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American Radicals : How Nineteenth-Century Protest Shaped the Nation
by Holly Jackson




Overview -
A dynamic, timely history of nineteenth-century activists--free-lovers and socialists, abolitionists and vigilantes--and the social revolution they sparked in the turbulent Civil War era

"In the tradition of Howard Zinn's people's histories, American Radicals reveals a forgotten yet inspiring past."--Megan Marshall, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life and Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast

NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST HISTORY BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY SMITHSONIAN

On July 4, 1826, as Americans lit firecrackers to celebrate the country's fiftieth birthday, both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were on their deathbeds. They would leave behind a groundbreaking political system and a growing economy--as well as the glaring inequalities that had undermined the American experiment from its beginning. The young nation had outlived the men who made it, but could it survive intensifying divisions over the very meaning of the land of the free?

A new network of dissent--connecting firebrands and agitators on pastoral communes, in urban mobs, and in genteel parlors across the nation--vowed to finish the revolution they claimed the founding fathers had only begun. They were men and women, black and white, fiercely devoted to causes that pitted them against mainstream America even while they fought to preserve the nation's founding ideals: the brilliant heiress Frances Wright, whose shocking critiques of religion and the institution of marriage led to calls for her arrest; the radical Bostonian William Lloyd Garrison, whose commitment to nonviolence would be tested as the conflict over slavery pushed the nation to its breaking point; the Philadelphia businessman James Forten, who presided over the first mass political protest of free African Americans; Marx Lazarus, a vegan from Alabama whose calls for sexual liberation masked a dark secret; black nationalist Martin Delany, the would-be founding father of a West African colony who secretly supported John Brown's treasonous raid on Harpers Ferry--only to ally himself with Southern Confederates after the Civil War.

Though largely forgotten today, these figures were enormously influential in the pivotal period flanking the war, their lives and work entwined with reformers like Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Henry David Thoreau, as well as iconic leaders like Abraham Lincoln. Jackson writes them back into the story of the nation's most formative and perilous era in all their heroism, outlandishness, and tragic shortcomings. The result is a surprising, panoramic work of narrative history, one that offers important lessons for our own time.

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More About American Radicals by Holly Jackson

 
 
 

Overview

A dynamic, timely history of nineteenth-century activists--free-lovers and socialists, abolitionists and vigilantes--and the social revolution they sparked in the turbulent Civil War era

"In the tradition of Howard Zinn's people's histories, American Radicals reveals a forgotten yet inspiring past."--Megan Marshall, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life and Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast

NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST HISTORY BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY SMITHSONIAN

On July 4, 1826, as Americans lit firecrackers to celebrate the country's fiftieth birthday, both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were on their deathbeds. They would leave behind a groundbreaking political system and a growing economy--as well as the glaring inequalities that had undermined the American experiment from its beginning. The young nation had outlived the men who made it, but could it survive intensifying divisions over the very meaning of the land of the free?

A new network of dissent--connecting firebrands and agitators on pastoral communes, in urban mobs, and in genteel parlors across the nation--vowed to finish the revolution they claimed the founding fathers had only begun. They were men and women, black and white, fiercely devoted to causes that pitted them against mainstream America even while they fought to preserve the nation's founding ideals: the brilliant heiress Frances Wright, whose shocking critiques of religion and the institution of marriage led to calls for her arrest; the radical Bostonian William Lloyd Garrison, whose commitment to nonviolence would be tested as the conflict over slavery pushed the nation to its breaking point; the Philadelphia businessman James Forten, who presided over the first mass political protest of free African Americans; Marx Lazarus, a vegan from Alabama whose calls for sexual liberation masked a dark secret; black nationalist Martin Delany, the would-be founding father of a West African colony who secretly supported John Brown's treasonous raid on Harpers Ferry--only to ally himself with Southern Confederates after the Civil War.

Though largely forgotten today, these figures were enormously influential in the pivotal period flanking the war, their lives and work entwined with reformers like Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Henry David Thoreau, as well as iconic leaders like Abraham Lincoln. Jackson writes them back into the story of the nation's most formative and perilous era in all their heroism, outlandishness, and tragic shortcomings. The result is a surprising, panoramic work of narrative history, one that offers important lessons for our own time.

 

Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780525573098
  • ISBN-10: 0525573097
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group (NY)
  • Publish Date: October 2019
  • Page Count: 400
  • Dimensions: 9.3 x 6 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds


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BookPage Reviews

American Radicals

On the Fourth of July in the late 1820s, Frances Wright, a Scottish philanthropist, writer and social reformer, gave what was probably the first public address by a woman in the United States. In it, she warned her audience against a narrow patriotism that worshipped the founders instead of their principles. She encouraged listeners to focus instead on the Constitution’s amendment system, with its expectation of change as the public became more enlightened. Holly Jackson’s magnificent American Radicals tells the story of trailblazers like Wright who sparked a second American revolution in the 19th century and of their profound effect on the course of our history.

This sweeping and briskly told history introduces the many people who have challenged conventional approaches to race, gender, property, labor and religion, and the devastating attacks waged in response by defenders of the status quo. The major figures in public reform are certainly here, but Jackson intentionally focuses on obscure figures who played significant parts.

Among them was George Ripley, who left the Unitarian ministry and, with his wife, founded Brook Farm, a communitarian project whose residents shared domestic and agricultural work equally in an intellectual atmosphere. Nathaniel Hawthorne lived there, and many other visitors came to observe, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Margaret Fuller. The theories of Charles Fourier, a French philosopher who felt that “civilization” as it was being practiced was “monstrously defective” and needed major reform, inspired the project. Jackson believes “the impact of Fourier’s thought on American culture has been underestimated, probably because it is difficult to believe that thousands of Americans, including highly educated members of the elite, earnestly embraced these ideas. But they did.” 

This incisive and well-written overview of Americans who protested wrongs in their society deserves a wide readership. Many fine academic studies have covered the subjects here, but this account, written for a general audience, is authoritative and fast-paced and vividly portrays a crucial period.

 

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