Eyewitness to America: 500 Years of American History in the Words of Those Who Saw It Happen

Overview

Thomas Jefferson complains about haggling over the Declaration of Independence ... Jack London guides us through the rubble of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake ... Langston Hughes visits the Scottsboro Boys on death row ... Andy Warhol paints the scene at Studio 54 ... John Seabrook receives e-mail from Bill Gates. Three hundred eyewitnesses — some famous, some anonymous — give their personal accounts of the great moments that make up our past, from Columbus to cyberspace, and infuse them with a freshness and ...

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Overview

Thomas Jefferson complains about haggling over the Declaration of Independence ... Jack London guides us through the rubble of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake ... Langston Hughes visits the Scottsboro Boys on death row ... Andy Warhol paints the scene at Studio 54 ... John Seabrook receives e-mail from Bill Gates. Three hundred eyewitnesses — some famous, some anonymous — give their personal accounts of the great moments that make up our past, from Columbus to cyberspace, and infuse them with a freshness and urgency no historian can duplicate.

David Colbert has brought together a multitude of voices to create a singularly rich American narrative.  Here are the vivid impressions of men and women who were witnesses to and participants in these and other dramatic moments: the first colony in Virginia, the Salem witch trials, the Boston Tea Party, the Oklahoma land rush, the Scopes Trial, the bombing of Nagasaki, the lunch-counter sit-ins at the outset of the civil rights movement, New York City's Stonewall Riot, the fall of Saigon, and the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

With unparalleled and thrilling immediacy, these excerpts from diaries, private letters, memoirs, and newspapers paint a fascinating picture of the evolving drama of American life.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"It's a book I'll turn to often for research, and more often for pleasure. Eyewitness to America is the best American collection on my shelf."
-Charles Kuralt

"A highly entertaining look at American history, a varied, imaginatively selected panorama ... The result is a feeling for history that is both immediate and dramatic ... a wonderful collection."
-Publishers Weekly

"There is merit in having books on the bedside table that . . . inform and amuse. Collections of familiar short stories and essays—Somerset Maugham,John Updike on golf—can fit the bill well. . . . Eyewitness to America comes into the same category. . . . There are some lovely literary gems."
-The Economist

"This book is something of a miracle...This is a mother lode of historical lore, up close and personal as the saying goes. Thumbing through its selections can be a giddy experience."
-The Richmond Times Dispatch

"The success of Eyewitness to America lies in its editor's sensitive and often humorous selection...the variety mirrors the diversity of America."
-Austin American-Statesman

"A masterpiece. If you're a student of American history, then Eyewitness to America is required reading."
The Charleston Post & Courier

"Through 300 firsthand impressions gathered from sources such as diaries, letters, interviews, and memoirs, this title looks at many facets, innovations, and changes that have shaped our society. Rather than just presenting the cold, hard facts that so many reference sources offer students, this text allows them to see and hear the emotions of such events as a Salem 'witch' begging for mercy, a Native American's account of the massacre at Wounded Knee, and Rosa Parks's account of her arrest. Each entry begins with brief background information including the role of the author. The index provides access through topics, authors, and key people. Presented in chronological order from Columbus's discovery of America to the sending of the first e-mail, this is an excellent resource."
School Library Journal

"Eyewitness to America is an excellent resource for classroom teachers of American History.... I recommend it highly."
—Gloria Sesso, President, Organization of History Teachers

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Here is a highly entertaining look at American history, a varied, imaginatively selected panorama of first-person accounts of moments in the country's story that stretch from an October 10, 1492, diary entry by one of Columbus's crewmen to a 1994 e-mail message from Bill Gates. The nearly 300 entries tend to be short, preceded by informative introductions. The result is a feeling for history that is both immediate and dramatic. National high points are featured: Benjamin Rush writes to John Adams about the day they signed the Declaration of Independence; officers on both sides describe the sea battle between the Monitor and the Merrimack; Black Elk talks of Wounded Knee; Orville Wright describes the first flight; Jack London covers the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire; Grace Gully tells how the news of Pearl Harbor reached FDR; Paul Tibbetts says how it felt to drop the first A-bomb on Japan; H.R. Haldeman remembers the first days of the Watergate cover-up. But smaller things are also described: what Cincinnati was like in 1828; how Barnum discovered Tom Thumb; how Hawthorne's editor got his hand on the manuscript of The Scarlet Letter; how a first baseman became the first player to use a baseball glove; how the AIDS quilt was started. Freelancer Colbert warns that just because an account is from a so-called "eyewitness" does not mean it is true or accurate, but his wonderful collection is a vivid reminder that what we think of as history is simply the memory of what might otherwise have been ordinary days. Every high-school kid in America should browse through this-and so should their parents. It's more fun than they might suspect.
School Library Journal
YAThrough 300 firsthand impressions gathered from sources such as diaries, letters, interviews, and memoirs, this title looks at many facets, innovations, and changes that have shaped our society. Rather than just presenting the cold, hard facts that so many reference sources offer students, this text allows them to see and hear the emotions of such events as a Salem "witch" begging for mercy, a Native American's account of the massacre at Wounded Knee, and Rosa Parks's account of her arrest. Each entry begins with brief background information including the role of the author. The index provides access through topics, authors, and key people. Although somewhat similar to Jerome Agel's Words That Make America Great (Random, 1996), which presents over 200 excerpts from documents, this title has more entries of a social nature and impressions of an event or document. Presented in chronological order from Columbus's discovery of America to the sending of the first e-mail, this is an excellent resource and an interesting text to read for pleasure.Anita Short, W. T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679767244
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/28/1998
  • Pages: 720
  • Sales rank: 699,824
  • Product dimensions: 5.21 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

David Colbert is a writer and former Editor at HarperCollins.  He lives in San Francisco and New York.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2003

    It makes me want more!

    This book is amazing. I checked it out of my library for entertainment. It has made me want to persue true American history beyond a simple hobby. The accounts listed reveal things I'd never considered or heard of in history classes. I love reading what actual people wrote about their experiences. It makes me want to go buy all of the published journals and letters of any person from the past.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2009

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