Modified stock images showing an open gift box containing the BackStory logo on a wooden table.

From BackStory to You

A History of Giving and Receiving

‘Tis the season for giving. Whether it’s the latest gadget or the coziest sweater, many Americans are spending the month of December searching for that perfect gift. But throughout American history, gift giving has taken on many different forms. And the act of giving and receiving has allowed bonds to form across social, political, and cultural divides. 

On this episode of BackStory, Brian, Joanne and Nathan bring you two very different stories of giving and receiving. One starts in Ireland, and the other looks at a time when lending a helping hand resulted in more harm than good.

This episode and related resources are funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this {article, book, exhibition, film, program, database, report, Web resource}, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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A History of Giving and Receiving Lesson Set

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This BackStory episode focuses on two different examples of giving in American history. One story chronicles the generous giving of money by Native Americans to people in Ireland suffering from the Great Famine of 1845. The other story discusses the underappreciated contributions of African Americans in providing relief to the people of Philadelphia during an outbreak of yellow fever in the 1790s. In both stories, the gifts represent a connection between people of different backgrounds, cultures, and races. As you go through the lesson, ask students to focus on how these gifts were given and received. What can we learn from gift-giving throughout U.S. history?