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American Radicals: How Nineteenth-Century Protest Shaped the Nation

by Holly Jackson

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442427,680 (4.33)3
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   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 today.… (more)

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This tome on activists and agitators leading slavery and race, sex and gender, and property and labor uprisings between 1817 and 1877 is support by extensive notes. While some would argue the figures described in the book failed in achieving their goals, author Jackson proposes the very acts of defiance set the stage for the protest seen today. ( )
  bemislibrary | Feb 7, 2020 |
Interesting look at the 1800's in the United States and what people thought the U.S. should be and do to achieve it. Those who wanted changes in society in response to the Constitution and the ideal of the U.S. were shut out/down by the conservatives who wanted to keep the status quo.

I enjoyed this book. I liked the ideas put out by those considered radical. They made sense. Some of the people I had heard of but there were new people who had an influence on society. We are still fighting for the same things 200 years later--slavery/black lives and equality, women's suffrage, union strength. The arguments sound the same today as they did then and those arguments are still denigrated by those in power trying to keep their status quo. This is a timely book for all to read. ( )
  Sheila1957 | Dec 9, 2019 |
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