The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame [NOOK Book]

Overview

A hundred years ago, any soapbox orator who called for women’s suffrage, laws protecting the environment, an end to lynching, or a federal minimum wage was considered a utopian dreamer or a dangerous socialist. Now we take these ideas for granted— because the radical ideas of one generation are often the common sense of the next. We all stand on the shoulders of earlier generations of radicals and reformers who challenged the status quo of their day.

Unfortunately, most ...

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The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame

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Overview

A hundred years ago, any soapbox orator who called for women’s suffrage, laws protecting the environment, an end to lynching, or a federal minimum wage was considered a utopian dreamer or a dangerous socialist. Now we take these ideas for granted— because the radical ideas of one generation are often the common sense of the next. We all stand on the shoulders of earlier generations of radicals and reformers who challenged the status quo of their day.

Unfortunately, most Americans know little of this progressive history. It isn’t taught in most high schools. You can’t find it on the major television networks. In popular media, the most persistent interpreter of America’s radical past is Glenn Beck, who teaches viewers a wildly inaccurate history of unions, civil rights, and the American Left.

The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century, a colorful and witty history of the most influential progressive leaders of the twentieth century and beyond, is the perfect antidote.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Kirkus Reviews
“Crisp, snappy bios of important progressive Americans in recent history. . . . A provocative collection that includes a timeline and a roster of up-and-coming contenders for a new century already showing signs of progress.”

Jonathan Kozol

“A compelling narrative of the major social justice movements of the United States and the ways that high ideals are transformed into action. I’ve found myself caught up in the sweep of history the book encompasses and in the richness of the details embedded in each story. Terrific reading.”

Frances Fox Piven“A great collection of gripping stories. A book you won’t want to put down.” Robert Kuttner“Peter Dreier’s superb book is a timely and heartening reminder that America’s most valuable citizens were resolute and inventive progressives. A wonderfully written antidote to this decade’s choice between centrism and defeatism.”
Nelson Lichtenstein, MacArthur Foundation Chair in History, University of California, Santa Barbara

“Skillfully crafted... a call to action for our generation and the next.”
Joe Harting, KBTK’s Mitch and Joe Show
“[Dreier] is the kind of guest that is made for stimulating talk!”

America Magazine: The National Catholic Weekly“Since the tabloid culture trivialized public virtue by the indiscriminate use of the termhero, it is refreshing when a publication gives an overused term like greatest a sharper definition. Nation Books has published The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame, by Peter Dreier, a distinguished professor of politics at Occidental College. Greatness, for Mr. Dreier, describes those who make the United States ‘a more just, equal and democratic society.’” San Francisco/Sacramento Book Review“This invaluable compendium will be of interest to the general reader or scholar, closing with an outstanding bibliography. [An] outstanding reference book….” Andrew Tonkovich, OC Weekly’s Bookly Blog (Costa Mesa, CA)“[P]rovocatively fun. . . [T]he book is both predictably satisfying and also a discovery, with plenty of names new to this amateur Lefty history scholar—and a generous “B” list of another fifty of Dreier’s favorites. . . . [I]n his clearly life and struggle-affirming collection of portraits of some of the greatest citizen-activists in the history of our republic, Peter Dreier might fool us into seeing something like progress. . . . Reading these lovely sketches, of real people (with failings, tragedies, mistakes made) he seems to me to add lightning velocity to betterness and betterhood.” Beyond Chron (San Francisco, CA)“[G]iven the current climate of rising inequality and economic unfairness, Dreier’s inspiring histories of these courageous and idealistic visionaries could not have come at a better time. . . . Dreier includes enough kernels of wisdom and insights in each piece to leave readers marveling at the legacy the 100 have left.” Ron Radish, PJ Media“So the reason I got the book — I know how publishers and their publicity departments work — is that Dreier asked them to mail it to me. Expecting me to take the bait and attack the book, he could then come up with a line for an ad: “The reactionary right-wing writer Ron Radosh hates this book, so you know it has to be good,” or something along those lines. So, indeed, I accept the challenge, and henceforth will make some serious observations about what Dreier has written.” Library Journal“[T]his book openly celebrates the people behind the progressive ideas and movements that have shaped the United States and its history and that [Dreier] believes have made it a more humane and inclusive place. . . . [Of] interest to people who enjoy reading history and are interested in those who made a real difference in American progressive life.” Jack Rothman, Professor Emeritus at the UCLA School of Public Affairs, writing for the Huffington Post“The array of personages covers varied ethnic identities and ideological leanings. The narratives are crisp and readable, reflecting Professor Dreier's earlier career as a journalist. . . . With so many right-wing and callous influences saturating our culture, the book serves as a wholesome antidote.” History Wire“[F]ew will deny that the progressive subjects chosen… have stepped up to the plate for a variety of noble causes far more than the average citizen. . . . Liberals will easily find people of like mind whatever their field of interest.” Frying Pan News.org“[N]ervy… A corrective to Greatest Generation blather, Dreier’s 100 profiles refract a century of progressive movements through the lives of leaders whose native radicalism helped push America toward a more humane vision of society.” ALA Booklist“Author Dreier has put his years of experience as a teacher, community organizer, government official, and journalist together to condense a century of astounding change and action into one volume. Hard decisions must have been made, but in the end, The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame brings together names and faces from every movement and every decade. . . . Overall, a solid, if broad, entry in an ever-topical field.”

John Atlas, Huffington Post Occupy Wall Street blog“Dreier brings his 100 greatest Americans to life with pithy, dramatic and colorful biographies and presents them warts and all. … Dreier is clearly trying not only to educate readers but also provoke them to think differently about our history and to reconsider what we mean by "great." While you might not agree with Dreier's hundred, he provides an impressive case for the importance of leadership and social movements and how progressives and radicals inside and outside of the establishment made America a more livable and humane society.” Red Weather Review (online)
“Dreier, a politics professor at Occidental College, has produced a labor of love that will dazzle lefty readers and offer others insights into the lives of men and women who have dedicated themselves to fostering social change in the United States. They range from the widely celebrated Jackie Robinson and Ted Kennedy to less seemly, in-your face figures like Rev. William Sloane Coffin, the Yale chaplain and antiwar activist, and Rose Schneiderman, the young Jewish immigrant, sweatshop worker, and union organizer.”

Harold Meyerson, The American Prospect Blog“[E]minently valuable…. an outstanding reference work that provides portraits of movement activists, exceptional legislators, dissident artists and prophetic voices from the era of Eugene Debs through the time of Tony Kushner….[D]eeply researched and highly readable.” John Atlas, Shelterforce“Dreier’s well-written and inspiring book belongs on the shelves of all social justice activists and would be a great gift for Americans, young and old, who need to be taught (or reminded) that, as Dreier writes, we all stand on the shoulders of the progressives and radicals who made America a more livable and humane society.”

Library Journal
As Dreier (politics, Occidental Coll.) clearly states, this book openly celebrates the people behind the progressive ideas and movements that have shaped the United States and its history and that he believes have made it a more humane and inclusive place. The title was inspired when Dreier's article in The Nation ("The Fifty Most Influential Progressives of the Twentieth Century," published October 4, 2010) caused a barrage of letters, emails, and phone calls that commended or berated him for his selections. Even having expanded the selections to 100 (77 men and 23 women), he admits that inclusion and exclusion decisions were a challenge. The main criteria were a deep commitment to social justice and a record of accomplishing important change. Thus, while well-known historical figures like Eugene Debs, Jane Addams, and W.E.B. Du Bois are included, as are more current names such as filmmaker Michael Moore and feminist and journalist Gloria Steinem, so are David Brower (founder of Friends of the Earth and leader of the Sierra Club), Florence Kelley (advocate for child labor laws), and Virginia F. Durr (a Southern white woman who worked tirelessly for racial equality). Essays are short—four to five pages each—and a small black-and-white photo complements every entry. A general bibliography is included, as is a shorter version for each of the 100 entries. Of added interest is a list of 50 worthy people who were not profiled; as Dreier points out, no single list can include all who are deserving of mention, and that is the main limitation of this work. All selected here deserve to be, but there are many left out. VERDICT This text will be of interest to people who enjoy reading history and are interested in those who made a real difference in American progressive life. Readers who are not progressives will find much with which to disagree, a point that Dreier readily recognizes.—Susan L. Peters, Univ. of Texas, Galveston
Kirkus Reviews
Crisp, snappy bios of important progressive Americans in recent history. This educational resource originated as an article for the Nation by journalist and scholar Dreier (Politics, Urban and Environmental Policy/Occidental Coll.; co-editor: Up Against the Sprawl: Public Policy and the Making of Southern California, 2004, etc.). The chosen 100 were and are the radicals of their day who challenged injustice wherever they saw it: the monopoly and corruption of big business, exploitation of workers, U.S. militarism, legal inequity for women, blacks and minorities, degradation of the environment, voter restrictions on African-Americans, the gross discrepancy between haves and have-nots, etc. Among the men and women who achieved progressive milestones: Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis ruled to protect free speech and check corporate abuses; Florence Kelley spearheaded labor laws in Illinois for women and children, paving the way for national reform; John Dewey helped overhaul an antiquated education system; Alice Hamilton galvanized the new laboratory science of toxicology by observing the result of lead poisoning in working-class families; Lewis Hine exposed the plight of working children in his documentary photography; Margaret Sanger endured prosecution and jail for the right to disseminate birth-control information; David Brower of the Sierra Club raised public awareness about saving the wilderness; and Harvey Milk urged gays to come out of the closet and lost his life for it. Many of the subjects are well known--e.g., Pete Seeger, Betty Friedan, Billy Jean King, Muhammad Ali and Bill Moyers--but some are not: Vito Marcantonio, Abraham Joshua Heschel and Bayard Rustin, among others. A provocative collection that includes a timeline and a roster of up-and-coming contenders for a new century already showing signs of progress.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781568586946
  • Publisher: Nation Books
  • Publication date: 6/26/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 904,452
  • File size: 7 MB

Meet the Author

Peter Dreier is E. P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics and Director of the Urban and Environmental Policy Program at Occidental College. He writes regularly for the Nation, American Prospect, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Talking Points Memo. He lives in Los Angeles, California.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction 1

20th-century Timeline 11

The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century

Tom Johnson (1854-1911) 21

Robert M. La Follette Sr. (1855-1925) 24

Eugene Debs (1855-1926) 27

Louis Brandeis (1856-1941) 32

Clarence Darrow (1857-1938) 36

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) 40

Florence Kelley (1859-1932) 44

John Dewey (1859-1952) 49

Victor Berger (1860-1929) 53

Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935) 56

Jane Addams (1860-1935) 59

Lincoln Steffens (1866-1936) 63

Hiram Johnson (1866-1945) 67

W. E. B. Du Bois (1868-1963) 70

William "Big Bill" Haywood (1869-1928) 74

Alice Hamilton (1869-1970) 77

Emma Goldman (1869-1940) 80

Lewis Hine (1874-1940) 83

Robert F. Wagner Sr. (1877-1953) 87

Upton Sinclair (1878-1968) 91

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) 95

Margaret Sanger (1879-1966) 100

John L. Lewis (1880-1969) 105

Helen Keller (1880-1968) 109

Frances Perkins (1880-1965) 113

Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) 117

Rose Schneiderman (1882-1972) 120

Fiorello La Guardia (1882-1947) 124

Roger Baldwin (1884-1981) 128

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) 133

Norman Thomas (1884-1968) 138

A. J. Muste (1885-1967) 142

Alice Stokes Paul (1885-1977) 146

Sidney Hillman (1887-1946) 150

Henry Wallace (1888-1965) 154

A. Philip Randolph (1889-1979) 160

Earl Warren (1891-1974) 165

Floyd Olson (1891-1936) 168

Dorothy Day (1897-1980) 172

Paul Robeson (1898-1976) 176

William O. Douglas (1898-1980) 181

Harry Bridges (1901-1990) 184

Langston Hughes (1902-1967) 188

Vito Marcantonio (1902-1954) 192

Virginia F. Durr (1903-1999) 196

Elk Baker (1903-1986) 200

Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss) (1904-1991) 205

Myles Horton (1905-1990) 210

Carey McWilliams (1905-1980) 215

William J. Brennan Jr. (1906-1997) 220

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) 224

Rachel Carson (1907-1964) 228

Walter Reuther (1907-1970) 232

I. F. Stone (1907-1989) 237

Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993) 241

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) 246

John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006) 250

Saul Alinsky (1909-1972) 254

Bayard Rustin (1912-1987) 259

Harry Hay (1912-2002) 263

Studs Terkel (1912-2008) 267

David Brower (1912-2000) 271

Woody Guthrie (1912-1967) 275

Arthur Miller (1915-2005) 279

Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) 284

C. Wright Mills (1916-1962) 288

Barry Commoner (1917-) 293

Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977) 298

Jackie Robinson (1919-1972) 303

Pete Seeger (1919-) 307

Jerry Wurf (1919-1981) 312

Bella Abzug (1920-1998) 317

Betty Friedan (1921-2006) 320

Howard Zinn (1922-2010) 325

Rev. William Sloane Coffin (1924-2006) 328

Malcolm X (1925-1965) 332

Cesar Chavez (1927-1993) 337

Michael Harrington (1928-1989) 342

Rev. James Lawson (1928-) 347

Noam Chomsky (1928-) 352

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968) 357

Allard Lowenstein (1929-1980) 362

Harvey Milk (1930-1978) 367

Ted Kennedy (1932-2009) 372

Ralph Nader (1934-) 376

Gloria Steinem (1934-) 381

Bill Movers (1934-) 386

Bob Moses (1935-) 390

Tom Hayden (1939-) 394

John Lewis (1940-) 399

Joan Baez (1941-) 404

Bob Dylan (1941-) 407

Barbara Ehrenreich (1941-) 412

Jesse Jackson (1941-) 416

Muhammad Ali (1942-) 421

Billie Jean King (1943-) 426

Paul Wellstone (1944-2002) 429

Bruce Springsteen (1949-) 433

Michael Moore (1954-) 438

Tony Kushner (1956-) 443

The 21st Century So Far 447

Bibliography 473

Permissions 497

About the Author 499

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