep, guttural, powerful voice.”

The Remarkable Untold Story of Sojourner Truth

Feminist. Preacher. Abolitionist. Civil rights pioneer. Now the full story of the American icon's life and faith is finally coming to light

Abraham Lincoln’s third annual message to Congress spurred prompt and consequential action on what became the first piece of proactive federal legislation to encourage, rather than discourage, immigration to the U.S.

Abraham Lincoln's Oft-Overlooked Campaign to Promote Immigration to the U.S.

A few weeks after the president delivered the Gettysburg Address, he called on Congress to welcome immigrants as a "source of national wealth and strength"

A late-19th-century photograph of John Mason's mansion on Analostan Island, now called Theodore Roosevelt Island

Untold Stories of American History

This Peaceful Nature Sanctuary in Washington, D.C. Sits on the Ruins of a Plantation

Before Theodore Roosevelt Island was transformed into a tribute to the nation's "conservation president," a prominent Virginia family relied on enslaved laborers to build and tend to its summer home there

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There's More to That

Oppenheimer Has a Long History On Screen, Including the Time the Nuclear Physicist Played Himself

Now with 13 Academy Award nominations to its credit, the blockbuster film comes after nearly eight decades of mythologizing the father of the atomic bomb

Callum Turner (left) as John "Bucky" Egan and Austin Butler (right) as Gale "Buck" Cleven in "Masters of the Air"

Based on a True Story

The Real History Behind 'Masters of the Air' and the 100th Bomb Group

The long-awaited follow-up to "Band of Brothers" and "The Pacific" centers on an American aerial group nicknamed the "Bloody Hundredth"

The original Macintosh computer may seem quaint today, but the way users interacted with it was game-changing.

Forty Years Ago, the Mac Triggered a Revolution in User Experience

When it was introduced in 1984, Apple's Macintosh didn't have any striking technological breakthroughs, but it did make it easier for people to operate a computer

Verdun, Félix Edouard Vallotton, 1917

History of Now

As Empires Clashed During World War I, a Global Media Industry Brought the Conflict's Horrors to the Public

An exhibition at LACMA traces the roots of modern media to the Great War, when propaganda mobilized the masses, and questions whether the brutal truths of the battlefield can ever really be communicated

A Tuskegee study subject gets his blood drawn in the mid-20th century.

What Newly Digitized Records Reveal About the Tuskegee Syphilis Study

The archival trove chronicles the extreme measures administrators took to ensure Black sharecroppers did not receive treatment for the venereal disease

James W. Barr and Claudia E. Sharperson Barr (above, left and right), the maternal grandparents of senior editor Tracy Scott Forson. Diana Anagho (center), mother of heritage travel organizer Ada Anagho Brown. Brown as a child (far right). Harriet Tubman (below, left). Lewis Douglass (bottom), son of abolitionist orator Frederick Douglass.

Tracing a Lost Ancestry

What Genealogical Records Taught Me About My Family

For millions of enslaved people, bondage stole more than freedom—it severed a link to the past. Now their descendants are recovering their heritage

Left, Bartram’s illustration of Annona grandiflora, a member of the pawpaw family, which appeared in the naturalist’s 1791 Travels, right.

More Than 200 Years After He Toured Florida, America's First Great Environmentalist Is Inspiring Locals to Reconnect With Nature

A new generation is discovering the rambling Southern route of William Bartram and his legendary 1791 travelogue

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