A Renegade History of the United States

A Renegade History of the United States

by Thaddeus Russell


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781416576136
Publisher: Free Press
Publication date: 07/05/2011
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 293,110
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

What People are Saying About This

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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A Renegade History of the United States 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
JohnSH More than 1 year ago
My first introduction to Thaddeus Russell was an article on a blog entitled "Why I Got Fired From Teaching American History." He said his interpretation of history was called "improper," "frightening," and "dangerous." And so it is. As he writes in the introduction, our usual history lessons are from the perspective of the icons of the era, The "Movers and Shakers", political leaders, important industrialists and intellectuals. But nowhere do we get the other side, as Russell describes it: ".history from the gutter up." He posits that the founding fathers, the abolitionists, capitalists, revolutionaries, suffragists, New Dealers, conservatives, liberals, and social activists all held or sought power. The power they sought was the control of people's lives, which means a limiting of their freedoms. This "highbrow" attitude conflicted with the "lowbrow" culture of the saloons, brothels, dance-halls, and nightclubs. He shatters our illusions of what the founding fathers wanted the nation to be. He opens our eyes to see what the people living the history wanted their culture to be. He showed that far from trying to unleash freedom on Americans, they were trying to restrict the freedoms the lower classed enjoyed: they could drink on the job, they could divorce by placing an ad in the paper, and they frequented multi-racial bars, dance-halls and brothels, with no concern with the color or sex of their companions. There were hundreds of bars, tap-rooms and brothels past which the founding fathers had to walk to get to Independence hall and the Continental Congress. Other things that seem strange to us are that women could divorce their husbands for any reason or none; they could own property, and did own bars. Prostitutes and their patrons were not looked upon as sinners, but with such a degree of normalcy that it did not affect their social status. This licentiousness, drunkenness, immoral dancing, inter-racial fraternizing, women's freedoms, and generally having a good time, the founding fathers wanted to stamp out. Russell moves us through history from Pre-Revolutionary days to the present, and describes the outcasts who gave us our freedoms. This book is an eye opener, and very well supports Russell's thesis, that the freedoms we enjoy today, were taken from us by the founding fathers, and championed and restored by the "Drunkards, Laggards, Prostitutes, Pirates, and Other Heroes." Incidentally that is part of the title of the first chapter in "A Renegade History of the United States." Other chapters have equally provocative titles: "How Gangsters Made America A Better Place", "How Juvenile Delinquents Won The Cold War," and my personal favorite, "Almost Free: The Promise And Tragedy Of Rednecks and Hippies." Love it or hate it, it is a fascinating read. If you aspire to be a ne'er-do-well, it is almost a handbook. This is a must read for anyone even slightly interested in American History.
Citizenjoyce on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Thaddeus Russell used to teach history at Bernard College. He says in spite of the fact that his classes were so popular, he ¿had tripled the sizes of the introductory U.S. history course and the American Studies program¿ he was asked to present his work to colleagues at the college. He was hoping to get on the track toward tenure, instead some respected historians looked on him with disgust. He thinks that's just because they were closed minded.His theory is that the founders of the United States, in fact the leaders of most governments want citizens to forgo personal gratification for the good of all. He says that the guiding principle of the US is the puritan work ethic, not just that work is good for whatever one wants to accomplish, but that work is good as an end in itself. The requirements of citizenship merge with Christian asceticism and self abnegation. Citizens should want no more than work and responsibility. Renegades, on the other hand, have no stake in the common good. They live for pleasure, and by doing so have brought freedom to the repressed good citizens. This is how he puts it: ¿If you were a typical American living in the early part of the nineteenth century, you had to plant, tend, harvest, slaughter, and process your own food,. You had to make your own clothing, and all of it had to be strictly utilitarian; no decorations, unnecessary colors, or 'style.' You worked from before dawn until late at night. Your only source of entertainment was books, and most that were available were moral parables. You spent your entire life within a fifty-mile radius of your home. You believed that leisure was bad. There was no weekend.¿ You also maintained strict sexual monogamy.¿By the end of the nineteenth century Americans bought attractive clothing from stores, ate a variety of pleasing foods, read for fun, attended amusement parks and vaudeville shows, went dancing, rode trains, greatly decreased the number of hours a day they worked, and believed that leisure was good.¿ Renegades were responsible for the desire for comfort, fun and adornment. Desire produced demand and demand lead to production. African Americans, former slaves, (also drunkards, homosexuals and prostitutes) were the source of that desire. Waves of immigrants from Irish to Jews to Italians initially looked to African Americans for companionship, were even thought of as "Negroid", and spent the first part of their history as immigrants imitating Black culture, dress, sexual freedom, dance, music, and rejection of the Puritan work ethic. The only problem with this premise, the lynchpin of the whole book, is that Russell says African Americans had it better as slaves than they did as free people. ¿slave culture offered many liberating alternatives to the highly repressive, work-obsessed, anti-sex culture of the early United States¿In Russell's view of slavery the owners took on all the responsibility of feeding, clothing, housing, child care and health care for their slaves leaving the African Americans free to dodge work (sure some got whipped, but when the overseer was at the other end of the field, the slaves completely slacked off), to malinger, to live promiscuous lives, (really, only about 8% of slave women were raped, probably fewer than white women), to dress better than their masters, to dance and sing with abandon. The onus was entirely on the slave owners because if the slaves didn't like the way they were treated they would just run away, for days or hours, even weeks or years, then they would ¿come back,¿ (Russell's term - he didn't say they were captured and brought back) He doesn't mention the slave ships bringing these lucky new Americans from Africa, but I think he must have seen them as something like a Carnival Cruise gone wrong. Because of their experience of slavery African Americans are less likely to internalize repression, they are less likely to relinquish their culture of personal freedom in exchang
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CS5150 More than 1 year ago
Wonderfully compelling and interesting. It's always refreshing when a scholar will delve past the sanitized version of history that most textbooks will give the reader. As for whoever posted the poor rating, just cause a book is referenced doesn't make it the only source for the reader. If you researched the author, you'd see he has impeccable credentials and is the antithesis of a right-wing loon like Michelle Malkin. Me thinks that reviewer is probably closer in attitude to the prude, repressive men like Adams then those colorful, rambunctious, drunkards that made up a large portion of America back then.
Marian Powers More than 1 year ago
Admittedly i was facinated by the book. That was until i looked at his reference material on one "subject" of this tome,japanese internment during WWll. Both books,one written by Michelle Malkin and the other by Page Smith were both deridded by scholars and witnesses to be false and flights of fancy;to be kind. If this material was used as " research " then all other reseach and therefore the book is suspect. I feel cheated and taken for a ride. Judge for yourselves. M. Rebecca
Joshua Cosme More than 1 year ago