- Academic freedom
- Drafting of the Monroe Doctrine
- The rise of the Affluent Society
- Enlarging the Empire of Liberty
- Campaigning for the office of President
- Railroads as a symbol of progress in 1830s
- Women leading the temperance movement
- Nation split apart over war with Mexico
- Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad
- Rapt and rowdy audience for Lincoln-Douglas debates
- Slave owners opposing free speech
- 750,000 Americans die in the Civil War
- The Civil Rights Act as first law to define citizenship
- Settling of the West animated the American economy
- Populism's legacy — racism and negativism.
- Chinese Exclusion Act and more discrimination against immigrants
- The Spanish-American war of 1898 called a splendid little war
- Lynching of thousands of black men lduring the Jim Crow Era
- By 1929, U.S producing 42 percent of the world's output
- Nearly 12 million Americans out of work by1932
- FDR's New Deal legislation along with G.I. Bill of Rights
- Truman calling nuclear bombing "the greatest thing in history."
- The battles, espionage and secrets of the Cold War
- The crimes and resignation of President Richard Nixon
- The rise of TV and the entry into age of computers
- The Soviet satellite Sputnik and the American quest for the moon
- The Civil Rights Movement
- The long war in Vietnam
- The dismantling of the Berlin wall in 1989
- September 11, 2002 terrorist attack on the United
Those are just a few of the topics covered in this bold, well-written, and immersive one-volume history of the United States. The title is taken from the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."
Jill Lepore is a Harvard professor, New Yorker staff writer, and best-selling author. With great energy and thought-provoking choices, she immerses us in "the American experiment" as it is played out in the struggles of the nation's founders, the deep and toxic impact of slavery, the nonviolent heroes of the Civil Rights Movement, the landmark legislation (on the positive side, the G.I. Bill of Rights and on the negative side, the many rulings in favor of the rich and the powerful), the truth-spinning and fake news of both the 1930s and the present era, the dreadful consequences of America starting wars in the name of U.S. exceptionalism, and the shameful treatment of Native Americans, African-Americans, women, and immigrants seeking refuge in this country.
In the Epilogue, Lepore speaks to all of us who believe that much remains to be done to renew our country and counter its many wayward policies:
"[At the close of the Cold War] the American experiment had not ended. A nation born in revolution will forever struggle against chaos. A nation founded on universal rights will wrestle against the forces of particularism. A nation that toppled a hierarchy of birth only to erect a hierarchy of wealth will never know tranquility. A nation of immigrants cannot close its borders. And a nation born in contradiction, liberty in a land of slavery, sovereignty in a land of conquest, will fight, forever, over the meaning of its history."