History Of The U.S. Since Reconstruction


The midterm on Thursday will consist of an essay based on the video-lectures and assigned readings. Students should have completed the videos/readings prior to the midterm. Students will have all day to complete and submit the essay. The midterm will begin at 9:00am and students will have till 11:30pm to submit the PDF or Word document to Turnitin.


  • Interwar Period: Society/Economy of the 1920s, the Great Depression and New Deal Give Me Liberty, Chapters 20 and 21
  • World War II at Home and Abroad Give Me Liberty, Chapter 22

For my mother, Liza Foner (1909–2005), an accomplished artist who lived through most of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first



CONTENTS List of Maps, Tables, and Figures xii About the Author xv Preface xvi Acknowledgments xxii

15 “WHAT IS FREEDOM?”: RECONSTRUCTION, 1865–1877 563 The Meaning of Freedom 565 Voices of Freedom From Petition of Committee in Behalf of the Freedmen to Andrew Johnson (1865), and From A Sharecropping Contract (1866) 576 The Making of Radical Reconstruction 578 Who Is an American? From Frederick Douglass, “The Composite Nation” (1869) 588 Radical Reconstruction in the South 591 The Overthrow of Reconstruction 595 16 AMERICA’S GILDED AGE, 1870–1890 603 The Second Industrial Revolution 605 Freedom in the Gilded Age 613 Labor and the Republic 618 The Transformation of the West 626 Voices of Freedom From Speech of Chief Joseph of the Nez Percé Indians, in Washington, D.C. (1879), and From Letter by Saum Song Bo, American Missionary (October 1885) 636 Politics in a Gilded Age 642 17 FREEDOM’S BOUNDARIES, AT HOME AND ABROAD, 1890–1900 648 The Populist Challenge 650 The Segregated South 658 Voices of Freedom From Ida B. Wells, Lynch Law in All Its Phases (1893), and From W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903) 666 Redrawing the Boundaries 669 Who Is an American? From William Birney, “Deporting Mohammedans” (1897) 674 Becoming a World Power 676 18 THE PROGRESSIVE ERA, 1900–1916 689 An Urban Age and a Consumer Society 692 Varieties of Progressivism 701 Voices of Freedom From Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Women and Economics (1898), and From John Mitchell, “The Workingman’s Conception of Industrial Liberty” (1910) 708 The Politics of Progressivism 713 The Progressive Presidents 723 Who Is an American? From Mary Church Terrell, “What it Means to be Colored in the Capital of the United States” (1906) 731 19 SAFE FOR DEMOCRACY: THE UNITED STATES AND WORLD WAR Ⅰ, 1916– 1920 734 An Era of Intervention 737 America and the Great War 742 The War at Home 746 Voices of Freedom From Woodrow Wilson, War Message to Congress (1917), and From Eugene V. Debs, Speech to the Jury before Sentencing under the Espionage Act (1918) 754 Who Is an American? 756 Who Is an American? From Randolph S. Bourne, “Trans- National America” (1916) 759 1919 768 20 FROM BUSINESS CULTURE TO GREAT DEPRESSION: THE TWENTIES, 1920– 1932 779 The Business of America 782 Business and Government 789 The Birth of Civil Liberties 793 Voices of Freedom From Lucian W. Parrish, Speech in Congress on Immigration (1921), and From Majority Opinion, Justice James C. McReynolds, in Meyer v. Nebraska (1923) 794 The Culture Wars 799 Who Is an American? Immigration Quotas under the Johnson-Reed Act (1924) 805 The Great Depression 810 21 THE NEW DEAL, 1932–1940 818 The First New Deal 821 The Grassroots Revolt 830 The Second New Deal 835 A Reckoning with Liberty 838 Voices of Freedom From Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Fireside Chat” (1934), and From John Steinbeck, The Harvest Gypsies: On the Road to the Grapes of



Wrath (1938) 840 The Limits of Change 845 A New Conception of America 851 22 FIGHTING FOR THE FOUR FREEDOMS: WORLD WAR Ⅱ, 1941–1945 861 Fighting World War Ⅱ 864 The Home Front 873 Visions of Postwar Freedom 880 The American Dilemma 884 Voices of Freedom From League of United Latin American Citizens, “World War Ⅱ and Mexican Americans” (1945), and From Charles H. Wesley, “The Negro Has Always Wanted the Four Freedoms,” in What the Negro Wants (1944) 888 Who Is an American? From Justice Robert A. Jackson, dissent in Korematsu v. United States (1944) 893 The End of the War 899 23 THE UNITED STATES AND THE COLD WAR, 1945–1953 906 Origins of the Cold War 908 The Cold War and the Idea of Freedom 918 The Truman Presidency 923 The Anticommunist Crusade 928 Who Is an American? From Oscar Handlin, “The Immigration Fight Has Only Begun” (1952) 931 Voices of Freedom From Joseph R. McCarthy, Speech at Wheeling (1950), and From Margaret Chase Smith, Speech in the Senate (1950) 936 24 AN AFFLUENT SOCIETY, 1953–1960 942 The Golden Age 944 The Eisenhower Era 959 The Freedom Movement 970 Voices of Freedom From Martin Luther King Jr., Speech at Montgomery, Alabama (December 5, 1955), and From The Southern Manifesto (1956) 978 The Election of 1960 981 25 THE SIXTIES, 1960–1968 985 The Civil Rights Revolution 987 The Kennedy Years 990 Lyndon Johnson’s Presidency 994 The Changing Black Movement 1002 Vietnam and the New Left 1005 The New Movements and the Rights Revolution 1014 Voices of Freedom From Barry Goldwater, Speech at Republican National Convention (1964), and From Statement of Purpose, National Organization for Women (1966) 1016 1968 1026 26 THE CONSERVATIVE TURN, 1969–1988 1032 President Nixon 1033 Vietnam and Watergate 1041 The End of the Golden Age 1047 The Rising Tide of Conservatism 1055 Who Is an American? Brochure on the Equal Rights Amendment (1970s) 1059 The Reagan Revolution 1063 Voices of Freedom From Barry Commoner, The Closing Circle (1971), and From Richard E. Blakemore, Report on the Sagebrush Rebellion (1979) 1064 27 FROM TRIUMPH TO TRAGEDY, 1989–2004 1076 The Post–Cold War World 1078 Voices of Freedom From Bill Clinton, Speech on Signing of NAFTA (1993), and From Global Exchange, Seattle, Declaration for Global Democracy (December 1999) 1084 Globalization and its Discontents 1087 Culture Wars 1092 Who Is an American? Los Tigres del Norte, “Jaula de Oro” (1984) 1094 Impeachment and the Election of 2000 1105 The Attacks of September 11 1108 The War on Terrorism 1109 An American Empire? 1110 The Aftermath of September 11 at Home 1114 28 A DIVIDED NATION 1119 The Winds of Change 1120 The Great Recession 1127 Obama in Office 1134 Voices of Freedom From Opinion of the Court in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), and From Barack Obama, Eulogy at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church (2015) 1136 The Obama Presidency 1140 Who Is an American? From Khizr Khan, Speech at Democratic National Convention (2016) 1149 President Trump 1150 Freedom in the Twenty-First Century 1159

Suggested Reading A-1 The Declaration of Independence (1776) A-15 The Constitution of the United States (1787) A-19 Glossary A-39 Credits A-75



Index A-79






MAPS CHAPTER 15 The Barrow Plantation 569 Sharecropping in the South, 1880 573 Reconstruction in the South, 1867–1877 599 The Presidential Election of 1876 600 CHAPTER 16 The Railroad Network, 1880 607 U.S. Steel: A Vertically Integrated Corporation 610 The Industrial West 631 Indian Reservations, ca. 1890 639 Political Stalemate, 1876–1892 643 CHAPTER 17 Populist Strength, 1892 654 The Presidential Election of 1896 657 The Spanish-American War: The Pacific 680 The Spanish-American War: The Caribbean 680 American Empire, 1898 682 CHAPTER 18 Socialist Towns and Cities, 1900–1920 703 CHAPTER 19 The Panama Canal Zone 737 The United States in the Caribbean, 1898–1941 738 Colonial Possessions, 1900 740 World War Ⅰ: The Western Front 745 Prohibition, 1915: Counties and States That Banned Liquor before the Eighteenth Amendment (Ratified 1919, Repealed 1933) 751 Europe in 1914 773 Europe in 1919 774 CHAPTER 21 Columbia River Basin Project, 1949 820 The Tennessee Valley Authority 826 The Dust Bowl, 1935–1940 828 CHAPTER 22 World War Ⅱ in the Pacific, 1941–1945 870 World War Ⅱ in Europe, 1942–1945 872 Wartime Army and Navy Bases and Airfields 875 Japanese-American Internment, 1942–1945 891 CHAPTER 23 Cold War Europe, 1956 914 The Korean War, 1950–1953 916 CHAPTER 24 The Interstate Highway System 950 The Presidential Election of 1960 982 CHAPTER 25 The Vietnam War, 1964–1975 1009



CHAPTER 26 Center of Population, 1790–2010 1035 The Presidential Election of 1980 1062 The United States in the Caribbean and Central America, 1954–2004 1071 CHAPTER 27 Eastern Europe after the Cold War 1083 Immigrant Populations in Cities and States, 1900 and 2010 1096 Origin of Largest Immigrant Populations by State, 1910 and 2013 1098 The Presidential Election of 2000 1106 U.S. Presence in the Middle East, 1947–2019 1112 Israel, the West, and Gaza Strip 1113 CHAPTER 28 Percentage of Population below the Poverty Line, 2014 1141



Tables and Figures CHAPTER 16 Table 16.1 Indicators of Economic Change, 1870–1920 606 CHAPTER 17 Table 17.1 States with Over 200 Lynchings, 1889–1918 665 CHAPTER 18 Table 18.1 Immigrants and Their Children as Percentage of Population, Ten Major Cities, 1920 696 Table 18.2 Percentage of Women 14 Years and Older in the Labor Force, 1900–1930 698 CHAPTER 19 Table 19.1 The Great Migration 766 CHAPTER 21 Figure 21.1 Unemployment, 1925–1945 844 CHAPTER 22 Table 22.1 Labor Union Membership 876 CHAPTER 25 Figure 25.1 Percentage of Population below Poverty Level, by Race, 1959–1969 1000 CHAPTER 26 Table 26.1 Rate of Divorce: Divorces of Existing Marriages per 1,000 New Marriages, 1950– 1980 1040 Table 26.2 The Misery Index, 1970–1980 1048 Figure 26.1 Real Average Weekly Wages, 1955–1990 1050 CHAPTER 27 Figure 27.1 Incarceration Rates, 1970s–2010s 1100 Figure 27.2 Adult Men and Women in the Labor Force, 1950–2019 1104 CHAPTER 28 Figure 28.1 Portrait of a Recession 1128






ERIC FONER is DeWitt Clinton Professor Emeritus of History at Columbia University, where he earned his B.A. and Ph.D. In his teaching and scholarship, he focuses on the Civil War and Reconstruction, slavery, and nineteenth-century America. Professor Foner’s publications include Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party before the Civil War; Tom Paine and Revolutionary America; Nothing but Freedom: Emancipation and Its Legacy;



Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863–1877; The Story of American Freedom; and Forever Free: The Story of Emancipation and Reconstruction. His history of Reconstruction won the Los Angeles Times Book Award for History, the Bancroft Prize, and the Parkman Prize. He has served as president of the Organization of American Historians and the American Historical Association. In 2006 he received the Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching from Columbia University. His most recent books are The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, winner of the Bancroft and Lincoln Prizes and the Pulitzer Prize for History, Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad, winner of the New York Historical Society Book Prize, and The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution.



PREFACE Give Me Liberty! An American History is a survey of American history from the earliest days of European exploration and conquest of the New World to the first decades of the twenty-first century. It offers students a clear, concise narrative whose central theme is the changing contours of American freedom.

I am extremely gratified by the response to the first five editions of Give Me Liberty!, which have been used in survey courses at many hundreds of two- and four-year colleges and universities throughout the country. The comments I have received from instructors and students encourage me to think that Give Me Liberty! has worked well in their classrooms. Their comments have also included many valuable suggestions for revisions, which I greatly appreciate. These have ranged from corrections of typographical and factual errors to thoughts about subjects that needed more extensive treatment. In making revisions for this Sixth Edition, I have tried to take these suggestions into account. I have also incorporated the findings and insights of new scholarship that has appeared since the original edition was written.

The most significant changes in this Sixth Edition involve heightened emphasis on a question as old as the republic and as current as today’s newspapers: Who is an American?

Difference and commonality are both intrinsic parts of the American experience. Our national creed emphasizes democracy and freedom as universal rights, but these rights have frequently been limited to particular groups of people. The United States has long prided itself on being an “asylum for mankind,” as Thomas Paine put it in Common Sense, his great pamphlet calling for American independence. Yet we as a people have long been divided by clashing definitions of “Americanness.” The first Naturalization Act, adopted in 1790, limited the right to become a citizen when immigrating from abroad to white persons. And the right to vote was long denied to many Americans because of race, gender, property holding, a criminal record, or other reasons. Today, in debates over immigration and voting rights, the question of “Who is an American?” continues to roil our society.

In a nation resting, rhetorically at least, on the ideal of equality, the boundaries of inclusion and exclusion take on extreme significance. The greater the rights of American citizenship, the more important the definition of belonging. Groups like African-Americans and women, shut out from full equality from the beginning of the nation’s history, have struggled to gain recognition as full and equal members of the society. The definition of citizenship itself and the rights that come with it have been subject to intense debate throughout American history. And the cry of “second-class citizenship” has provided a powerful language of social protest for those who feel themselves excluded. To be sure, not all groups have made demands for inclusion. In the colonial era and for much of the history of the American nation, many Native Americans have demanded recognition of their own national sovereignty.

There is stronger coverage of this theme throughout the book, and it is reinforced by a new primary- source feature, “Who Is an American?” The sixteen such features, distributed fairly evenly through the text, address the nature of American identity, the definition of citizenship, and controversies over inclusion and exclusion. These documents range from J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur’s reflections on Americanness toward the end of the War of Independence and the Declaration of Sentiments of the Seneca Falls Convention to Frederick Douglass’s great speech of 1869 in defense of Chinese immigration, “The Composite Nation,” and Mary Church Terrell’s poignant complaint about being



treated as a stranger in her own country.

In the body of the text itself, the major additions that illuminate the history of this theme are as follows:

Chapter 3 contains a new discussion of the formation in colonial America of a British identity linked to a sense of difference from “others”—French and Spanish Catholics, Africans, and Native Americans. Chapter 4 discusses the development of a pan-Indian identity transcending the traditional rivalries between separate Native American nations. In Chapter 7 , I have added an examination of how the U.S. Constitution deals with citizenship and how the lack of a clear definition made disagreement about its boundaries inevitable. A new subsection in Chapter 12 deals with claims by African-Americans before the Civil War to “birthright citizenship,” the principle that anyone born in the country, regardless of race, national origin, or other characteristics, is entitled to full and equal citizenship. Chapter 15 expands the existing discussion of the constitutional amendments of the Reconstruction era to examine how they redrew the definition and boundaries of American citizenship.

In Chapter 17, I have expanded the section on the movement to restrict immigration. Chapter 18 contains a new discussion of Theodore Roosevelt’s understanding of “Americanism” and whom it excluded. Chapter 19 examines the “science” of eugenics, which proposed various ways to “improve” the quality of the American population. Chapter 23 contains a new subsection on how the Cold War and the effort to root out “subversion” affected definitions of loyalty, disloyalty, and American identity. Immigration reform during the administration of Ronald Reagan receives additional attention in Chapter 26. Finally, Chapter 28 discusses the heated debates over immigration that helped elect Donald Trump in 2016, and how his administration in its first two years addressed the issue.

Other revisions, not directly related to the “Who Is an American?” theme, include a reorganization of the chapter on the Gilded Age (16) to give it greater clarity, a new subsection in Chapter 17 discussing the political and philosophical school known as pragmatism, and significant changes in Chapter 26 to take advantage of recent scholarship on modern conservatism. The final chapter (28) has been updated to discuss the election of 2016 and the first two years of the administration of Donald Trump. I have also added a number of new selections to Voices of Freedom to sharpen the juxtaposition of divergent concepts of freedom at particular moments in American history. And this edition contains many new images—paintings, photographs, broadsides, lithographs, and others.

Americans have always had a divided attitude toward history. On the one hand, they tend to be remarkably future-oriented, dismissing events of even the recent past as “ancient history” and sometimes seeing history as a burden to be overcome, a prison from which to escape. On the other hand, like many other peoples, Americans have always looked to history for a sense of personal or group identity and of national cohesiveness. This is why so many Americans devote time and energy to tracing their family trees and why they visit historical museums and National Park Service historical sites in ever-increasing numbers. My hope is that this book will convince readers with all degrees of interest that history does matter to them.

The novelist and essayist James Baldwin once observed that history “does not refer merely, or even principally, to the past. On the contrary, the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, . . . [that] history is literally present in all that we do.” As Baldwin recognized, the force of history is evident in our own world. Especially in a political democracy like the United States, whose government is designed to rest on the consent of informed citizens, knowledge of the past is essential



—not only for those of us whose profession is the teaching and writing of history, but for everyone. History, to be sure, does not offer simple lessons or immediate answers to current questions. Knowing the history of immigration to the United States, and all of the tensions, turmoil, and aspirations associated with it, for example, does not tell us what current immigration policy ought to be. But without that knowledge, we have no way of understanding which approaches have worked and which have not—essential information for the formulation of future public policy.

History, it has been said, is what the present chooses to remember about the past. Rather than a fixed collection of facts, or a group of interpretations that cannot be challenged, our understanding of history is constantly changing. There is nothing unusual in the fact that each generation rewrites history to meet its own needs, or that scholars disagree among themselves on basic questions like the causes of the Civil War or the reasons for the Great Depression. Precisely because each generation asks different questions of the past, each generation formulates different answers. The past thirty years have witnessed a remarkable expansion of the scope of historical study. The experiences of groups neglected by earlier scholars, including women, African-Americans, working people, and others, have received unprecedented attention from historians. New subfields—social history, cultural history, and family history among them—have taken their place alongside traditional political and diplomatic history.

Give Me Liberty! draws on this voluminous historical literature to present an up-to-date and inclusive account of the American past, paying due attention to the experience of diverse groups of Americans while in no way neglecting the events and processes Americans have experienced in common. It devotes serious attention to political, social, cultural, and economic history, and to their interconnections. The narrative brings together major events and prominent leaders with the many groups of ordinary people who make up American society. Give Me Liberty! has a rich cast of characters, from Thomas Jefferson to campaigners for woman suffrage, from Franklin D. Roosevelt to former slaves seeking to breathe meaning into emancipation during and after the Civil War.

Aimed at an audience of undergraduate students with little or no detailed knowledge of American history, Give Me Liberty! guides readers through the complexities of the subject without overwhelming them with excessive detail. The unifying theme of freedom that runs through the text gives shape to the narrative and integrates the numerous strands that make up the American experience. This approach builds on that of my earlier book, The Story of American Freedom (1998), although Give Me Liberty! places events and personalities in the foreground and is more geared to the structure of the introductory survey course.

Freedom, and the battles to define its meaning, have long been central to my own scholarship and undergraduate teaching, which focuses on the nineteenth century and especially the era of the Civil War and Reconstruction (1850–1877). This was a time when the future of slavery tore the nation apart and emancipation produced a national debate over what rights the former slaves, and all Americans, should enjoy as free citizens. I have found that attention to clashing definitions of freedom and the struggles of different groups to achieve freedom as they understood it offers a way of making sense of the bitter battles and vast transformations of that pivotal era. I believe that the same is true for American history as a whole.

No idea is more fundamental to Americans’ sense of themselves as individuals and as a nation than freedom. The central term in our political language, freedom—or liberty, with which it is almost always used interchangeably—is deeply embedded in the record of our history and the language of everyday life. The Declaration of Independence lists liberty among mankind’s inalienable rights; the Constitution announces its purpose as securing liberty’s blessings. The United States fought the Civil



War to bring about a new birth of freedom, World War Ⅱ for the Four Freedoms, and the Cold War to defend the Free World. Americans’ love of liberty has been represented by liberty poles, liberty caps, and statues of liberty, and acted out by burning stamps and burning draft cards, by running away from slavery, and by demonstrating for the right to vote. “Every man in the street, white, black, red, or yellow,” wrote the educator and statesman Ralph Bunche in 1940, “knows that this is ‘the land of the free’ . . . ‘the cradle of liberty.’ ”

The very universality of the idea of freedom, however, can be misleading. Freedom is not a fixed, timeless category with a single unchanging definition. Indeed, the history of the United States is, in part, a story of debates, disagreements, and struggles over freedom. Crises like the American Revolution, the Civil War, and the Cold War have permanently transformed the idea of freedom. So too have demands by various groups of Americans to enjoy greater freedom. The meaning of freedom has been constructed not only in congressional debates and political treatises, but on plantations and picket lines, in parlors and even bedrooms.

Over the course of our history, American freedom has been both a reality and a mythic ideal—a living truth for millions of Americans, a cruel mockery for others. For some, freedom has been what some scholars call a “habit of the heart,” an ideal so taken for granted that it is lived out but rarely analyzed. For others, freedom is not a birthright but a distant goal that has inspired great sacrifice.

Give Me Liberty! draws attention to three dimensions of freedom that have been critical in American history: (1) the meanings of freedom; (2) the social conditions that make freedom possible; and (3) the boundaries of freedom that determine who is entitled to enjoy freedom and who is not. All have changed over time.

In the era of the American Revolution, for example, freedom was primarily a set of rights enjoyed in public activity—the right of a community to be governed by laws to which its representatives had consented and of individuals to engage in religious worship without governmental interference. In the nineteenth century, freedom came to be closely identified with each person’s opportunity to develop to the fullest his or her innate talents. In the twentieth, the “ability to choose,” in both public and private life, became perhaps the dominant understanding of freedom. This development was encouraged by the explosive growth of the consumer marketplace (a development that receives considerable attention in Give Me Liberty!), which offered Americans an unprecedented array of goods with which to satisfy their needs and desires. During the 1960s, a crucial chapter in the history of American freedom, the idea of personal freedom was extended into virtually every realm, from attire and “lifestyle” to relations between the sexes. Thus, over time, more and more areas of life have been drawn into Americans’ debates about the meaning of freedom.

A second important dimension of freedom focuses on the social conditions necessary to allow freedom to flourish. What kinds of economic institutions and relationships best encourage individual freedom? In the colonial era and for more than a century after independence, the answer centered on economic autonomy, enshrined in the glorification of the independent small producer—the farmer, skilled craftsman, or shopkeeper—who did not have to depend on another person for his livelihood. As the industrial economy matured, new conceptions of economic freedom came to the fore: “liberty of contract” in the Gilded Age, “industrial freedom” (a say in corporate decision-making) in the Progressive era, economic security during the New Deal, and, more recently, the ability to enjoy mass consumption within a market economy.

The boundaries of freedom, the third dimension of this theme, have inspired some of the most intense struggles in American history. Although founded on the premise that liberty is an entitlement



of all humanity, the United States for much of its history deprived many of its own people of freedom. Non-whites have rarely enjoyed the same access to freedom as white Americans. The belief in equal opportunity as the birthright of all Americans has coexisted with persistent efforts to limit freedom by race, gender, and class and in other ways.

Less obvious, perhaps, is the fact that one person’s freedom has frequently been linked to another’s servitude. In the colonial era and nineteenth century, expanding freedom for many Americans rested on the lack of freedom—slavery, indentured servitude, the subordinate position of women—for others. By the same token, it has been through battles at the boundaries—the efforts of racial minorities, women, and others to secure greater freedom—that the meaning and experience of freedom have been deepened and the concept extended into new realms.

Time and again in American history, freedom has been transformed by the demands of excluded groups for inclusion. The idea of freedom as a universal birthright owes much both to abolitionists who sought to extend the blessings of liberty to blacks and to immigrant groups who insisted on full recognition as American citizens. The principle of equal protection of the law without regard to race, which became a central element of American freedom, arose from the antislavery struggle and the Civil War and was reinvigorated by the civil rights revolution of the 1960s, which called itself the “freedom movement.” The battle for the right of free speech by labor radicals and birth-control advocates in the first part of the twentieth century helped to make civil liberties an essential element of freedom for all Americans.

Although concentrating on events within the United States, Give Me Liberty! also situates American history in the context of developments in other parts of the world. Many of the forces that shaped American history, including the international migration of peoples, the development of slavery, the spread of democracy, and the expansion of capitalism, were worldwide processes not confined to the United States. Today, American ideas, culture, and economic and military power exert unprecedented influence throughout the world. But beginning with the earliest days of settlement, when European empires competed to colonize North America and enrich themselves from its trade, American history cannot be understood in isolation from its global setting.

Freedom is the oldest of clichés and the most modern of aspirations. At various times in our history, it has served as the rallying cry of the powerless and as a justification of the status quo. Freedom helps to bind our culture together and exposes the contradictions between what America claims to be and what it sometimes has been. American history is not a narrative of continual progress toward greater and greater freedom. As the abolitionist Thomas Wentworth Higginson noted after the Civil War, “revolutions may go backward.” Though freedom can be achieved, it may also be taken away. This happened, for example, when the equal rights granted to former slaves immediately after the Civil War were essentially nullified during the era of segregation. As was said in the eighteenth century, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

In the early twenty-first century, freedom continues to play a central role in American political and social life and thought. It is invoked by individuals and groups of all kinds, from critics of economic globalization to those who seek to secure American freedom at home and export it abroad. I hope that Give Me Liberty! will offer beginning students a clear account of the course of American history, and of its central theme, freedom, which today remains as varied, contentious, and ever-changing as America itself. And I hope that it also enables students to understand the connections between past and current events, the historical context and antecedents of the social, political, cultural, and economic issues that the American people confront today.



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS All works of history are, to a considerable extent, collaborative books, in that every writer builds on the research and writing of previous scholars. This is especially true of a textbook that cove