“Meacham has written this exceptionally fluent and stirring ‘portrait of hours in which the politics of fear were prevalent’ in America out of profound knowledge, respect, and love for the nation. . . . This engrossing, edifying, many-voiced chronicle, subtly propelled by concern over the troubled Trump administration, calls on readers to defend democracy, decency, and the common good.”
— Booklist (starred review)
“This is a brilliant, fascinating, timely, and above all profoundly important book.”
— Walter Isaacson
To know what has come before is to be armed against despair.
Our current climate of partisan fury is not new, and in The Soul of America: The Battle for our Better Angels, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jon Meacham shows us how what Abraham Lincoln called the “better angels of our nature” have repeatedly won the day.
Meacham helps us understand the present moment in American politics and life by looking back at critical times in our history when hope overcame division and fear.
Painting surprising portraits of Lincoln and other presidents, including Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, and Lyndon B. Johnson, and illuminating the courage of such influential citizen activists as Martin Luther King, Jr., early suffragettes Alice Paul and Carrie Chapman Catt, civil rights pioneers Rosa Parks and John Lewis, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and Army-McCarthy hearings lawyer Joseph N. Welch, Meacham brings vividly to life turning points in American history.
He writes about the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the birth of the Lost Cause; the backlash against immigrants in the First World War and the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s; the fight for women’s rights; the demagoguery of Huey Long and Father Coughlin and the isolationist work of America First in the years before World War II; the anti-Communist witch-hunts led by Senator Joseph McCarthy; and Lyndon Johnson’s crusade against Jim Crow.
Each of these dramatic hours in our national life have been shaped by the contest to lead the country to look forward rather than back, to assert hope over fear—a struggle that continues even now.
While the American story has not always—or even often—been heroic, we have been sustained by a belief in progress even in the gloomiest of times. In this inspiring book, Meacham reassures us, “The good news is that we have come through such darkness before”—as, time and again, Lincoln’s better angels have found a way to prevail.
Published: May 8, 2018
Publisher: Random House
Dimensions: 9.5" inches x 1.25 D x 6.25 W
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jon Meacham is a renowned author and presidential historian, contributing writer to The New York Times Book Review, contributing editor at TIME, and recipient of numerous prestigious literary awards, including the Pulitzer Prize.
Meacham was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 2009 for his book, American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, which also was a New York Times bestseller. His other New York Times bestsellers include Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush, Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship, exploring the relationship between the two great leaders who piloted the free world to victory in World War II, and American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation.
A member of the Council on Foreign Relations and of the Society of American Historians, Meacham is a distinguished visiting professor at Vanderbilt University.
A former executive editor at Random House, he published the letters of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and books by, among others, Al Gore, John Danforth, Clara Bingham, Mary Soames, and Charles Peters. After serving as Managing Editor of Newsweek for eight years, Meacham was the editor of the magazine from 2006 to 2010. He is a former editor of The Washington Monthly and began his career at The Chattanooga Times.
Born in Chattanooga in 1969, Meacham was educated at St. Nicholas School, The McCallie School, and graduated from The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, with a degree summa cum laude in English Literature; he was salutatorian and elected to Phi Beta Kappa.
A trustee of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, The McCallie School, and The Harpeth Hall School, Meacham chairs the National Advisory Council of the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University.
He has served on the vestries of St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue and of Trinity Church Wall Street as well as the Board of Regents of The University of the South.
The Anti-Defamation League awarded Meacham its Hubert H. Humphrey First Amendment Prize. In 2013 the Historical Society of Pennsylvania presented him with its Founder’s Award; in 2016 he was honored with the Sandra Day O’Connor Institute’s Spirit of Democracy Award.
Meacham also received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale University in 2005 and holds honorary doctorates from Middlebury College, Wake Forest University, the University of Tennessee, Dickinson College, Sewanee, and several other institutions.
He lives in Nashville with his wife and children.
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