Synopses & Reviews
In this groundbreaking book, noted historian Thaddeus Russell tells a new and surprising story about the origins of American freedom. Rather than crediting the standard textbook icons, Russell demonstrates that it was those on the fringes of society whose subversive lifestyles helped legitimize the taboo and made America the land of the free.
In vivid portraits of renegades and their “respectable” adversaries, Russell shows that the nation’s history has been driven by clashes between those interested in preserving social order and those more interested in pursuing their own desires—insiders versus outsiders, good citizens versus bad. The more these accidental revolutionaries existed, resisted, and persevered, the more receptive society became to change.
Russell brilliantly and vibrantly argues that it was history’s iconoclasts who established many of our most cherished liberties. Russell finds these pioneers of personal freedom in the places that usually go unexamined—saloons and speakeasies, brothels and gambling halls, and even behind the Iron Curtain. He introduces a fascinating array of antiheroes: drunken workers who created the weekend; prostitutes who set the precedent for women’s liberation, including “Diamond Jessie” Hayman, a madam who owned her own land, used her own guns, provided her employees with clothes on the cutting-edge of fashion, and gave food and shelter to the thousands left homeless by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake; there are also the criminals who pioneered racial integration, unassimilated immigrants who gave us birth control, and brazen homosexuals who broke open America’s sexual culture.
Among Russell’s most controversial points is his argument that the enemies of the renegade freedoms we now hold dear are the very heroes of our history books— he not only takes on traditional idols like John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Carnegie, John Rockefeller, Thomas Edison, Franklin Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy, but he also shows that some of the most famous and revered abolitionists, progressive activists, and leaders of the feminist, civil rights, and gay rights movements worked to suppress the vibrant energies of working-class women, immigrants, African Americans, and the drag queens who founded Gay Liberation.
This is not history that can be found in textbooks— it is a highly original and provocative portrayal of the American past as it has never been written before.
A study of the real revolutionaries who infused America with the identity it has today.
Aruges that criminals, prostitutes, rebels and other people on the fringes of society were largely responsible for such American achievements as the American Revolution, labor unions, women's liberation, the fall of the Soviet Union, gay rights and much more. By the author of Out of the Jungle: Jimmy Hoffa and the Re-Making of the American Working Class.
and#8220;Raucous, profane, and thrillingly original, Thaddeus Russelland#8217;s andlt;iandgt;A Renegade History of the United Statesandlt;/iandgt; turns the myths of the and#8216;American characterand#8217; on their heads with a rare mix of wit, scholarship, and storytelling flairand#8221; (Steven Johnson, author of andlt;iandgt;Everything Bad Is Good for Youandlt;/iandgt; and andlt;iandgt;The Invention of Airandlt;/iandgt; ).andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;An all-new, stunning, and controversial story of the United States: It was not and#8220;goodand#8221; citizens who established American liberty, declares Thaddeus Russell, but and#8220;immoraland#8221; and and#8220;degradedand#8221; people on the fringes of society whose subversive lifestyles legitimized the taboo and made America the land of the free.andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;In vivid portraits of renegades and their and#8220;respectableand#8221; adversaries, Russell shows that the nationand#8217;s history has been driven by clashes between those interested in preserving social order and those more interested in pursuing their own desires. The more these accidental revolutionariesand#8212;drunkards, prostitutes, gangsters, unassimilated immigrants, and#8220;badand#8221; blacksand#8212;persevered, the more American society changed for the better. andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;This is not the history taught in textbooks or classroomsand#8212;this renegade book will upend everything you believe about the American past.
About the Author
Thaddeus Russell teaches history and cultural studies at Occidental College and has taught at Columbia University, Barnard College, Eugene Lang College, and the New School for Social Research. Born and raised in Berkeley, California, Russell graduated from Antioch College and received a Ph.D. in history from Columbia University. andnbsp;Russell's first book, andlt;iandgt;Out of the Jungle: Jimmy Hoffa and the Re-Making of the American Working Classandlt;/iandgt;, was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 2001. He has published opinion articles in the andlt;iandgt;Los Angeles Timesandlt;/iandgt;, andlt;iandgt;Boston Globeandlt;/iandgt;, Christian Science Monitor, Salon, and Atlanta Journal-Constitution, as well as scholarly essays in American Quarterly and The Columbia History of Post-World War II America. Russell has also appeared on the History Channel and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
Table of Contents
Drunkards, laggards, prostitutes, pirates, and other heroes of the American revolution -- The freedom of slavery -- The slavery of freedom -- Whores and the origins of women's liberation -- A rhythmless nation -- From white chimps to Yankee doodles : the Irish -- The Jew was a Negro -- Italian-Americans : out of Africa -- Shopping : the real American Revolution -- How gangsters made America a better place -- "Behold a dictator" : fascism and the New Deal -- Just how popular was World War II? -- How juvenile delinquents won the Cold War -- "A process of self-purification" : the civil rights movement's attack on African-Americans -- Gay liberation, American liberation -- Almost free : the promise and tragedy of rednecks and hippies.