This provocative perspective on America’s history claims that the country’s personality was defined not by the ideals of the elites and intellectuals, but by those who throughout have lived on the fringes of society history—slaves, immigrants, gangsters, and others who challenged the conventions of their day.
“Raucous, profane, and thrillingly original, Thaddeus Russell’s A Renegade History of the United States turns the myths of the ‘American character’ on their heads with a rare mix of wit, scholarship, and storytelling flair” (Steven Johnson, author of Everything Bad Is Good for You and The Invention of Air ).
An all-new, stunning, and controversial story of the United States: It was not “good” citizens who established American liberty, declares Thaddeus Russell, but “immoral” and “degraded” people on the fringes of society whose subversive lifestyles legitimized the taboo and made America the land of the free.
In vivid portraits of renegades and their “respectable” adversaries, Russell shows that the nation’s history has been driven by clashes between those interested in preserving social order and those more interested in pursuing their own desires. The more these accidental revolutionaries—drunkards, prostitutes, gangsters, unassimilated immigrants, “bad” blacks—persevered, the more American society changed for the better.
This is not the history taught in textbooks or classrooms—this renegade book will upend everything you believe about the American past.
Thaddeus Russell teaches history and cultural studies at Occidental College and has taught at Columbia University, Barnard College, Eugene Lang College, and the New School for Social Research. Born and raised in Berkeley, California, Russell graduated from Antioch College and received a Ph.D. in history from Columbia University. Russell's first book, Out of the Jungle: Jimmy Hoffa and the Re-Making of the American Working Class, was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 2001. He has published opinion articles in the Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, Salon, and Atlanta Journal-Constitution, as well as scholarly essays in American Quarterly and The Columbia History of Post-World War II America. Russell has also appeared on the History Channel and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.