Episode 84: Behind the Tower: New Histories of the UT Tower Shooting

Fifty years ago, on August 1, 1966, twenty-five year old student Charles Whitman killed 16 people and wounded at least 32 more at UT Austin.  A former Marine sharpshooter, he went to the 28th-floor observation deck of the UT Tower and began shooting people on the ground as they walked by or tried to hide. A news cameraman set up a camera under the tower so the shooting was broadcast on television. Several police officers and a recently retired Air Force officer made their way to the top of the tower not knowing what they would find and, after the rampage had lasted 96 minutes, Houston McCoy and Ramiro Martinez killed the sniper. Later it was found that Whitman had killed his mother and wife in the early hours of the morning.

These events were seared into the memory of everyone living in Austin, but historians have neglected the story and, for decades, the university avoided and eventually suppressed it. A small plaque on a hard to locate rock was only erected in 2008. Why?

In Spring 2016, as the fiftieth anniversary neared, graduate students in the UT History Department’s Public History seminar led by Joan Neuberger decided to make the history of the tower shooting more widely available and accessible to the public. They examined documents in local archives and wrote a collection of historical essays on many important aspects of that day’s events, as well as on the historical context, and the aftermath. And they put these essays on a website. In this episode, Neuberger discusses the project with four of those students: Itza Carbajal, Maria Hammack, Rebecca Johnston, and John Lisle.

Download podcast (mp3—right click to save)

Continue reading

Episode 73: The Borderlands War, 1915-20

Host: Joan Neuberger, Professor, Department of History
Guest: John Moran Gonzalez, Associate Professor, Department of English

prospective-farmersIn the early part of the 20th century, Texas became more integrated into the United States with the arrival of the railroad. With easier connections to the country, its population began to shift away from reflecting its origins as a breakaway part of Mexico toward a more Anglo demographic, one less inclined to adapt to existing Texican culture and more inclined to view it through a lens of white racial superiority. Between 1915 and 1920, an undeclared war broke out that featured some of the worst racial violence in American history; an outbreak that’s become known as the Borderlands War.

Guest John Moran Gonzales from UT’s Department of English and Center for Mexican American Studies has curated an exhibition on the Borderlands War called “Life and Death on the Border, 1910-1920,” and tells us about this little known episode in Mexican-American history.

Podcast Audio (mp3—right click to download)

Continue reading

Episode 60: Texas and the American Revolution

Host: Joan Neuberger, Editor, Not Even Past and Professor, Department of History
Guest: Ben Wright, Public Information Officer, Briscoe Center for American History, UT-Austin

Spanish_troops_at_PensacolaWhat role did Texas play in the American revolution?  (What–Texas?  It wasn’t even a state yet!)  And yet, Spain and its empire–including what is now the Lone Star State, did play a role in defeating the British Empire in North America. New archival work is lending light on the ways that Spain, smarting from its loss of the Floridas to Britain in the Seven Years War, backed the American colonists’ push for independence.

Ben Wright of UT’s Briscoe Center for American History has been working with the Bexar archives and documents how Spain’s–and Texas’s–efforts to divert sources of food and funding to the American troops helped to tip the balance of power in North American forever.

Download audio (right click to save).

Continue reading

Episode 54: Urban Slavery in the Antebellum United States

Host: Joan Neuberger, Editor, Not Even Past and Professor, Department of History
Guests: Daina Ramey Berry, Associate Professor, Department of History
Leslie Harris, Department of History, Emory University

When most people think about slavery in the United States, they think of large agricultural plantations and picture slaves working in the fields harvesting crops. But for a significant number of slaves, their experience involved working in houses, factories, and on the docks of the South’s booming cities.  Urban slavery, as it has come to be known, is often overlooked in the annals of slave experience.

This week’s guests Daina Ramey Berry, from UT’s Department of History, and Leslie Harris, from Emory University, have spent the past year collaborating on a new study aimed at re-discovering this forgotten aspect of slave experience in the United States.

Download audio (right click to save)

Continue reading

Episode 22: Causes of the U.S. Civil War (Part 2)

Host: Henry A. Wiencek, Assistant Editor, Not Even Past
Guest: George B Forgie, Distinguished Teaching Associate Professor, Department of History

Designed to exhibit the comparative area of the free and slave states and the territory open to slavery or freedom by the repeal of the Missouri compromise. With a comparison of the principal statistics of the free and slave states, from the census of 1850.

In the century and a half since the war’s end, historians, politicians, and laypeople have debated the causes of the U.S. Civil War: what truly led the Union to break up and turn on itself? And, even though it seems like the obvious answer, does a struggle over the future of slavery really explain why the south seceded, and why a protracted military struggle followed? Can any one explanation do so satisfactorily?

Historian George B Forgie has been researching this question for years. In the second half of this two-part podcast, he’ll walk us through five common–and yet unsatisfying–explanations for the most traumatic event in American history.

Download audio (right click to save)

Continue reading

Episode 21: Causes of the U.S. Civil War (part 1)

Host: Henry A. Wiencek, Assistant Editor, Not Even Past
Guest: George B Forgie, Distinguished Teaching Associate Professor, Department of History

Designed to exhibit the comparative area of the free and slave states and the territory open to slavery or freedom by the repeal of the Missouri compromise. With a comparison of the principal statistics of the free and slave states, from the census of 1850.

In the century and a half since the war’s end, historians, politicians, and laypeople have debated the causes of the U.S. Civil War: what truly led the Union to break up and turn on itself? And, even though it seems like the obvious answer, does a struggle over the future of slavery really explain why the south seceded, and why a protracted military struggle followed? Can any one explanation do so satisfactorily?

Historian George B Forgie has been researching this question for years. In this two-part podcast, he’ll walk us through five common–and yet unsatisfying–explanations for the most traumatic event in American history.

Download audio (right-click to save)

Continue reading

Episode 12: America’s Entry in to World War I

Host: Joan Neuberger, Professor, Department of History and Editor, Not Even Past
Guest: Jeremi Suri, Professor of History and Mack Brown Distinguished Chair for Leadership in Global Affairs (LBJ School of Public Affairs)

"Well, what are you going to do about it?," political cartoon by R.A. Allen depicting Woodrow Wilson and German Ambassador Johann von Bernstorff (date unknown, believed to be 1915).

World War I ended the long-standing American policy of neutrality in foreign wars, a policy seen as dating back to the time of George Washington. What forces conspired to bring the United States into World War I, and what was the reaction at home and abroad?

Historian Jeremi Suri walks us through the events and processes that brought the United States into The Great War.

Download audio (right click to save)

Continue reading

Episode 5: Mapping Perspectives of the Mexican-American War

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Chloe Ireton, doctoral student, Department of History

J. Disturnell's 1847 Map of Mexico

This episode looks at US perceptions of Mexico through map making during the US / Mexico War, in which a private publisher sold maps that were reissued annually to reflect ongoing progress in the campaign. Intended for a general, popular audience, these maps served as propaganda in aid of the conflict, but historians and military analysts alike have ignored them until recently—even though they may well have influenced the positioning of the border at the war’s end.

Guest Chloe Ireton looks at the intriguing history of maps as propaganda and the role of two publishing houses—J. Disturnell and Ensigns & Thayer—not only in rewriting the history of the Mexican-American war, but in influencing the outcome of the war even as it was still ongoing.

Download audio (right click to save)

Continue reading