by Ralph Young
Published by: NYU Press
328 pages, 152.00 x 229.00 mm, 22 b/w illustrations
A concise history that proves that dissent is patriotic
The history of America is a history of dissent. Protests against the British Parliament’s taxation policies led to the American Revolution and the creation of the United States. At the Constitutional Convention the founders put the right to protest in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. In the nineteenth century, dissenters protested against the War of 1812 and the Mexican War, they demanded the abolition of slavery, suffrage for women, and fair treatment for workers. In the twentieth century, millions of Americans participated in the Civil Rights Movement, the antiwar movement, and second-wave feminism. In the twenty-first century, hundreds of thousands protested the war in Iraq, joined the 2011 Occupy movement, the 2017 Women’s March, and the 2020 Black Lives Matter uprisings. The crowds grew larger than ever, but the sentiments expressed were familiar. There have been dissenting Americans for as long as there has been an America.
In American Patriots, historian Ralph Young chronicles the key role dissent has played in shaping the United States. He explains that activists are not protesting against America, but pushing the country to live up to its ideals. As he guides the reader through the history of protest, Young considers how ordinary Americans, from moderates to firebrands, responded to injustice. He highlights the work of organizations like SNCC and ACT UP, and he follows iconic individuals like Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Woody Guthrie, charting the impact of their dissent. Some of these protesters are celebrated heroes of American history, while others are ordinary people, frequently overlooked, whose stories show that change is often accomplished through grassroots activism.
Yet not all dissent is equal. In 2021, thousands of rioters stormed the US Capitol, and Americans on both sides of the aisle watched the destruction with horror. American Patriots contrasts this attack with the long history of American protest, and challenges us to explore our definition of dissent. Does it express a legitimate grievance or a smokescreen for undermining democracy? What are the limits of dissent? Where does dissent end and sedition begin?
In a time when legitimate dissent is framed as unpatriotic, Young reminds us of the dissenters who have shaped our country’s history. American Patriots is a necessary defense of our right to demand better for ourselves, our communities, and our nation.
Ralph Young is Professor of Instruction in History at Temple University. He is the author of Make Art Not War: Political Protest Posters from the Twentieth Century and Dissent in America: The Voices That Shaped a Nation.
Clear and elegant; a page-turner. Young convincingly demonstrates that the history of the United States is inextricably linked to dissent and shows how 'protest is one of the consummate expressions of Americanness.' ~Publishers Weekly (starred), praise for DISSENT
French historian Alexis de Tocqueville warned about 'the tyranny of the majority' in American democracy. This work deals with that important topic from colonial times to the present. Young brings experience and knowledge to this subject. This history will satisfy fans of Howard Zinn, Pete Seeger, and Allen Ginsberg. ~Library Journal, praise for DISSENT
A broad-ranging, evenhanded view of a tradition honed into an art form in America. Young has a knack for finding obscure but thoroughly revealing moments of history to illustrate his points; learning about Fries' Rebellion and the Quasi-War with France is worth the price of admission alone, though his narrative offers much more besides. Refreshingly democratic, solid supplemental reading to the likes of Terkel and Alinsky, insistent on upholding the rights of political minorities even when they're wrong. ~Kirkus Reviews, praise for DISSENT
The Temple University historian Ralph Young's Dissent, a beautifully written, always-interesting, and analytically smart synthesis of American history, contends that dissent has shaped our world from the Puritans to the Barack Obama presidency. Here is wishing Young's big book a shelf life as long as the works of Hofstadter, Williams, and Zinn. ~Journal of American History
As we navigate a media world that is designed to enrage and often deceive, there has never been a better moment to revisit the role that dissent plays in refreshing our political vision. Dissent is, as Young ably shows, the opposite of polarization because it demands that we not only confront ideas that make us uncomfortable or even angry but also discuss them so that we can overcome new national challenges together as neighbors and patriots. ~Claire Potter, The New School for Social Research
Ralph Young is no stranger when it comes to discussing and analyzing the importance of dissent in America's past and present. In this latest effort, he expands our appreciation and understanding of the centrality of vigorous debate and passive and organized resistance to our identity as patriotic citizens. Both an excellent primer for students and a strong refresher for interested readers, American Patriots is a timely and much-needed reminder of our obligations to resist political and social injustices as they continue to appear. Well done, Ralph! ~Bobby A. Wintermute, Queens College, City University of New York
In this moment when our most basic civil liberties and civil rights are under such serious assault, and when the forces of repression and hate are clearly on the rise, American Patriots is a most essential read. It is a reminder that the American determination to resist those ugly forces—and our truly patriotic determination to demand greater justice, to insist on true equality, and to ensure the sanctity of opportunity and access for all—is not simply a historical memory. It is very much who we also are—a vibrant and determined part of our present that will save our future. ~Heather Ann Thompson, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy
American Patriots takes us on a fast-paced, thoroughly engaging, and thought-provoking journey from Mother Jones’s labor advocacy, through the rich history of dissent in 20th-century America, to the explosive backdrop of both grass roots dissent movements and manufactured or “synthetic” dissent in the American present. This is a must-read for everyone who cares about the relationship between principled dissent and love of nation. ~David M. Wrobel, Dean, Dodge Family College of Arts and Sciences, The University of Oklahoma
Young reminds us of how a perpetual dissent—against injustice, violence, and war—gives the word ‘American’ its higher meaning, distinct from nationalism. It is a passionate call to Americans to open their minds in the era of polarization and echo chambers. ~Vladislav Zubok, London School of Economics and Political Science
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