Eyewitness to America: 500 Years of America in the Words of Those Who Saw It Happen

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9780679442240: Eyewitness to America: 500 Years of America in the Words of Those Who Saw It Happen

Thomas Jefferson complains about haggling over the Declaration of Independence ... Jack London guides us through the rubble of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake ... Langston Hughes visits the Scottsboro Boys on death row ... Andy Warhol paints the scene at Studio 54 ... John Seabrook receives e-mail from Bill Gates. Three hundred eyewitnesses -- some famous, some anonymous -- give their personal accounts of the great moments that make up our past, from Columbus to cyberspace, and infuse them with a freshness and urgency no historian can duplicate.

David Colbert has brought together a multitude of voices to create a singularly rich American narrative.  Here are the vivid impressions of men and women who were witnesses to and participants in these and other dramatic moments: the first colony in Virginia, the Salem witch trials, the Boston Tea Party, the Oklahoma land rush, the Scopes Trial, the bombing of Nagasaki, the lunch-counter sit-ins at the outset of the civil rights movement, New York City's Stonewall Riot, the fall of Saigon, and the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

With unparalleled and thrilling immediacy, these excerpts from diaries, private letters, memoirs, and newspapers paint a fascinating picture of the evolving drama of American life.

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Review:

David Colbert has brought together a rich assembly of voices, offering first-hand accounts of American history spanning almost exactly 500 years, from Christopher Columbus' first encounter with Taino tribesmen in 1492 to the final public display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt at the Washington Mall. At that same mall, in 1963, James Reston and Malcolm X came away with two radically different views of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. For Reston, "Dr. King touched all the themes of the day, only better than anybody else," while Malcolm referred to the entire March on Washington as "another form of the weakening, lulling, and deluding effects of so-called 'integration.'" Within these pages, you will read H.L. Mencken on the Scopes trial, Hunter S. Thompson at Super Bowl VIII, Black Elk's perspective of the Massacre of Wounded Knee, and journal entries from a member of the Donner Party, among many other stories. They are by turns heartbreaking, chilling, mirthful, and exhilarating--and all will remind you that the story of the United States is born in the stories of all its people, famous and "ordinary" alike.

From the Publisher:

"It's a book I'll turn to often for research, and more often for pleasure. Eyewitness to America is the best American collection on my shelf."
-Charles Kuralt

"A highly entertaining look at American history, a varied, imaginatively selected panorama ... The result is a feeling for history that is both immediate and dramatic ... a wonderful collection."
-Publishers Weekly

"There is merit in having books on the bedside table that . . . inform and amuse. Collections of familiar short stories and essays--Somerset Maugham,John Updike on golf--can fit the bill well. . . . Eyewitness to America comes into the same category. . . . There are some lovely literary gems."
-The Economist

"This book is something of a miracle...This is a mother lode of historical lore, up close and personal as the saying goes. Thumbing through its selections can be a giddy experience."
-The Richmond Times Dispatch

"The success of Eyewitness to America lies in its editor's sensitive and often humorous selection...the variety mirrors the diversity of America."
-Austin American-Statesman

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Colbert, David
Published by Pantheon (1997)
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