The American Revelation: Ten Ideals that Shaped Our Country from the Puritans to the Cold War
“This is history at its best – a stirring, passionate account of ten Americans whose idealism helped shape our nation. For a country on the verge of an increasingly-divisive era, The American Revelation comes just in the nick of time.”
– Nathaniel Philbrick, author of In the Heart of the Sea
“The American Revelation is a revelation. Of Neil Baldwin’s ten iconic lives, the incisive portrait of the pioneering historian Carter Woodson stands out as a small masterpiece in the service of American exceptionalism at its best.”
– David Levering Lewis, author of W.E.B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race, 1868-1919
About two decades ago, I realized that the ongoing biography of this country I seemed to be writing needed a course-correction. I started thinking about ideals and concepts and phrases in our history that we may take for granted, or think we know from school-days, so-called received ideas in the American lexicon, and how many of them could benefit from a fresh revisit. I wanted to dig below the surface of the culture and root around to find the genesis of some quintessential American concepts – who invented them, how and at what exact moment did they enter the national discourse, what did they signify at the time of creation. What could my explorations instructively tell new readers about the American heritage?
Progress – as they say – is, ironically, our most important product. As technologies improve, as we develop faster and better ways to do things and communicate ideas, as the media expand exponentially and we begin to move forward faster and faster, we concomitantly lose sight of the past. In order to move forward there must be a firm foundation for the present. Authentic progress will not be accomplished unless we are certain we know as much as possible about where we are coming from.
The subtitle was very carefully constructed. These are not by any means “the only” ten ideals that shaped our country. They are a selection, a few out of the many. Furthermore, The American Revelation is not an exhaustive, comprehensive history book. It dips in and out of past times and places from Massachusetts in 1630 to Washington DC in 1953. It begins in a virgin land and ends with the world on the brink of unprecedented tensions.