"Those Who Do Not Remember the Past...."

Read FeedMartin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library - Central Library

"Those Who Do Not Remember the Past...."

Nonfiction on forgotten or obscure American history

You’ve probably heard the George Santayana quote, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Or maybe you’ve heard it as, “Those who do not read history are doomed to repeat it.” The following recommendations are focused on the history of the United States and include forgotten history, obscure stories, and potentially niche but fascinating historical facts.

From the whitewashing of the American wild west to the creation of the United States Postal Service, every book here is about history you may not have learned in school.
 
A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn
Zinn's title looks at American history which has been ignored or understated. He uses direct quotations and historical facts to examine the lives and history of women, indigenous people, immigrants, slaves, factory workers and many other forgotten voices.  
 
Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen 
Loewen's work examines twelve American History textbooks, debunks some of the historical myths, and points out the biases of history book writers. Learn who Columbus really was, the truth about the first Thanksgiving, and the facts and stories surrounding the Civil War and 9/11.
 
The Black West: A Documentary and Pictorial History of the African American Role in the Westward Expansion of the United States by William Loren Katz
Movies and other media about the wild west have often shown the west as dominated by white settlers, which wasn’t true. One in four cowboys were black, and there were all-black towns like Nicodemus, Kansas. Here, Katz looks at the frontier and its black pioneers, with extensive photographs included.
 
The Edge of Anarchy: The Railroad Barons, the Gilded Age, and the Great Labor Uprising in America by Jack Kelly
The 1894 boycott of Pullman sleeping cars ended up becoming one of the biggest labor protests in the United States. With hundreds joining the boycott, riots and famine show the clash between unions fighting for worker rights and the railroad barons of the 19th century.

Neither Snow Nor Rain: A History of the United States Postal Service by Devin Leonard
The United States Postal Service was created by Benjamin Franklin. Now, that same service delivers forty percent of the world’s mail. Leonard's title looks at the postal service’s sometimes strange, sometimes amusing history.
 
Invisible: the Forgotten History of the Black Woman Lawyer Who Took Down America’s Most Powerful Mobster by Stephen L. Carter
Lucky Luciano was one of the most powerful mob bosses in history in the 1920s and 1930s. In the end, a black female lawyer helped to convict him. Carter's title is an interesting read for mob history, black history, women’s history and crime in general. 
 
Presidential Misconduct: From George Washington to Today edited by James M. Banner Jr. 
If you’re following current events, you might be interested in this title which covers both famous charges of misconduct against American presidents -- like Clinton’s impeachment and the Watergate Scandal -- as well as less well-known ones, such as James Buchanan being charged with rigging the election of 1856.
 
The Heritage: Black Athletes, a Divided America, and the Politics of Patriotism by Howard Bryant
People who enjoy sports history will find sports as well as the history of patriotism and black history in Bryant’s book, which looks at the history of the black athlete in America and how sometimes that athlete’s presence is itself political -- from the early Olympics to Jackie Robinson, and all the way to present time.
 
Show Trial: Hollywood, HUAC, and the Birth of the Blacklist by Thomas Doherty
Doherty's title combines political history and Hollywood. Readers interested in the Red Scare and the Cold War or the way politics and paranoia combined with patriotism in the 1940s and 1950s will find that in abundance in Show Trial as it examines the politicians, major movie studios, and theater community affected by the blacklist.
 
A Queer Capital: A History of Gay Life in Washington, D.C. by Genny Beemyn
DC’s own gay history is revealed here with personal interviews, excerpts from letters, and other engaging facts. Beemyn examines the lives of the black and white LGBTQA community in Washington, D.C. from pre-WWI through the present day.