“I like a little rebellion now and then”—so wrote Thomas Jefferson to Abigail Adams, enlisting in a tradition that throughout American history has led writers to rage and reason, prophesy and provoke. This is the first anthology to collect and examine an American literature that holds the nation to its highest ideals, castigating it when it falls short and pointing the way to a better collective future.
American Protest Literature presents sources from eleven protest movements—political, social, and cultural—from the Revolution to abolition to gay rights to antiwar protest. Each section reprints documents from the original phase of the movement as well as evidence of its legacy in later times. Informative headnotes place the selections in historical context and draw connections with other writings within the anthology and beyond. Sources include a wide variety of genres—pamphlets, letters, speeches, sermons, legal documents, poems, short stories, photographs, posters—and a range of voices from prophetic to outraged to sorrowful, from U.S. Presidents to the disenfranchised. Together they provide an enlightening and inspiring survey of this most American form of literature.
In this time of warrantless wiretaps and imprisonment without trial, [this anthology] remind[s] us how hard previous generations of Americans fought to preserve and broaden our civil and human rights… By linking original works to later pieces Trodd underlines the historical roots of American dissent and the ongoing relevance of these writings.
Trodd organizes this excellent anthology around 11 reform movements, most based on race, class, or gender (e.g., the American Revolution, abolition, women's suffrage, gay rights). Collecting the work of both established writers and new voices, the book comprises some hundred pieces (1–3 pages each): prose excerpts, political documents, poems, photographs, film briefs, essays, fiction, narratives, and orations… This excellent book can serve as a textbook as well as a resource on social change and the literature thereof. Indeed, the persuasiveness of the collection raises the question not only of whether protest literature is a genre of its own, but also of whether it is the most American literary form.
The recently published treasure American Protest Literature, edited by Zoe Trodd…belongs on our bookshelves for two types of enjoyment. For starters, it is an invaluable reference, the first anthology to collect and examine American literature 'that holds the nation to its highest ideals, castigating it when it falls short and pointing the way to a better collective future.' It is also a great pleasure to read the 500-plus pages… May the daily newspaper and the nightly news glow with new perspective. Read this book.
- 576 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Belknap Press
- Foreword by John Stauffer
- Afterword by Howard Zinn
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