The soul of America : the battle for our better angels / Jon Meacham.

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  • Additional Information
    • Edition:
      First edition.
    • Abstract:
      Summary: "We have been here before. In this timely and revealing book, ... author Jon Meacham helps us understand the present moment in American politics and life by looking back at critical times in our history when hope overcame division and fear. With clarity and purpose, Meacham explores contentious periods and how presidents and citizens came together to defeat the forces of anger, intolerance, and extremism. Our current climate of partisan fury is not new, and in The Soul of America Meacham shows us how what Abraham Lincoln called 'the better angels of our nature' have repeatedly won the day. Painting surprising portraits of Lincoln and other presidents, including Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, and Lyndon B. Johnson, and illuminating the courage of such influential citizen activists as Martin Luther King, Jr., early suffragettes Alice Paul and Carrie Chapman Catt, civil rights pioneers Rosa Parks and John Lewis, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and Army-McCarthy hearings lawyer Joseph N. Welch, Meacham brings vividly to life turning points in American history. He writes about the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the birth of the Lost Cause; the backlash against immigrants in the First World War and the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s; the fight for women's rights; the demagoguery of Huey Long and Father Coughlin and the isolationist work of America First in the years before World War II; the anti-Communist witch-hunts led by Senator Joseph McCarthy; and Lyndon Johnson's crusade against Jim Crow. Each of these dramatic hours in our national life has been shaped by the contest to lead the country to look forward rather than back, to assert hope over fear--a struggle that continues even now. While the American story has not always--or even often--been heroic, we have been sustained by a belief in progress even in the gloomiest of times. In this inspiring book, Meacham reassures us, "The good news is that we have come through such darkness before"--as, time and again, Lincoln's better angels have found a way to prevail."--Dust jacket.
    • Content Notes:
      Introduction : To hope rather than to fear -- The confidence of the whole people : visions of the Presidency, the ideas of progress and prosperity, and "We, the people" -- The long shadow of Appomattox : the Lost Cause, the Ku Klux Klan, and Reconstruction -- With soul of flame and temper of steel : "the melting pot," TR and his "bully pulpit," and the Progressive promise -- A new and good thing in the world : the triumph of women's suffrage, the Red Scare, and a new Klan -- The crisis of the old order : the Great Depression, Huey Long, the New Deal, and America First -- Have you no sense of decency? : "making everyone middle class," the GI Bill, McCarthyism, and modern media -- What the hell is the presidency for? : "segregation forever," King's crusade, and LBJ in the crucible -- Conclusion : The first duty of an American citizen.
    • Notes:
      Includes bibliographical references (pages 277-377) and index.
    • ISBN:
      9780399589812
      0399589813
      9781984832085
      1984832085
    • LCCN:
      2018010451
    • OCLC:
      on1022199604
      1022199604
    • Accession Number:
      fay.573051

Reviews

Booklist Reviews 2018 May #1

*Starred Review* Pulitzer Prize–winning presidential historian Meacham (Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush, 2015) has written this exceptionally fluent and stirring "portrait of hours in which the politics of fear were prevalent" in America out of profound knowledge, respect, and love for the nation and in the belief that understanding the past engenders perspective, guidance, and hope. By investigating the ways presidents have faced crises, Meacham, whose shining, cogent prose carries in its swift current mind-opening quotes from myriad sources, freshly defines the "soul of America"—its inclusiveness; charts the "eternal struggle" to preserve it; and tracks the courses presidents of different temperaments and politics followed to moral clarity, summoning, as President Lincoln so memorably expressed it, "the "better angels of our nature." Meacham vividly recounts acts of conscience and courage by Lincoln, Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, and both Bushes. Here, too, are crucial accounts of dire threats against American democracy, including the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, who "chose to foment chaos and promulgate fears of conspiracy," and Senator Joseph McCarthy's false charges, fearmongering, and self-aggrandizing media manipulation. Meacham observes, "Reason prevailed. The system worked." But only because people spoke out. This engrossing, edifying, many-voiced chronicle, subtly propelled by concern over the troubled Trump administration, calls on readers to defend democracy, decency, and the common good. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Best-selling Meacham's topic couldn't be more urgent, and his regular television appearances will further stoke interest. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

LJ Reviews 2018 June #1

History does not actually repeat itself, but studying how countries have worked through trying times can be reassuring. This is the message that Pulitzer Prize-winning Meacham (political science, Vanderbilt Univ.; American Lion) provides in his exceptional new book. Here, Meacham recalls the struggles the United States has faced, including issues of racism, sexism, war, and pestilence. The author describes how, through what Lincoln famously called "the better angels of our nature," the country has prevailed and tried to move forward in the fervent belief that all Americans deserve guarantees of equality and justice. Using examples of challenging periods in U.S. history, such as Reconstruction, the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s, and the anti-Communist witch hunts led by Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s, Meacham helps readers understand that the country has experienced difficulties before and will endure them again. VERDICT An excellent work by a skilled historian and worthy of all library collections.—Ed Goedeken, Iowa State Univ. Lib., Ames

Copyright 2018 Library Journal.