The American Epistles podcast explores our history through the letters, journals, and diaries of “ordinary” Americans. It is the story of our country, one letter at a time.


Chinese Immigration

Chinese Workers, 1800s (image credit: Modesto Art Museum)

1 | “The Chinese were in a pitiable condition …”

2 | “I thought I was his wife.”

3 | “Is it a disgrace to be born a Chinese?”

Westward Expansion

Rendezvous on the Green River by Alfred Jacob Miller (Public Domain)

1 | “See that shack over yonder?”

2 | “They told us the Indian ways were bad.”

Elinore Pruitt Rupert

1 | “Everything is just lovely for me.”8 | “…We were almost starved.”
2 | “Such a snowstorm I never saw!”9 | “Horse-thieves and desperate men seemed too remote…”
3 | “I am making a wedding dress.”10 | “The old sorrow is not so keen now.”
4 | “I had a confession to make …”11 | “She gave him a dose of morphine and whiskey.”
5 | “The ‘rheumatiz’ would get all the money …”12 | “Your pork and beans must be out of a can.”
6 | “The wind was shrieking, howling, and roaring.”13 | “We were all children of polygamous parents.”
7 | “A very angry Aggie strode in…”

West Virginia Mine Wars

Miners posing with their guns in Eskdale, West Virginia during the Paint--Cabin Creek strike from 1912-1913.
Miners in Eskdale, WV (Image credit: public domain)

1 | “The worst of the explosion occurred in Mine No. 8.”

2 | “They hit me and they threw me down.”

3 | “They’re going to bomb us!”

Enslaved Americans’ Pursuit of Literacy

Thomas Wood Painting

1 | “I would take my child and hide in the mountains.

2 | “It was only by trickery that I learned to read.”

3 | “The more I read, the more I fought against slavery.”

Freedom Summer


1 | “Mississippi is going to be hell this summer.”

2 | “We are afraid to speak for our rights.”

Women’s Welfare Work in WWI

1 | “We washed the men and the floors.”

2 | “Don’t drop them pies!”

3 | “We fed them what we had.”

The Great Migration

1 | We have to be shot down here like rabbits.”

2 | “We will do any kind of work.”

3 | “Nothing here but money.”

Mini Episodes

“Our child cries for you.” (Loved Ones of Black Civil War Soldiers)

“My wound is all healed.” (The 372nd Infantry)

“I have the right not to vote.” (Women’s Suffrage)

“I was awakened … by the low roar of guns.” (Hello Girls)

“His Intelligence from the Enemy’s Camp were Industriously Collected …” (James Armistead Lafayette)