A Renegade History of the United States

A Renegade History of the United States

by Thaddeus Russell


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This provocative perspective on America’s history claims that the country’s personality was defined not by the ideals of the elites and intellectuals, but by those who throughout have lived on the fringes of society historyslaves, immigrants, gangsters, and others who challenged the conventions of their day.

“Raucous, profane, and thrillingly original, Thaddeus Russell’s A Renegade History of the United States turns the myths of the ‘American character’ on their heads with a rare mix of wit, scholarship, and storytelling flair” (Steven Johnson, author of Everything Bad Is Good for You and The Invention of Air ).

An all-new, stunning, and controversial story of the United States: It was not “good” citizens who established American liberty, declares Thaddeus Russell, but “immoral” and “degraded” people on the fringes of society whose subversive lifestyles legitimized the taboo and made America the land of the free.

In vivid portraits of renegades and their “respectable” adversaries, Russell shows that the nation’s history has been driven by clashes between those interested in preserving social order and those more interested in pursuing their own desires. The more these accidental revolutionaries—drunkards, prostitutes, gangsters, unassimilated immigrants, “bad” blacks—persevered, the more American society changed for the better.

This is not the history taught in textbooks or classrooms—this renegade book will upend everything you believe about the American past.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781416576136
Publisher: Free Press
Publication date: 07/05/2011
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 196,441
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Thaddeus Russell teaches history and cultural studies at Occidental College and has taught at Columbia University, Barnard College, Eugene Lang College, and the New School for Social Research. Born and raised in Berkeley, California, Russell graduated from Antioch College and received a Ph.D. in history from Columbia University. Russell's first book, Out of the Jungle: Jimmy Hoffa and the Re-Making of the American Working Class, was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 2001. He has published opinion articles in the Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, Salon, and Atlanta Journal-Constitution, as well as scholarly essays in American Quarterly and The Columbia History of Post-World War II America. Russell has also appeared on the History Channel and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Table of Contents

Introduction ix

Part 1 Making Renegades into Americans

1 Drunkards, Laggards, Prostitutes, Pirates, and Other Heroes of the American Revolution 3

2 The Freedom of Slavery 39

3 The Slavery of Freedom 77

4 Whores and the Origins of Women's Liberation 101

Part 2 How White People Lost Their Rhythm

5 A Rhythmless Nation 127

6 From White Chimps to Yankee Doodles: The Irish 140

7 The Jew was a Negro 160

8 Italian Americans: Out of Africa 181

Part 3 Fighting for Bad Freedom

9 Shopping: The Real American Revolution 207

10 How Gangsters Made America a Better Place 229

11 "Behold a Dictator": Fascism and the New Deal 240

12 Just How Popular was World War II? 270

Part 4 Which Side are you on?

13 How Juvenile Delinquents Won the Cold War 285

14 "A Process of Self-Purification": The Civil Rights Movement's Attack on African Americans 295

15 Gay Liberation, American Liberation 324

16 Almost Free: The Promise and Tragedy of Rednecks and Hippies 332

Acknowledgments 343

Sources 345

Permissions 363

Index 365

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From the Publisher

"Russell writes with force and scathing humor. Narrator Paul Boehmer accurately delivers his tone.... It's hard to put this down. Renegade, indeed!" —-AudioFile

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