Forty-one speeches, letters, and other documents deemed significant in this country’s history, wrapped in succinct explanatory notes and glosses.
This revised and expanded collection updates the 1999 edition with three entries: George W. Bush’s saber-rattling response to the 9/11 attacks; Barack Obama’s answer to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s inflammatory sermon; and portions of the Supreme Court’s decision regarding marriage equality in Obergefell v. Hodges. The editors also (pointedly?) add Alexander Hamilton’s views on an independent judiciary from the Federalist Papers and (along with swapping in Ronald Reagan’s “Tear down the wall” speech for his homiletic farewell address) give a roster of contributors that already included Shirley Chisholm, Red Cloud, and César Chávez even more diversity by switching out a passage from Uncle Tom’s Cabin for Frederick Douglass’ blunt, unsparing “Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro.” The period illustrations and historical commentary that accompany each primary text have likewise been added to or reworked to include, for instance, references to Black Lives Matter, President Donald Trump’s immigration orders, and the fact that, like women and servants, Native Americans were also excluded from the Mayflower Compact. But in general the arc here does bend toward justice, and though the contents offer at best piecemeal glimpses of this country’s complicated history and character, they do illuminate its tapestry of divisive issues and unifying ideals.
Far from comprehensive but, from “We the People” to “And women’s rights are human rights,” a serviceable highlights reel. (afterword, index) (Nonfiction. 11-14)