This lively biography explores interwar America through Will Rogers, the comedian and commentator who witnessed it all: the stock market crash, the Great Depression, the advancement of technology, and the development of mass culture.
Born on a farm in rural Oklahoma, Will Rogers shared his rural, agricultural beginnings with a majority of Americans at the turn of the century. But Rogers brought his small-town talents to a national audience, becoming a mainstay of early American mass culture. Though Rogers is remembered today for his success in vaudeville and the nascent American film industry, history has largely forgotten his considerable influence as a political commentator, which Anderson explores at length. Rogers' contributions to early American mass culture, the catalog of powerful personages that he counted among his friends, and his extensive writings about the political issues of the day make Rogers an ideal figure through which to explore the American interwar period. College students will relate well to Rogers, whose political opinions evolved as he gained exposure to people, places, things and ideas beyond rural Oklahoma. Rogers' conflicted relationship with his American Indian heritage also provides window on the history of race relations in America.
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Gary Clayton Anderson is George Lynn Cross Research Professor at the University of Oklahoma. He specializes in the history of the West and of American Indians. His recent monograph “The Conquest of Texas: Ethnic Cleansing in the Promises Land” (University of Oklahoma Press, 2005) was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. With Kathleen Chamberlain, he has also authored a western history textbook entitled “Power and Promise: The changing American West” (Pearson, 2008). Listening to his grandfather talk of Will Rogers' radio addresses sparked Anderson's lifelong interest in Rogers.
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