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American Crucible: Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century

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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

"Historians and social scientists have been longing for ambitious syntheses that take into account recent contributions to social history and studies of culture while reinvigorating key themes in political history. This book's rich and learned assessment of the complexities of twentieth-century America and its appraisal of change provide just such a powerful diagnostic and temporal framework. Showing how civic and racial ideals have entwined to produce both expansive and restrictive results, American Crucible is thoughtfully instructive and lovely to read."--Ira Katznelson, Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History, Columbia University.

"Fifty years ago, prominent historians celebrated the virtues of the 'American Creed' thirty years ago, their successors deplored the evils of 'Amerikka.' The best contemporary historians transcend these stereotypes by analyzing the many facets of Americanism, and American Crucible now sets the standard for the others. Its demonstration of how civic nationalism and racial nationalism change and how they change each other, its smooth movement from high diplomacy to comic strips, its refusal to settle for easy condemnation or celebration-together they add up to a terrific achievement."--Jennifer Hochschild, Harvard University

"In American Crucible, Gary Gerstle traces the fundamental tension between the American belief in equality and the deeply rooted tradition of racial nationalism-the most significant and most sustained conflict throughout the history of the United States. Gerstle's angle of vision allows him to illuminate and place in larger context such seemingly diverse events and developments as World War I and multiculturalism, immigration policy and the Christian right, Teddy Roosevelt's reform agenda and the social upheavals of the 1960s. American Crucible provides invaluable insight into the shape and structure of contemporary American society through its unique exploration of the nation's past."--Thomas Byrne Edsall, Washington Post

"This work confirms Gary Gerstle's stature as one of our most imaginative and ambitious historians. His scholarship substantially redefines the meaning of key ideas about the twentieth-century United States and its culture, including ethnicity, citizenship, patriotism, and Americanism. Gerstle's capacity for revisionism, synthesis, and engaged writing reminds me of Richard Hofstadter, C. Van Woodword, and Warren Sussman. With this book, he enters their league."--Nelson Lichtenstein, University of California, Santa Barbara

"This is one of those rare works of political and cultural history that compel us to rethink the nature and evolution of American society as a whole."--Michael Kazin, Georgetown University

"A bold, provocative, and often disturbing book about the contest between racial and civic definitions of American nationhood. Rarely has a work of scholarship examined the history of racism and exclusion in such comprehensive and dismaying detail, or in such clear and persuasive prose. Gerstle also contributes to the growing interest among historians in the concept of 'whiteness' by closely examining changing views of white ethnicity in the twentieth century. American Crucible is an important and impressive book and a major contribution to our understanding of twentieth-century America."--Alan Brinkley, Columbia University

"American Crucible dramatically portrays the century just past as one in which the United States saw inclusive traditions of civic nationalism compete with and partake of exclusionary racial nationalist traditions. Meticulous research and deep reflection prevent Gerstle from portraying either nationalism as the 'real' American way. The tension between the two and between the author's sober analysis and his strong personal advocacy of civic nationalism produces a remarkable study. Organized accessibly around the nation building projects of the two Roosevelt presidencies, American Crucible ranges delightfully from dance halls to the halls of Congress, from comics to picket lines."--David Roediger, Babcock Professor of History, University of Illinois

"American Crucible is the rare book that utterly transforms the way we view the familiar. With the sweeping yet agile brushstrokes of a great master, Gerstle paints a remarkable new portrait of the American nation on the vast canvas of the twentieth century. Guiding us from Teddy Roosevelt's charge up San Juan Hill to the debacle of Vietnam, he portrays a nation caught between two ideals-what he calls civic and racial nationalism-in constant struggle over whether the essence of American nationhood meant incorporation or exclusion."--Lizabeth Cohen, Harvard University

Synopsis:

This sweeping history of twentieth-century America follows the changing and often conflicting ideas about the fundamental nature of American society: Is the United States a social melting pot, as our civic creed warrants, or is full citizenship somehow reserved for those who are white and of the "right" ancestry? Gary Gerstle traces the forces of civic and racial nationalism, arguing that both profoundly shaped our society.

After Theodore Roosevelt led his Rough Riders to victory during the Spanish American War, he boasted of the diversity of his men's origins- from the Kentucky backwoods to the Irish, Italian, and Jewish neighborhoods of northeastern cities. Roosevelt's vision of a hybrid and superior "American race," strengthened by war, would inspire the social, diplomatic, and economic policies of American liberals for decades. And yet, for all of its appeal to the civic principles of inclusion, this liberal legacy was grounded in "Anglo-Saxon" culture, making it difficult in particular for Jews and Italians and especially for Asians and African Americans to gain acceptance.

Gerstle weaves a compelling story of events, institutions, and ideas that played on perceptions of ethnic/racial difference, from the world wars and the labor movement to the New Deal and Hollywood to the Cold War and the civil rights movement. We witness the remnants of racial thinking among such liberals as FDR and LBJ; we see how Italians and Jews from Frank Capra to the creators of Superman perpetuated the New Deal philosophy while suppressing their own ethnicity; we feel the frustrations of African-American servicemen denied the opportunity to fight for their country and the moral outrage of more recent black activists, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Fannie Lou Hamer, and Malcolm X.

Gerstle argues that the civil rights movement and Vietnam broke the liberal nation apart, and his analysis of this upheaval leads him to assess Reagan's and Clinton's attempts to resurrect nationalism. Can the United States ever live up to its civic creed? For anyone who views racism as an aberration from the liberal premises of the republic, this book is must reading.

Synopsis:

"Historians and social scientists have been longing for ambitious syntheses that take into account recent contributions to social history and studies of culture while reinvigorating key themes in political history. This book's rich and learned assessment of the complexities of twentieth-century America and its appraisal of change provide just such a powerful diagnostic and temporal framework. Showing how civic and racial ideals have entwined to produce both expansive and restrictive results, American Crucible is thoughtfully instructive and lovely to read."--Ira Katznelson, Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History, Columbia University.

"Fifty years ago, prominent historians celebrated the virtues of the 'American Creed' thirty years ago, their successors deplored the evils of 'Amerikka.' The best contemporary historians transcend these stereotypes by analyzing the many facets of Americanism, and American Crucible now sets the standard for the others. Its demonstration of how civic nationalism and racial nationalism change and how they change each other, its smooth movement from high diplomacy to comic strips, its refusal to settle for easy condemnation or celebration-together they add up to a terrific achievement."--Jennifer Hochschild, Harvard University

"In American Crucible, Gary Gerstle traces the fundamental tension between the American belief in equality and the deeply rooted tradition of racial nationalism-the most significant and most sustained conflict throughout the history of the United States. Gerstle's angle of vision allows him to illuminate and place in larger context such seemingly diverse events and developments as World War I and multiculturalism, immigration policy and the Christian right, Teddy Roosevelt's reform agenda and the social upheavals of the 1960s. American Crucible provides invaluable insight into the shape and structure of contemporary American society through its unique exploration of the nation's past."--Thomas Byrne Edsall, Washington Post

"This work confirms Gary Gerstle's stature as one of our most imaginative and ambitious historians. His scholarship substantially redefines the meaning of key ideas about the twentieth-century United States and its culture, including ethnicity, citizenship, patriotism, and Americanism. Gerstle's capacity for revisionism, synthesis, and engaged writing reminds me of Richard Hofstadter, C. Van Woodword, and Warren Sussman. With this book, he enters their league."--Nelson Lichtenstein, University of California, Santa Barbara

"This is one of those rare works of political and cultural history that compel us to rethink the nature and evolution of American society as a whole."--Michael Kazin, Georgetown University

"A bold, provocative, and often disturbing book about the contest between racial and civic definitions of American nationhood. Rarely has a work of scholarship examined the history of racism and exclusion in such comprehensive and dismaying detail, or in such clear and persuasive prose. Gerstle also contributes to the growing interest among historians in the concept of 'whiteness' by closely examining changing views of white ethnicity in the twentieth century. American Crucible is an important and impressive book and a major contribution to our understanding of twentieth-century America."--Alan Brinkley, Columbia University

"American Crucible dramatically portrays the century just past as one in which the United States saw inclusive traditions of civic nationalism compete with and partake of exclusionary racial nationalist traditions. Meticulous research and deep reflection prevent Gerstle from portraying either nationalism as the 'real' American way. The tension between the two and between the author's sober analysis and his strong personal advocacy of civic nationalism produces a remarkable study. Organized accessibly around the nation building projects of the two Roosevelt presidencies, American Crucible ranges delightfully from dance halls to the halls of Congress, from comics to picket lines."--David Roediger, Babcock Professor of History, University of Illinois

"American Crucible is the rare book that utterly transforms the way we view the familiar. With the sweeping yet agile brushstrokes of a great master, Gerstle paints a remarkable new portrait of the American nation on the vast canvas of the twentieth century. Guiding us from Teddy Roosevelt's charge up San Juan Hill to the debacle of Vietnam, he portrays a nation caught between two ideals-what he calls civic and racial nationalism-in constant struggle over whether the essence of American nationhood meant incorporation or exclusion."--Lizabeth Cohen, Harvard University

Table of Contents

List of Figures xi

Acknowledgments xiii

INTRODUCTION

CHAPTER 1: Theodore Roosevelt’s Racialized Nation, 1890-1900 14

A History of the American Race 17

War, Renewal, and the Problem of the Smoked Yankee 25

CHAPTER 2: Civic Nationalism and Its Contradictions, 1890-1917 44

True Americanism 47

Racial Dilemmas 59

The New Nationalism 65

CHAPTER: Hardening the Boandaries of the Nation, 1917-1929 81

War and Discipline 8

Keeping Pure the Blood of America 95

Civic Nationalism in the New Racial Regime 115

Aborting the New Nationalism 122

CHAPTER 4: The Rooseveltion Nation Ascendant, 1930-1940 128

A Kinder and Gentler Nation Builder 131

Radicalizing the Civic Nationalist Creed 139

Conservative Counterattack 156

The Survival of Racialized Nationalism 162

CHAPTER 5: Good War, Race War, 1941-1945 187

The Good War 189

Race War 201

Something Drastic Should Be Done: The Military’s Hidden Race War 210

Combat and White Male Comradeship 220

CHAPTER 6: The Cold War, Anticommunism, and Nation in Flux, 1946-1960 28

War, Repression, and Nation Building 241

The Red Scare and the Decline of Racial Nationalism 246

Racial Nationalism Redux: The Case of Immigration Reform 256

CHAPTER 7: Civil Rights, White Resistance, and Black Nationalism, 1960-1968 268

Civil Rights and Civic Nationalism 270

I Question America: The Crisis in Atlantic City 286

Speaking as a Victim of This American System 295

CHAPTER 8: Vietnam, Cultural Revolt, and the Collapse of the Rooseveltion Nation, 1968-1975 311

A Catastrophic War 313

The Spread of Anti-Americanism and the Revolt against

Assimilation 327

The Collapse of the Rooseveltian Nation 342

EPILOGUE: Beyond the Rooseveltion Nation, 1975-2000 347

Varieties of Multiculturalism 349

A Springtime of Hope: Ronald Reagan and the Nationalist Renaissance 357

Reviving the Liberal Nation 365

Notes 375

Index 439

Product Details

ISBN:
9780691102771
Author:
Gerstle, Gary
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Location:
Princeton
Subject:
General
Subject:
Minority Studies - Ethnic American
Subject:
United States - 20th Century
Subject:
Discrimination & Racism
Subject:
Political Science and International Relations
Subject:
American history
Subject:
US History - 20th Century
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
August 2002
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
College/higher education:
Language:
English
Illustrations:
25 illus.
Pages:
472
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in 23 oz

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Ethnic Studies » Immigration
History and Social Science » Ethnic Studies » Racism and Ethnic Conflict
History and Social Science » Politics » General
History and Social Science » Politics » United States » Politics
History and Social Science » US History » 20th Century » General
History and Social Science » US History » General

American Crucible: Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century New Trade Paper
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Product details 472 pages Princeton University Press - English 9780691102771 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , This sweeping history of twentieth-century America follows the changing and often conflicting ideas about the fundamental nature of American society: Is the United States a social melting pot, as our civic creed warrants, or is full citizenship somehow reserved for those who are white and of the "right" ancestry? Gary Gerstle traces the forces of civic and racial nationalism, arguing that both profoundly shaped our society.

After Theodore Roosevelt led his Rough Riders to victory during the Spanish American War, he boasted of the diversity of his men's origins- from the Kentucky backwoods to the Irish, Italian, and Jewish neighborhoods of northeastern cities. Roosevelt's vision of a hybrid and superior "American race," strengthened by war, would inspire the social, diplomatic, and economic policies of American liberals for decades. And yet, for all of its appeal to the civic principles of inclusion, this liberal legacy was grounded in "Anglo-Saxon" culture, making it difficult in particular for Jews and Italians and especially for Asians and African Americans to gain acceptance.

Gerstle weaves a compelling story of events, institutions, and ideas that played on perceptions of ethnic/racial difference, from the world wars and the labor movement to the New Deal and Hollywood to the Cold War and the civil rights movement. We witness the remnants of racial thinking among such liberals as FDR and LBJ; we see how Italians and Jews from Frank Capra to the creators of Superman perpetuated the New Deal philosophy while suppressing their own ethnicity; we feel the frustrations of African-American servicemen denied the opportunity to fight for their country and the moral outrage of more recent black activists, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Fannie Lou Hamer, and Malcolm X.

Gerstle argues that the civil rights movement and Vietnam broke the liberal nation apart, and his analysis of this upheaval leads him to assess Reagan's and Clinton's attempts to resurrect nationalism. Can the United States ever live up to its civic creed? For anyone who views racism as an aberration from the liberal premises of the republic, this book is must reading.

"Synopsis" by ,

"Historians and social scientists have been longing for ambitious syntheses that take into account recent contributions to social history and studies of culture while reinvigorating key themes in political history. This book's rich and learned assessment of the complexities of twentieth-century America and its appraisal of change provide just such a powerful diagnostic and temporal framework. Showing how civic and racial ideals have entwined to produce both expansive and restrictive results, American Crucible is thoughtfully instructive and lovely to read."--Ira Katznelson, Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History, Columbia University.

"Fifty years ago, prominent historians celebrated the virtues of the 'American Creed' thirty years ago, their successors deplored the evils of 'Amerikka.' The best contemporary historians transcend these stereotypes by analyzing the many facets of Americanism, and American Crucible now sets the standard for the others. Its demonstration of how civic nationalism and racial nationalism change and how they change each other, its smooth movement from high diplomacy to comic strips, its refusal to settle for easy condemnation or celebration-together they add up to a terrific achievement."--Jennifer Hochschild, Harvard University

"In American Crucible, Gary Gerstle traces the fundamental tension between the American belief in equality and the deeply rooted tradition of racial nationalism-the most significant and most sustained conflict throughout the history of the United States. Gerstle's angle of vision allows him to illuminate and place in larger context such seemingly diverse events and developments as World War I and multiculturalism, immigration policy and the Christian right, Teddy Roosevelt's reform agenda and the social upheavals of the 1960s. American Crucible provides invaluable insight into the shape and structure of contemporary American society through its unique exploration of the nation's past."--Thomas Byrne Edsall, Washington Post

"This work confirms Gary Gerstle's stature as one of our most imaginative and ambitious historians. His scholarship substantially redefines the meaning of key ideas about the twentieth-century United States and its culture, including ethnicity, citizenship, patriotism, and Americanism. Gerstle's capacity for revisionism, synthesis, and engaged writing reminds me of Richard Hofstadter, C. Van Woodword, and Warren Sussman. With this book, he enters their league."--Nelson Lichtenstein, University of California, Santa Barbara

"This is one of those rare works of political and cultural history that compel us to rethink the nature and evolution of American society as a whole."--Michael Kazin, Georgetown University

"A bold, provocative, and often disturbing book about the contest between racial and civic definitions of American nationhood. Rarely has a work of scholarship examined the history of racism and exclusion in such comprehensive and dismaying detail, or in such clear and persuasive prose. Gerstle also contributes to the growing interest among historians in the concept of 'whiteness' by closely examining changing views of white ethnicity in the twentieth century. American Crucible is an important and impressive book and a major contribution to our understanding of twentieth-century America."--Alan Brinkley, Columbia University

"American Crucible dramatically portrays the century just past as one in which the United States saw inclusive traditions of civic nationalism compete with and partake of exclusionary racial nationalist traditions. Meticulous research and deep reflection prevent Gerstle from portraying either nationalism as the 'real' American way. The tension between the two and between the author's sober analysis and his strong personal advocacy of civic nationalism produces a remarkable study. Organized accessibly around the nation building projects of the two Roosevelt presidencies, American Crucible ranges delightfully from dance halls to the halls of Congress, from comics to picket lines."--David Roediger, Babcock Professor of History, University of Illinois

"American Crucible is the rare book that utterly transforms the way we view the familiar. With the sweeping yet agile brushstrokes of a great master, Gerstle paints a remarkable new portrait of the American nation on the vast canvas of the twentieth century. Guiding us from Teddy Roosevelt's charge up San Juan Hill to the debacle of Vietnam, he portrays a nation caught between two ideals-what he calls civic and racial nationalism-in constant struggle over whether the essence of American nationhood meant incorporation or exclusion."--Lizabeth Cohen, Harvard University

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