Presents primary source readings in American history to help students identify with the nation’s past.
American Conversations is a two-volume anthology of original primary sources in United States history. It features texts by famous and obscure Americans, seeking to reflect the voices of Native Americans, African Americans, women, and workers out of the backwaters onto the historical mainstream by devoting attention to these “forgotten” Americans. At the same time, the text acquaints students with leading figures and core texts. This juxtaposition offers a richer understanding of American history.
The people and texts presented will resonate powerfully with the contemporary American conversation. Whatever today’s topic–race relations, the battle of the sexes, protest or piety, or unum vs. pluribus–readers will find its roots in these pages.
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James Merrell , editor of Volume 1 of American Conversations, is the Lucy Maynard Salmon Professor of History at Vassar College. He has been studying history for forty years, writing and publishing it for thirty, and teaching it for more than twenty-five –mostly at Vassar, with brief stints at Northwestern University and the College of William and Mary. Though he has taught everything from Machiavelli and Luther to McCarthy and LBJ, his main area of interest is American history from the opening of European colonization to the close of Reconstruction some three centuries later. Born and raised in Minnesota, Professor Merrell earned bachelor’s degrees at Lawrence University and Oxford University before receiving his M.A. and Ph.D. from the Johns Hopkins University. Prior to arriving at Vassar in 1984, he was a Fellow at the Newberry Library Center for the History of the American Indian (now the D’Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies) at the Newberry Library in Chicago, and at the Institute of Early American History and Culture (now the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture) in Williamsburg, Virginia. He has also received fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Professor Merrell’s research interests are in early American history in general and relations between Natives and newcomers in particular. Co-editor of three volumes (two anthologies by Routledge and one by Syracuse University Press) and author of numerous articles, his first book, The Indians’ New World: Catawbas and Their Neighbors from European Contact through the Era of Removal (University of North Carolina Press, 1989; twentieth-anniversary edition, 2009), won the Frederick Jackson Turner Award and the Merle Curti Award from the Organization of American Historians as well as the Bancroft Prize. His second book, Into the American Woods: Negotiators on the Pennsylvania Frontier (W.W. Norton, 1999), was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and won Professor Merrell his second Bancroft Prize, making him one among the handful of historians ever to win that prestigious award twice.
Jerald Podair , coeditor of Volume 2 of American Conversations, is Professor of History and the Robert S. French Professor of American Studies at Lawrence University, in Appleton, Wisconsin. A native of New York City and a former practicing attorney, he received his B.A. from New York University, a J.D. degree from Columbia University Law School, and a Ph.D. in American history from Princeton University. His research interests lie in the areas of American urban history and racial and ethnic relations. He is the author of The Strike That Changed New York: Blacks, Whites, and the Ocean Hill- Brownsville Crisis, published by Yale University Press, which was a finalist for the Organization of American Historians’ Liberty Legacy Foundation Award for the best book on the struggle for civil rights in the United States, and an honorable mention for the Urban History Association’s Book Award in North American urban history. Bayard Rustin: American Dreamer, his biography of the civil rights and labor leader, was published in 2009 by Rowman & Littlefield. His most recent book is a co-edited volume entitled The Struggle for Equality: Essays on Sectional Conflict, the Civil War, and the Long Reconstruction, published in 2011 by the University of Virginia Press. His articles and reviews have appeared in The American Historical Review, The Journal of American History, The Journal of Urban History, Reviews in American History, Radical History Review, Labor History, and American Studies. He contributed an essay, “ ‘One City, One Standard’: The Struggle for Equality in Rudolph Giuliani’s New York,” to Civil Rights in New York City: From World War II to the Giuliani Era, edited by Clarence Taylor, published by Fordham University Press in 2011. At Lawrence University, he teaches courses on a variety of topics in nineteenth- and twentieth-century American history, including the Civil War and Reconstruction, the Great Depression and New Deal, the 1960s, and the Civil Rights Movement. He also teaches Lawrence’s first course in American Studies, which he introduced in 2007. He is the recipient of the Allan Nevins Prize, awarded by the Society of American Historians for “literary distinction in the writing of history,” and a Fellow of the New York Academy of History. He was appointed by Wisconsin governor Jim Doyle to the state’s Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, on which he served from 2008 to 2009. In 2010, he was honored by Lawrence University with its Award for Excellence in Scholarship, and in 2012 with its Faculty Convocation Award.
Andrew Kersten , coeditor of Volume 2 of American Conversations, is Frankenthal Professor of History in the Department of Democracy and Justice Studies at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He teaches courses in U.S. history–the U.S. history survey, U.S. immigration history, and U.S. labor history–and interdisciplinary courses relating to his department. He researches and writes about American history since Reconstruction. His books include Race, Jobs, and the War: The FEPC in the Midwest, 1941—46 (University of Illinois Press, 2000), which is an investigation of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Fair Employment Practice Committee; Labor’s Home Front: The AFL during World War II (New York University Press, 2006), which is a history of the American Federation of Labor during the war; A. Philip Randolph: A Life in the Vanguard (Rowman and Littlefield, 2006); and Clarence Darrow: American Iconoclast (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2011). Currently, he is working on an online digital database of A. Philip Randolph’s writings, as well as an anthology of new historical interpretations about Randolph’s life and legacy. He has two other professional passions. Kersten frequently collaborates with public historians and museums such as the National Railroad Museum and the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Museum. He also enjoys working with K—12 history teachers. From 2003 to 2006, he led a Teaching American History Grant Program of his own design that offered intensive professional development for history teachers, and he continues to collaborate on curricular design and other educational issues.Review:
“The 3 greatest strengths of the book are: 1) the variety of topics and selections included, 2) the inclusion of both best-sellers and little-known publications, 3) the introductions are generally thoughtful and well-written.”
-Carol Sue Humphrey, Oklahoma Baptist University
“I am thoroughly impressed with the narrative from start to finish. The author sets a very high bar with the first chapter and he continues through the last...It emphasizes depth over breadth, it contains documents rarely used in similar readers, and the chapter introductions contextual the documents better than most others.”
-Jeffrey G. Strickland, Montclair State University
“The biographical information about each source is thorough and the use of recent secondary literature is very good.”
-Rebecca Hill, Borough of Manhattan Community College
“The book has strong analysis of the documents and loads of information about the writers and various topics...Most of the chapters contain penetrating questions weaved into the analysis of each introduction. The questions will help the students with the readings. The author has provided analysis that will help the students on their way to answering the questions, but not gone so far as to give the reader the answers in the intros.”
-Robert O’Brien, Lonestar College-CyFair
“The greatest strengths of this work are the use of longer excerpts from fewer texts...the vivid, informed and engaging introductory essays, and the constant “cross-fertilization” and layering of the sources. I love the way the editor models historical analysis. He provides the necessary contexts for understanding these documents as well as a very helpful and current bibliography. I don’t see how students could complain about already knowing the subject matter when they are challenged to think so differently about the practice of history.”
-Linda K. Salvucci, Trinity University
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