American Icons

Monday, February 22, 2010 - 05:26 PM

Move over American Idol. Presenting: Studio 360's American Icons.

Sure, Abraham Lincoln isn't most people's idea of a triple threat (though his voice was said to be a reedy tenor). But his memorial in Washington, DC, has staying power. History was made there, and continues to be made there. It was the backdrop for opera singer Marian Anderson's barrier-defying concert in 1939 and the setting for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I Have a Dream' speech in 1963. Last week we explored how the monument became America's soapbox and guidepost - with the help of Sarah Vowell, David Strathairn, Suzan-Lori Parks, and Doris Kearns Goodwin.

The Lincoln Memorial is just one episode from Studio 360's American Icons series. American Icons shows take a work of art - something that's changed the cultural conversation - and unpack it, often with surprising results. Among these special episodes, Lincoln shares top billing with Superman, Barbie, Moby Dick, The Great Gatsby, and 'The Wizard of Oz.'

One of the defining aspects of an American Icon is that it can both reflect and absorb our interpretations. We all have our own memories and experiences of these works of art. Now we're at work on our next series, and we'd love to know what you think of the new Icons we've chosen  In the fall of 2010 we'll broadcast episodes exploring The Autobiography of Malcolm X, 'I Love Lucy,' Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, and Thomas Jefferson's Monticello.

Do you have particular memories about these works?

Post them below...we're eager to hear...

- Michael Guerriero


More in:

Comments [4]


Hi Stephanie -- Monticello will air this weekend in Washington DC -- on Saturday at 1pm on WAMU 88.5 FM.

Jenny, Studio 360

Oct. 20 2010 11:49 AM

Can you tell us if the Monticello, Studio 360 will be airing on NPR in the Washington DC area and when? Thank you

Oct. 20 2010 07:27 AM

The Lincoln Memorial is my favorite Washington DC monument. When I first climbed the steps at age 10, I absently searched for my mother's hand as I gazed awestruck at the massive figure coming into view.

An incredibly powerful moment in my life, it was the first time I felt "freedom".


Every evening before dinner the t.v. blared I Love Lucy with me sitting glued in front of it. Lucy just tickled my funny bone with her madcap comedy and I, of course, had a crush on Desi Arnaz. When I think of the caliber of the cast and guest spots, it is impossible to imagine the same type of production could be created today.

Later in life I learned of their innovative contributions to both television and Hollywood; they were/are icons.


Monticello... one of the places every American should visit. The house, gardens and plantation are exceptional and well worth the trip (and wait). Jefferson's inventive and creative mind built the home over 40 years, utilizing timber, stone and limestone from the land. The bricks too were made at Monticello creating the Roman neoclassic styled home. The gardens are a botanic wonder. Love this property.

Feb. 27 2010 07:28 PM

I hope you'll try to get Annette Gordon-Reed on the show for Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. I listened to the audio book last fall and it was excellent--a fascinating interplay of personal and national history, as well as an excellent, nuanced description of the weird way race works in our society.

I hated "I Love Lucy" as a kid because she was manipulative and made my skin crawl (also, probably, because my dad hated it). Yet, now I can see all the ways that her show both pushed gender boundaries and reified them. I loved Carol Burnett. I wonder what made the two shoes so different in my mind? Both women pushed into male dominated shows, the sitcom and the sketch comedy, respectively.

I look forward to hearing your take on these various icons.

Feb. 22 2010 06:48 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Supported by

Supported by