Americans are notoriously undereducated about their own history – and it has been well documented. Headlines in this vein have been popping up for years:
Americans know little about civic affairs; Americans literally know nothing about the Constitution; Flunking Civics: Why American Kids Know So Little. It’s a phenomenon that’s… well, a little embarrassing, to say the least. Much of this stems from structural forces, including the limited instruction that American public schools offer in the area of civics.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Scholars, historians, and critics continue to produce revealing books on American history, reshaping the country’s understanding of its own past by uncovering new details or drawing bottom lines hidden in view from airplanes. So if you’re looking to dig deeper into your American history — or if you’re already an expert, hoping to dive even deeper — there are plenty of non-fiction reads to open up.
Before the country can move forward, it must first understand how America got to where it is today – the good, the bad, the brilliant, the unfair and the downright ugly. Start with the 10 American
history books listed below.
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The Jakarta Method: Washington’s Anti-Communist Crusade and Mass Murder Program That Shaped Our World
By Vincent Bevins, correspondent in Southeast Asia for
The Washington Post, comes this revealing look at how the United States has violently suppressed left-wing movements in Asia and Latin America. Inspired by the events of the Indonesian genocide in 1965, The Jakarta method examines how the United States worked behind the scenes to usher in regime change across the world.
Inventing Latinos: A New History of American Racism by Laura E. Gomez
Laura E. Gómez, professor of law at UCLA, examines the complex history of international relations between the United States and Latin America. A bit like Nell Irvin Painter
white history, Inventing Latinos is concerned with how people decide who belongs to what race – and how those decisions shape the future.
The Heartland: An American History by Kristin L. Hoganson
Born, raised and educated on the East Coast, Kristin L. Hoganson expected culture shock when she landed in Champaign, Illinois, the heart of the so-called heartland of the United States. When the Midwest turned out to be very different from what she expected, Hoganson began researching the region’s history and culture — a passion project that culminated in this much-loved 2019 book.
How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States by Daniel Immerwahr
Examining the history and persistence of American colonialism, Daniel Immerwahr
How to Hide an Empire offers a fascinating look at the countries occupied by the US military and why. From pineapples to guano to medical experimentation, Immerwahr traces the expansion of the United States beyond its contiguous borders and analyzes how that expansion has affected the world.
Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019
Consisting of 90 essays, short stories, poems and excerpts from memoirs, each covering five of the 400 years between 1619 – when the
White Liona ship carrying 20 enslaved Africans, landed in colonial Virginia – and 2019, four hundred souls unlike any other history book you will read.
The Triangular War: Union, Confederacy, and Indigenous Peoples in the Struggle for the West
Civil War stories and Old West tales don’t usually mix in American pop culture — and when they do, they usually focus on Civil War veterans living far from East Coast conflicts. As Megan Kate Nelson reveals in
The Three Corners Warhowever, battles to control the “savage” side of the United States were fought concurrently with the Union–Confederation conflict, and both conflicts helped shape public opinion on both fronts.
Unworthy Republic: Dispossession of Native Americans and the Road to Indian Territory
In this National Book Award finalist, Claudio Saint reveals how Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act of 1830, which sought to forcibly move 80,000 Native Americans west through Mississippi, resulted in loss of life and catastrophic fortunes for indigenous peoples in the United States. the American social and political landscape.
Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership
A Pulitzer Prize finalist, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s
Race for profit exposes the ongoing legacy of redlining – and how the real estate industry is partially responsible for it. Decades before the collapse of the housing bubble, the big banks exploited the financial difficulties of black homeowners, dealing with unfair lending practices that burdened new buyers with debt they could not hope to repay.
Caste: the origins of our discontent
Focusing on the hidden caste system in the United States, this book by
The warmth of other suns Pulitzer Prize-winning author and author Isabel Wilkerson is all too timely reading today, when billionaires take space jaunts while the oceans burn. Caste exposes how something far more complex and nebulous than race or class alone structures American society.
A mighty and irresistible tide: the epic struggle against American immigration, 1924-1965
In 1924, Congress enacted sweeping legislative changes that prevented immigration from much of Europe and Asia. Under the new laws, America limited non-Western immigration to one-fifth of its pre-World War I allotments and dramatically limited the number of people who could immigrate from each country each year, using calculations based on the immigrant populations recorded in the United States census of 1890. . When these practices were finally lifted, via another act of Congress, in 1965, the United States would never be the same again.