Radicalism is as American as apple pie. One can scarcely imagine what American society would look like without the abolitionists, feminists, socialists, union organizers, civil-rights workers, gay and lesbian activists, and environmentalists who have fought stubbornly to breathe life into the promises of freedom and equality that lie at the heart of American democracy.
The first anthology of its kind, The Radical Reader brings together more than 200 primary documents in a comprehensive collection of the writings of America's native radical tradition. Spanning the time from the colonial period to the twenty-first century, the documents have been drawn from a wealth of sources—speeches, manifestos, newspaper editorials, literature, pamphlets, and private letters. From Thomas Paine's “Common Sense” to Kate Millett's “Sexual Politics,” these are the documents that sparked, guided, and distilled the most influential movements in American history. Brief introductory essays by the editors provide a rich biographical and historical context for each selection included.
It's bracing to be reminded that the American experiment was radical at its inception--that in their own day the founding fathers (and mothers) were not hallowed figures but revolutionaries charting a new political path. Thus, among the 155 entries selected by two Harvard academics, are the 1765 Resolutions of the Stamp Act Congress and the Bill of Rights. Also here are crucial documents from the abolitionist movement (such as Frederick Douglass's"What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?"); feminist texts, from Sarah Grimke's Letters on the Equality of the Sexes to the 19th Amendment giving women the vote; texts of the 60s counterculture, from Allen Ginsberg's"Howl" to a Weathermen brochure; and the volume ends in the immediate past with a 2002 open letter by academics opposing the invasion of Iraq. Each entry is preceded by a brief introduction providing historical and biographical context."By definition, radicals are a minority," writes historian Eric Foner in his foreword. Members of the newest left, whether antiwar or anti-globalization, will find a sense of roots and tradition in this comprehensive anthology.