Fourth Of July Reading & Reference List
(Above–Black Americans observing the Fourth in 1939 in St. Helena Island, South Carolina.)
What books and resources would be helpful to learn more about the American Revolution and about America?
As I’ve said before, I don’t believe the Revolution was a liberal or conservative event in the sense we think about such things today.
Some of the Founding Fathers were religious. Others were not. The Revolution had some aspects of a tax revolt. But who can know if folks in the early days of the nation would not have paid more taxes to get all the garbage out of the street or to prevent so many women from dying in childbirth? Some of the founders believed in government being run from state capitols. Others supported a stronger national government.
Anybody who asserts that the American Revolution was a liberal or conservative victory in the modern sense is more concerned with today’s politics than with historical facts.
At the bottom line, it is up to you to know and understand our shared history. If you allow others to define your past, they will likely use that power to help bring about a future you don’t want.
(Below–1887 Fourth of July picnic in Custer County, Nebraska.)
Here are some suggestions for strong sources to learn about the life in North America before colonization, after colonization, at the time of the Revolution, and to learn about the full history of our nation.
* 1491–New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann
There was a whole world here before 1492. 1492 is one marker in history. There is little understanding of who lived in the Americas before Columbus. American history did not begin in 1492 or in 1620 when the Mayflower arrived.
* Mayflower–A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick
There are starting points in American history other than the landing of the Mayflower. Yet learning the story of the Mayflower is basic to knowing our history.
* Before The Mayflower—A History of Black America by Lerone Bennett.
In many ways, nothing is more central to the American experience than the history of black Americans. So much has turned on the decision to bring black people to America, and on how those unwilling immigrants responded to life in North America.
* American Colonies–The Settlement of North America by Alan Taylor
This book is a good way to learn about the British colonies. It includes chapters about not just the 13 colonies we all know and love, but also has chapters on British Canada and about colonies in the Caribbean.
* History of American Women–A blog.
This blog is a useful resource to know more about women of early American history.
The website has pictures and details of most of the pieces in the newly reopened.collection.
* Patriots–The Men Who Started The American Revolution by A.J. Langguth
This book reads like a novel. It is an enjoyable and informative way to learn about the events and personalities of the Revolution.
* The Penguin History Of The United States by Hugh Brogan
The Penguin History is a one-volume non-ideological account of our nation that discusses the events of the Revolution and then goes on to provide the full context of American history. While I do sometimes read history books written from the left or the right, I find I’d rather have a balanced account that leaves ideological judgements up to the reader.
* A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn.
This is the definitive liberal history of the U.S.
As a liberal, I’m confident that an examination of the facts–In a way both comprehensive, and sympathetic to the strengths and weaknesses of our fellow men and women— will lead to a view that America is best when it is welcoming of people of all kinds, and that government has, in tandem with the hard-work of a free people, a role to play in providing a basic social safety net for its people.
In any case, it is your responsibility to learn your history and to consider what this history means in terms of your beliefs and actions in the world.
If you allow someone else to define your past, they will likely use that power to mess up your future.
Learn the past so you can be a hopeful and relevant part of the future.
(Below–How some see the Fourth of July. It is fine as far is it goes. But there is so much more. The painting–called The Spirit of ’76– is by Archibald Willard.)
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