Travel in America: From Wagon Trains to the Interstate Highways

Trinity Washington University

Dr. Allen Pietrobon is an Assistant Professor and Program Chair of the Global Affairs department at Trinity Washington University. An award-winning historian and public speaker, Allen specializes in 20th-Century American history and U.S. Foreign Policy, focusing on nuclear weapons policies and Cold War diplomacy. Since 2011, he has also served as an Assistant Director of Research at the Nuclear Studies Institute at American University. His latest book, Norman Cousins: Peacemaker in the Atomic Age, explores the widespread influence that prominent journalist Norman Cousins had on postwar international humanitarian aid, anti-nuclear advocacy, and Cold War diplomacy, including secret diplomatic missions he conducted behind the Iron Curtain.



From the Underground Railroad to the Settlement of the West to the modern cross-country road trip, travel narratives have infused American history and popular culture.  Many of the most famous travel narratives were written by people who found themselves “outsiders” along the way; from Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi, to John Steinbeck’s Travels With Charlie, to Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, in most of these stories the protagonist is positioned as an explorer in an exotic place (whether that be Jim Crow Alabama or the American West) on a journey of self-discovery to encounter the “real” America. What is so compelling about travel stories? What can they teach us about American history, culture, and society?

Join Dr. Allen Pietrobon for a road trip through America where we will explore the nature and impact of American travel stories. Beginning with the wagon trains of the 1840s, to the transcontinental railroad of the 1880s, through the iconic road trips on the newly built interstates of the 1960s, we will question why tales of travel and migration are so central to American history, exploring how the movement of people helped to shape the modern United States.




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barbara ann.fields


Having been born in the 40’s and African American I remember most of what you talked about. My father always had a car and we took road trips to the South each year. They were still using the Green book We knew how to pack our food, leave early in the morning before the sun came up and have a place to stay before the sun went down.I enjoyed your presentation but I believe others are you young to remember how it was. I now prefer the train, something I could not enjoy when I was younger. Thank you.

1 year ago

Where's Willie?

We need a few lines of Mr. Nelson’s “On the Road Again” to get us motorvated to pack up and go.

3 months ago
Michael Beck

Why no mention of the Lincoln Highway??

This presenter is always solid. However: THe Lincoln Highway was certainly a more historically important road than the more-famous Route 66. Why no mention in this presentation? Seems like a major omission. There was discussion of the Ike-led military convoy across America – which took place ON the Lincoln. Sorry this was omitted.

1 month ago
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