If you are excited about the possibilities of social change, this is a resource for you. If you yearn for a community that can school you in the arts of citizenship, this is the book for you. If you want to immerse yourself in democracy, this is a volume that will help you accomplish your desire.
Sara M. Evans is Associate Professor of History at the University of Minnesota and the author of Personal Politics: The Roots of Women's Liberation in the Civil Rights Movement and the New Left. Harry C. Boyte is a social theorist and author of The Backyard Revolution and Community Is Possible.
In this multi-purpose volume, the authors set out to explore public communities they call "free spaces" where people can "learn a new self-respect, a deeper and more assertive identity, public skills, and values of cooperation and civic virtue." They look at various groups who have taken on this mission including American colonists, family farmers, black preachers, worker protests, women seeking the right to vote, and civil rights activists. All were seeking an enlarged democracy.
A selection from Walt Whitman's preface to Leaves of Grass appears at the beginning of the book and sets its tone:
"The genius of the United States is not best or most of its executives or legislatures, nor in its ambassadors or authors or colleges or churches or parlors, nor even in its newspapers or inventors . . . but always most in the common people . . . their good temper and openhandedness . . . The largeness of nature or the nation were monstrous without a corresponding largeness and generosity of the spirit of the citizen."