Independence Day is right around the corner, but with devastating news like the Supreme Court's decision to uphold Trump's travel ban and the truth about refugee children detention centers dominating headlines around the country every day, it's becoming increasingly more difficult to feel like celebrating. That is why this Fourth of July, instead of singing the praises of our all white, all male founding fathers, you should read one of these nonfiction history books about the United States that shows what our country's past really looks like.
Our country is in a precarious place right now, but if we want the future to look different than the present, it is crucial we understand our past. That starts by knowing the facts, all of the facts, especially the ones your American history class left out. We need to consider the United State's real history, the one that includes our legacy of slavery and genocide, not the sanitized version we learn in grade school in which the Pilgrims and the Indians shared a peaceful meal or turkey and cranberry sauce. The truth his, the America's past rife with violence, oppression, death, and murder. Ignoring that doesn't make it go away, it only increases the possibilities of letting those things happen again.
If you're looking to celebrate the Fourth of July by learning about how American really became the country it is today, check out one of these five nonfiction history books, each one with a different and important glimpse at the nation's past.
'Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong' by James W. Loewen
If you ever wanted to know what your grade school history class left out or got wrong, let Lies My Teacher Told Me be your guide. A thought-provoking exploration of the ways historical myths shape our present, this book is a must-read for anyone who wants to ditch the rose-colored glasses of patriotism and see the country's history for what it really is.
'Barracoon: The Story of the Last 'Black Cargo'' by Zora Neale Hurston
During her lifetime, publishers rejected Zora Neale Hurston's book about one of the last slaves to be brought to America. Now, nearly six decades after the author's death, readers can finally read Barracoon, her remarkable and heartbreaking account of Cudjo Lewis's life, including his capture in Africa, enslavement, and fight for freedom. Far too often history books are written by the oppressors, but this book is a chance to see the real story, as told by the oppressed.
'The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America' by Andrés Reséndez
Most American history classes include lessons, however incomplete and watered down, on the enslavement of African Americans. Far fewer include the truth about the tens of thousands of Indians who were forced into slavery all across America, which is why Andrés Reséndez's book on the subject should be required reading.
'A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America' by Ronald Takaki
One of the best ways to learn the truth about America's past is by seeing it through the eyes of those most oppressed by it, non-Anglo peoples of the United States, including Native Americans, African Americans, Jews, Latinos, and other immigrant groups who help shape the country. In Ronald Takaki's classic A Different Mirror, readers will walk through history in someone else's shoes and learn about everything from the crucial role of black soldiers in the Civil War to the treatment of Muslim refugees post 9/11 and beyond.
'Queer: A Graphic History' by Dr. Meg-John Barker, illustrated by Julia Scheele
See the history of the queer thought and LGBTQ+ action come to life in this stunning graphic history book that covers everything from identity politics to gender roles to the sexuality spectrum and beyond. An inspiring look at the people, ideas, and events that shaped queer theory, this is a valuable historical resource that should be on every American's bookshelf.