“I like a little rebellion now and then”—so wrote Thomas Jefferson to Abigail Adams, enlisting in a tradition that throughout American history has led writers to rage and reason, prophesy and provoke. This is the first anthology to collect and examine an American literature that holds the nation to its highest ideals, castigating it when it falls short and pointing the way to a better collective future.
American Protest Literature presents sources from eleven protest movements—political, social, and cultural—from the Revolution to abolition to gay rights to antiwar protest. Each section reprints documents from the original phase of the movement as well as evidence of its legacy in later times. Informative headnotes place the selections in historical context and draw connections with other writings within the anthology and beyond. Sources include a wide variety of genres—pamphlets, letters, speeches, sermons, legal documents, poems, short stories, photographs, posters—and a range of voices from prophetic to outraged to sorrowful, from U.S. Presidents to the disenfranchised. Together they provide an enlightening and inspiring survey of this most American form of literature.
Trodd organizes this excellent anthology around 11 reform movements, most based on race, class, or gender (e.g., the American Revolution, abolition, women's suffrage, gay rights). Collecting the work of both established writers and new voices, the book comprises some hundred pieces (1–3 pages each): prose excerpts, political documents, poems, photographs, film briefs, essays, fiction, narratives, and orations… This excellent book can serve as a textbook as well as a resource on social change and the literature thereof. Indeed, the persuasiveness of the collection raises the question not only of whether protest literature is a genre of its own, but also of whether it is the most American literary form.
— L. L. Johnson
Syracuse New Times
The recently published treasure American Protest Literature, edited by Zoe Trodd…belongs on our bookshelves for two types of enjoyment. For starters, it is an invaluable reference, the first anthology to collect and examine American literature 'that holds the nation to its highest ideals, castigating it when it falls short and pointing the way to a better collective future.' It is also a great pleasure to read the 500-plus pages… May the daily newspaper and the nightly news glow with new perspective. Read this book.
— Karen DeCrow
Library JournalIn this time of warrantless wiretaps and imprisonment without trial, these two anthologies remind us how hard previous generations of Americans fought to preserve and broaden our civil and human rights. Dissent is the larger and broader of the two. Young (history, Temple Univ.) organizes his book chronologically, with introductions to each of nine broad periods from pre-Revolutionary War to contemporary times (Cindy Sheehan against the war in Iraq in 2005) and briefer introductions for each author. Early protests of religious persecution by Puritans in the 17th century mix with Native American speeches and an anonymous slave's letter, and the collection continues with a wide social, economic, political, and racial span, ultimately embracing a panoply of issues including black liberation, the environment, gay rights, workers' rights, and peace movements. While Young defines dissent as coming from both the Left and the Right in his introduction, left of center predominates. American Protest Literature is organized by Trodd around 11 subjects, which are collected more or less as they have arisen chronologically in our history, from "Declaring Independence" and "Unvanishing the Indian" to "The Word Is Out: Gay Liberation" and "From Saigon to Baghdad." Within each area, Trodd presents writings from both the originating movement and the later protest writings on similar themes, e.g., Daniel De Leon's 1895 Declaration of Interdependence by the Socialist Labor Party is with Thomas Paine in the first section. There is less introductory material here than in Young's book, but by linking original works to later pieces Trodd underlines the historical roots of American dissent and the ongoing relevance of these writings. Trodd does not attempt to include right-of-center dissent, nor does her work contain literature on environmentalism or the long history of anti-imperialism, as does Young. Taken together, these books offer an exciting and inclusive vision of Americans fighting for their rights since the 17th century. Both are highly recommended for academic and public libraries. Duncan Stewart, Univ. of Iowa Libs., Iowa City Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.