Battles For Freedom: The Use And Abuse Of American History

Hey everyone, I hope you’re doing great.  Eric Foner was a professor of U.S. history at the  Columbia University, he wrote several books about 19th century U.S. political history, about Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, the Republican Party and Reconstruction.

His latest book, Battles For Freedom: The Use And Abuse Of American History is a collection of twenty-seven essays published in The Nation between 1977 and 2017.  Foner covers several U.S. history topics in these essays, topics like;

  • How race, class and immigration status intersect in the U.S.
  • The xenophobic sentiment behind the Sacco-Vanzetti trial.
  • The international cry for equal justice in the Scottsboro Boys trial.
  • The similarities and differences of Presidents Lincoln and Obama.
  • How the modern Republican Party is no longer the party of Lincoln.
  • How some southerners walked out of the Democratic Party Convention in 1948 and became southern Republicans 20 years later.
  • The differences between docudramas, historical fiction and revisionist history.
  • Praise for late historians Howard Zinn and Eric Hobsbawm who espoused a critical perspective of institutions.
  • His experience teaching critical U.S. history courses.

After reading these essays, I noted how often Foner elaborated on revolutions and how they’re never complete: they take time to fully develop and require popular support.  Furthermore, a politician can’t bring about great social change by themselves, great social change has to come from a popular movement of the people, the charismatic politician motivates the popular movement to achieve their desires.  Finally, Foner wrote about how being the smartest guy in the room might make a president good but welcoming criticism makes a president great.

This was an easy and sweet read at 220 pages.  Foner is my favorite historian, I’d encourage anyone interested in the struggle for equality to read it.


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I want to write about new experiences, the people I meet and the things I learn. I moved from Tempe, AZ to Arlington, VA with my dog 5 years ago. We love it here.

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