Dissent: The History of an American Idea

Dissent: The History of an American Idea

by Ralph Young


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Finalist, 2016 Ralph Waldo Emerson Award

One of Bustle's Books For Your Civil Disobedience Reading List

Examines the key role dissent has played in shaping the United States, emphasizing the way Americans responded to injustices

Dissent: The History of an American Idea examines the key role dissent has played in shaping the United States. It focuses on those who, from colonial days to the present, dissented against the ruling paradigm of their time: from the Puritan Anne Hutchinson and Native American chief Powhatan in the seventeenth century, to the Occupy and Tea Party movements in the twenty-first century. The emphasis is on the way Americans, celebrated figures and anonymous ordinary citizens, responded to what they saw as the injustices that prevented them from fully experiencing their vision of America.

At its founding the United States committed itself to lofty ideals. When the promise of those ideals was not fully realized by all Americans, many protested and demanded that the United States live up to its promise. Women fought for equal rights; abolitionists sought to destroy slavery; workers organized unions; Indians resisted white encroachment on their land; radicals angrily demanded an end to the dominance of the moneyed interests; civil rights protestors marched to end segregation; antiwar activists took to the streets to protest the nation’s wars; and reactionaries, conservatives, and traditionalists in each decade struggled to turn back the clock to a simpler, more secure time. Some dissenters are celebrated heroes of American history, while others are ordinary people: frequently overlooked, but whose stories show that change is often accomplished through grassroots activism.

The United States is a nation founded on the promise and power of dissent. In this stunningly comprehensive volume, Ralph Young shows us its history.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781479819836
Publisher: New York University Press
Publication date: 11/07/2017
Pages: 640
Sales rank: 832,139
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Ralph Young is Professor of History at Temple University. He is the author of Dissent in America: The Voices That Shaped a Nation, a compilation of primary documents of 400 years of American dissenters.

Table of Contents


Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: Dissent and America 1

1. The “Free Aire of a New World” 17

2. Dissent in an Age of Reason 34

3. Revolution 57

4. Discord in the New Republic 79

5. Slavery and Its Discontents 108

6. Reformers and Dissidents 133

7. Expansion and Conflict 159

8. Dissent Imperils the Union 173

9. A Nation Divides 191

10. Liberation and Suppression 213

11. Protest and Conflict in the West 234

12. Workers of the World Unite! 256

13. The New Manifest Destiny 275

14. Progressives and Radicals 294

15. Making the World Safe for Democracy 327

16. Traditionalism Collides with Modernism 349

17. A New Deal for America 371

18. The Good War? 393

19. Dissent in an Age of Conformity 407

viii k Contents

20. Civil Rights: An American Revolution 424

21. Make Love, Not War 453

22. Mobilization and Backlash 482

23. A New Age of Dissent 501

Conclusion: The Arc of Dissent 520

Notes 523

Bibliography 549

Index 583

About the Author 603

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