100 Books for America: The Story of American Freedom

With 93 days until the election, let us continue looking at the 100 books every American should read. These write-ups will be short and not incredibly comprehensive looks at some books and novels that will help you become a better citizen. Check out all of the books that have been picked.

With “The Story of American Freedom,” Eric Foner didn’t just take a nibble at the proverbial apple, he tried to eat the whole damn orchard in one big bite.

Imagine telling a publisher you’re going to write a book about the history of how Americans have struggled over freedom. Not in one century, or even in one era. He didn’t limit himself to one war or movement.

He told his publisher he wanted to cover everything.

And his publisher let him.

Foner, who has written several must reads, somehow pulls it off.

With accessible prose, great storytelling and deep authority, he shows you who had freedom when, how they talked about it, who didn’t have freedom when, and how they talked about freedom. You see how different people fought for power, sometimes successfully, sometimes not; and how people fought to keep their freedom.

The inescapable fact that more freedom for some can mean less freedom for others, is never denied. The fact that the struggle for freedom is often fought between economic and democratic forces is never denied.

Some of the lessons of “Freedom” might be shocking to those who don’t know their history.

For example, Foner shows how our First Amendment rights didn’t really exist until the last century. It was only then, through several Supreme Court cases that expanded the freedoms of religion, speech and the press, that the amendment gained its current power.

That’s one of the more gripping themes of the book, learning how the so many freedoms we take for granted today often didn’t exist at the time of the Founding, Civil War or Gilded age.

Foner doesn’t shy away from the inherent conflict of freedom in America, which was embedded at the start.

Certainly, in the colonial era, “liberty” stood as a meeting point between liberal and republican understandings of government and society. There seemed no necessary contradiction between the personal freedom central to liberalism and the public liberty of the republican tradition. Moreover, whether liberal, republican, or some combination of the two, most eighteenth-century commentators assumed that only certain kinds of persons were fully capable of enjoying the benefits and exercising the rights of freedom.

“The Story of American Freedom”

“Freedom” is worth a read. Whether you’re passionate about the freedom from government or the freedom from oppression, the struggle for liberty or equality, this book will help you understand where we’ve come from.

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Previously, we looked at a book that dealt with the urban poor. Up next, one of America’s greatest voices.

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