TALKING AMERICAN HISTORY
An Informal Narrative History of the United States
By Ron Briley
A political history of the United States told from a progressive perspective.
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Offering an alternative to encyclopedic textbooks that confirm Henry Ford’s complaint that the study of history is just “one damned thing after another,” it provides an informal and conversational narrative history of the American experience from the Colonial period to the present day. Above all, history is a story, and the story of America is a complicated and contested tale. Rather than simply the exceptionalism of a shining city upon a hill, the American saga includes a dark stain of prejudice and nativism still present within the national fabric. Beginning with the assault upon Native lands and culture along with the introduction of racial slavery, patterns of exploitation and greed fostering gender, racial, and class inequality are an essential part of America’s story.
Themes of prejudice and inequality, however, are offset by the promise of social justice and an egalitarian America outlined by Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s Seneca Falls Declaration of Principles, Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s The Four Freedoms, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” oratory. While considering topics such as Presidential leadership, Talking American History emphasizes the efforts of American reformers, dreamers, freedom fighters, dissenters, radicals, and workers to move the nation toward the democratic promise laid out in its founding documents. The framework is a traditional political history narrative told from a progressive perspective. This is an interpretation with which not all readers will agree, but the intention is to facilitate dialogue and debate that are imperative for the survival of American democracy.
After pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees in history from West Texas State University and the University of New Mexico, Ron Briley taught history and film studies for thirty-nine years at Sandia Prep School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he also served as assistant head of school and is now faculty emeritus. In addition, he served as an adjunct professor of history at the University of New Mexico–Valencia campus for twenty years, and his teaching has been recognized by the Society for History Education, Golden Apple Foundation of New Mexico, National Council for History Education, American Historical Association, and Organization of American Historians. The recipient of Fulbright grants to study in Japan, the Netherlands, and Yugoslavia, Briley has also served on numerous committees for the Organization of American Historians and American Historical Association. A Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians, he is the author of numerous books, including biographies of Elia Kazan and Woody Guthrie, as well as many scholarly articles and encyclopedia entries on the history of sport, music, and film.
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