American Patriots

A Short History of Dissent

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Pub Date Jan 09 2024 | Archive Date Mar 19 2024

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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.

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...

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ISBN 9781479826520
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Featured Reviews

today i finished american patriots: a short history of dissent, by ralph young. this book chronicles america’s history through its major movements of dissent and protest in an effort to prove that the most patriotic thing one can do is dissent, while making it clear that there is a difference between well-informed dissent and terrorism built on misinformation.
this book was absolutely incredible. it was fairly well-paced and thorough, and did not shy away from the horrors that incited some of the protests and movements young discusses in each chapter. i thought that its structure of focusing on a movement and era per chapter was super easy to navigate and understand, and i liked that some of the early chapters spent time focusing on a particular person or people who had a large influence on the movement being discussed. for the most part, this book was really engaging throughout, and it’s incredibly present, referencing events from the summer of 2022 at the latest. young’s commentary on more modern events is level-headed rather than alarmist, which i appreciate. i genuinely can’t think of a single thing i disliked about this book, which rarely happens.
if you are interested in american history at all, this is absolutely worth your time when it comes out on january 9, 2024. thank you to netgalley and to nyu press for providing me access to this title in exchange for my review!

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I'd describe this as a new narrative of known knowledge. I've read Young's previous work, but this updated version focuses a lot on the late 20th and early 21st centuries. It's very readable for students, is more direct than the unabridged earlier version. Young does a great job focusing on the agency of individuals and the power they have to shape the world and society around them (an important lesson for students of any age)

I really liked the coverage of the Red Scare and the counterculture. Father Berrigan's appearance was appreciated; I feel he's overlooked in social history. Young also pays equal respect to BLM, the Tea Party, and Occupy Wall Street. The chapter on civil rights forced me reconsider the role of the movement

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