Heroes of American Freedom


An illuminating journey through United States history told via historical writings and speeches.
Lee has chosen 30 pieces by mostly famous Americans (and one Brit) that shine spotlights on the American character. These writings ably reflect major developments in America, arranged chronologically from John Winthrop’s “City on a Hill” sermon in 1630 to President George W. Bush’s “Justice Will Be Done” speech following the events of 9/11. Lee, who has taught at five major universities, writes that education was his primary goal in creating this book: “Thomas Jefferson famously remarked that the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.…I would prefer to think that education might suffice to refresh the tree of liberty.” Later, he spells out his qualifications for editing such a volume: “First, I am an American. Second, I am a parent. These two qualifications together impel me to do whatever I can to educate first my children and then anyone else about our country’s greatness.” In an effort to appeal to today’s youth, Lee wisely selects shorter works, with all 30 pieces fitting into roughly 150 pages. The compendium’s crowning achievement is how it provides context for such well-known phrases as President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream.” Overall, the beauty of this collection is in how it offers historical anecdotes directly from the pens and mouths of great American leaders, and Lee’s selections lead to some clever juxtapositions. President Calvin Coolidge’s 1925 speech extolling American business, for example, is followed by FDR’s first inaugural address in 1933, blasting the business practices that led to the Great Depression. There are also rallying cries by two very different World War II generals: the profane George S. Patton and the straight-laced Dwight D. Eisenhower.

A revealing volume of spoken and written history aimed at a general readership.

Pub Date: May 29, 2014

ISBN: 978-1499680393

Page Count: 138

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 10, 2014

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.


Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.


Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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