Saturday, July 3, 2010

Happy Independence Day!

Will you be reading the Declaration of Independence this weekend? If not, perhaps you'd rather listen to it? May I recommend the wonderful annual reading of the Declaration by the folks at NPR? Click here to get your dose of American History, NPR-style. It will only take 9 minutes of your holiday, and you'll feel more patriotic for it.

I was tempted to post a YouTube reading of the Declaration, but most of them were too dramatic for my taste, and the one I really liked (the 2008 Super Bowl segment by NFL players) was an abridged version of the Declaration.

In keeping with the patriotic and historic nature of the day, I'd like to share a book list. If you're looking for some interesting and educational Revolution/Independence-related reading fare, here are some books that you might enjoy:

46 Pages by Scott Liell - In the early days of 1776, an obscure recent immigrant named Thomas Paine published a small pamphlet of only "46 sheets" that would shift the political landscape and alter the course of American history. Published in an age before telegraph, radio, television, or the Internet, the simple but passionate argument Paine presented in Common Sense spread the idea of American independence through the colonies like wildfire. It changed minds, stirred emotions, and gained a groundswell of popular support as it went. In this book, Scott Liell tells the story of how a 39-year-old Englishman found his true calling and, in doing so, instigated "treason" against the Crown, sparked a revolution, and changed the world.

The Minutemen and Their World by Robert A. Gross - On April 19, 1775, the American Revolution began at the Old North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts. The "shot heard round the world" catapulted this sleepy New England town into the midst of revolutionary fervor, and Concord went on to become the intellectual capital of the new republic. The town--future home to Emerson, Thoreau, and Hawthorne--soon came to symbolize devotion to liberty, intellectual freedom, and the stubborn integrity of rural life. In The Minutemen and Their World, Robert Gross has written a remarkably subtle and detailed reconstruction of the lives and community of this special place, and a compelling interpretation of the American Revolution as a social movement.

Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America's Independence by Carol Berkin - The American Revolution was a home-front war that brought scarcity, bloodshed, and danger into the life of every American. In this groundbreaking history, Carol Berkin shows us how women played a vital role throughout the conflict. The women of the Revolution were most active at home, organizing boycotts of British goods, raising funds for the fledgling nation, and managing the family business while struggling to maintain a modicum of normalcy as husbands, brothers and fathers died. Yet Berkin also reveals that it was not just the men who fought on the front lines, as in the story of Margaret Corbin, who was crippled for life when she took her husband’s place beside a cannon at Fort Monmouth. This incisive and comprehensive history illuminates a fascinating and unknown side of the struggle for American independence.

What Did the Declaration Declare? by Joseph J. Ellis - What did the Declaration declare? An enduring mythology has grown up around the creation of the Declaration of Independence. Generations of Americans believe that Jefferson wrote it in his Philadelphia study, influenced only by the stirring of great events around him. Challenging this romantic ideal, the five historians included here find that the document was the result of many influences and that it may have even been a collaborative writing effort on the congressional floor. Investigating various angles of the argument, the authors pose a variety of opinions on the Declaration's authorship, influences, and ultimate impact.

Black Americans in the Revolutionary Era by Woody Holton - In this fresh look at liberty and freedom in the Revolutionary era from the perspective of black Americans, Woody Holton recounts the experiences of slaves who seized freedom by joining the British as well as those — slave and free — who served in Patriot military forces. Holton’s introduction examines the conditions of black American life on the eve of colonial independence and the ways in which Revolutionary rhetoric about liberty provided African Americans with the language and inspiration for advancing their cause. Despite the rhetoric, however, most black Americans remained enslaved after the Revolution. The introduction outlines ways African Americans influenced the course of the Revolution and continued to be affected by its aftermath. Amplifying these themes are nearly forty documents — including personal narratives, petitions, letters, poems, advertisements, pension applications, and images — that testify to the diverse goals and actions of African Americans during the Revolutionary era. Document headnotes and annotations, a chronology, questions for consideration, a selected bibliography, and index offer additional pedagogical support.


Wishing you a very happy and healthy Independence day! If you're venturing out of the house, please drive safely, and if you're having your own fireworks show, please be careful with your fireworks. We'll be having the family over for a barbecue and swimming, with a few fireworks before bedtime. I'm also celebrating my birthday--it's on July 3, but we almost always celebrate it on July 4. See you next week!


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