American History Quotes

Quotes tagged as "american-history" Showing 1-30 of 490
James Ellroy
“America was never innocent. We popped our cherry on the boat over and looked back with no regrets. You can't ascribe our fall from grace to any single event or set of circumstances. You can't lose what you lacked at conception.”
James Ellroy

Todd Garlington
“Once people said: Give me liberty or give me death. Now they say: Make me a slave, just pay me enough.”
Todd Garlington

Sherman Alexie
“We Indians really should be better liars, considering how often we've been lied to.”
Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

James Madison
“If Men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and the next place, oblige it to control itself.”
James Madison

David McCullough
“The source of our suffering has been our timidity. We have been afraid to think....Let us dare to read, think, speak, write.”
David McCullough, John Adams

Joseph J. Ellis
“Lincoln once said that America was founded on a proposition that was written by Jefferson in 1776. We are really founded on an argument about what that proposition means.”
Joseph J. Ellis, Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation

Bill Bryson
“People in the West like to shoot things. When they first got to the West they shot buffalo. Once there were 70 million buffalo on the plains and then the people of the West started blasting away at them. Buffalo are just cows with big heads. If you've ever looked a cow in the face and seen the unutterable depths of trust and stupidity that lie within, you will be able to guess how difficult it must have been for people in the West to track down buffalo and shoot them to pieces. By 1895, there were only 800 buffalo left, mostly in zoos and touring Wild West shows. With no buffalo left to kill, Westerners started shooting Indians. Between 1850 and 1890 they reduced the number of Indians in America from two million to 90,000.

Nowadays, thank goodness, both have made a recovery. Today there are 30,000 buffalo and 300,000 Indiands, and of course you are not allowed to shoot either, so all the Westerners have left to shoot at are road signs and each other, both of which they do rather a lot. There you have a capsule history of the West.”
Bill Bryson

Ta-Nehisi Coates
“Perhaps there has been, at some point in history, some great power whose elevation was exempt from the violent exploitation of other human bodies. If there has been, I have yet to discover it. But this banality of violence can never excuse America, because America makes no claim to the banal. America believes itself exceptional, the greatest and noblest nation ever to exist, a lone champion standing between the white city of democracy and the terrorists, despots, barbarians, and other enemies of civilization. One cannot, at once, claim to be superhuman and then plead mortal error. I propose to take our countrymen's claims of American exceptionalism seriously, which is to say I propose subjecting our country to an exceptional moral standard. This is difficult because there exists, all around us, an apparatus urging us to accept American innocence at face value and not to inquire too much. And it is so easy to look away, to live with the fruits of our history and to ignore the great evil done in all of our names.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

James Baldwin
“The time has come to realize that the interracial drama acted out on the American continent has not only created a new black man, it has created a new white man, too. No road whatever will lead Americans back to the simplicity of this European village where white men still have the luxury of looking on me as a stranger. I am not, really, a stranger any longer for any American alive. One of the things that distinguishes Americans from other people is that no other people has ever been so deeply involved in the lives of black men, and vice versa. This fact faced, with all its implications, it can be seen that the history of the American Negro problem is not merely shameful, it is also something of an achievement. For even when the worst has been said, it must also be added that the perpetual challenge posed by this problem was always, somehow, perpetually met. It is precisely this black-white experience which may prove of indispensable value to us in the world we face today. This world is white no longer, and it will never be white again.”
James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son

Grover Cleveland
“Sensible and responsible women do not want to vote. The relative positions to be assumed by man and woman in the working out of our civilization were assigned long ago by a higher intelligence than ours.”
Grover Cleveland

“We tell stories of the dead as a way of making a sense of the living. More than just simple urban legends and campfire tales, ghost stories reveal the contours of our anxieties, the nature of our collective fears and desires, the things we can’t talk about in any other way. The past we’re most afraid to speak aloud of in the bright light of day is the same past that tends to linger in the ghost stories we whisper in the dark.”
Colin Dickey, Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places

Claudia   Clark
“At one point, approximately halfway through her remarks, Merkel stated in German something about ‘being able to greet the president of the United States of America, Barack Obama,’ and an overly ambitious Obama, who perhaps thought that was his cue, headed toward the podium.  Perhaps catching the president’s movement out of the corner of her eye, Merkel thought quickly, and without even looking up from her notes, she told the excited American president, in English, ‘Not yet, dear Mr. President, dear Barack Obama.’ Obama sheepishly returned to his seat to allow the chancellor to finish her speech.”
Claudia Clark, Dear Barack: The Extraordinary Partnership of Barack Obama and Angela Merkel

Sherman Alexie
“The white woman across the aisle from me says 'Look,
look at all the history, that house
on the hill there is over two hundred years old, '
as she points out the window past me

into what she has been taught. I have learned
little more about American history during my few days
back East than what I expected and far less
of what we should all know of the tribal stories

whose architecture is 15,000 years older
than the corners of the house that sits
museumed on the hill. 'Walden Pond, '
the woman on the train asks, 'Did you see Walden Pond? '

and I don't have a cruel enough heart to break
her own by telling her there are five Walden Ponds
on my little reservation out West
and at least a hundred more surrounding Spokane,

the city I pretended to call my home. 'Listen, '
I could have told her. 'I don't give a shit
about Walden. I know the Indians were living stories
around that pond before Walden's grandparents were born

and before his grandparents' grandparents were born.
I'm tired of hearing about Don-fucking-Henley saving it, too,
because that's redundant. If Don Henley's brothers and sisters
and mothers and father hadn't come here in the first place

then nothing would need to be saved.'
But I didn't say a word to the woman about Walden
Pond because she smiled so much and seemed delighted
that I thought to bring her an orange juice

back from the food car. I respect elders
of every color. All I really did was eat
my tasteless sandwich, drink my Diet Pepsi
and nod my head whenever the woman pointed out

another little piece of her country's history
while I, as all Indians have done
since this war began, made plans
for what I would do and say the next time

somebody from the enemy thought I was one of their own.”
Sherman Alexie

Claudia   Clark
“In her usual manner, Merkel spoke in German. It is worth pointing out, however, that before the translator had an opportunity to convert her statements to English, Obama gave the chancellor and the press a big smile, saying, ‘I think what she said was good. I’m teasing.’ The laughter in the room drowned out the sounds of the cameras clicking and flashing, with Merkel’s giggle and smile among the loudest.”
Claudia Clark, Dear Barack: The Extraordinary Partnership of Barack Obama and Angela Merkel

Eric Jay Dolin
“The heroic and often tragic stories of American whalemen were renowned. They sailed the world’s oceans and brought back tales filled with bravery, perseverance, endurance, and survival. They mutinied, murdered, rioted, deserted, drank, sang, spun yarns, scrimshawed, and recorded their musings and observations in journals and letters. They survived boredom, backbreaking work, tempestuous seas, floggings, pirates, putrid food, and unimaginable cold. Enemies preyed on them in times of war, and competitors envied them in times of peace. Many whalemen died from violent encounters with whales and from terrible miscalculations about the unforgiving nature of nature itself. And through it all, whalemen, those “iron men in wooden boats” created a legacy of dramatic, poignant, and at times horrific stories that can still stir our emotions and animate the most primal part of our imaginations. “To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme,” proclaimed Herman Melville, and the epic story of whaling is one of the mightiest themes in American history.”
Eric Jay Dolin, Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America

Eric Jay Dolin
“American whale oil lit the world. It was used in the production of soap, textiles, leather, paints, and varnishes, and it lubricated the tools and machines that drove the Industrial Revolution. The baleen cut from the mouths of whales shaped the course of feminine fashion by putting the hoop in hooped skirts and giving form to stomachtightening
and chest-crushing corsets. Spermaceti, the waxy substance from the heads of sperm whales, produced the brightest- and cleanest-burning candles the world has ever known, while ambergris, a byproduct of irritation in a sperm whale’s bowel, gave perfumes great staying power and was worth its weight in gold.”
Eric Jay Dolin, Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America

George Packer
“The attacks of 9/11 were the biggest surprise in American history, and for the past ten years we haven't stopped being surprised. The war on terror has had no discernible trajectory, and, unlike other military conflicts, it's almost impossible to define victory. You can't document the war's progress on a world map or chart it on a historical timetable in a way that makes any sense. A country used to a feeling of being in command and control has been whipsawed into a state of perpetual reaction, swinging wildly between passive fear and fevered, often thoughtless, activity, at a high cost to its self-confidence.”
George Packer

Suzy Witten
“Something terrible happened in Salem in 1692 . . . but it isn't what you think!”
Suzy Witten

Timothy James Dean
I was on one of my world 'walkabouts.' It had taken me once more through Hong Kong, to Japan, Australia, and then Papua New Guinea in the South Pacific [one of the places I grew up]. There I found the picture of 'the Father.' It was a real, gigantic Saltwater Crocodile (whose picture is now featured on page 1 of TEETH).

From that moment, 'the Father' began to swim through the murky recesses of my mind. Imagine! I thought, men confronting the world’s largest reptile on its own turf! And what if they were stripped of their firearms, so they must face this force of nature with nothing but hand weapons and wits?

We know that neither whales nor sharks hunt individual humans for weeks on end. But, Dear Reader, crocodiles do! They are intelligent predators that choose their victims and plot their attacks. So, lost on its river, how would our heroes escape a great hunter of the Father’s magnitude? And what if these modern men must also confront the headhunters and cannibals who truly roam New Guinea?

What of tribal wars, the coming of Christianity and materialism (the phenomenon known as the 'Cargo Cult'), and the people’s introduction to 'civilization' in the form of world war? What of first contact between pristine tribal culture and the outside world? What about tribal clashes on a global scale—the hatred and enmity between America and Japan, from Pearl Harbor, to the only use in history of atomic weapons? And if the world could find peace at last, how about Johnny and Katsu?”
Timothy James Dean, Teeth

Eric Jay Dolin
“Over time, it is all too common for people to lose touch with their heritage, as the thrill and immediacy of the present crowds out the echoes and lessons of the past. It would be a shame if that were to happen with respect to the fur trade. It is a seminal part of who we are as a nation, and how we came to be.”
Eric Jay Dolin, Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America

James W. Loewen
“The antidote to feel-good history is not feel-bad history but honest and inclusive history. If textbook authors feel compelled to give good moral instruction, the way origin myths have always done, they could accomplish this aim by allowing students to learn both the "good" and the "bad" sides of the Pilgrim tale. Conflict would then become part of the story, and students might discover that the knowledge they gain has implication for their lives today. Correctly taught, the issues of the era of the first Thanksgiving could help Americans grow more thoughtful and more tolerant, rather than more ethnocentric.”
James W. Loewen, Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong

John  Smith
“Nay, so great was our famine that a Salvage we slew and buried, the poorer sort took him up again and eat him; and so did divers one another, boyled and stewed with roots and herbs. And one amongst the rest did kill his wife, powdered her, and had eaten part of her, before it was knowne, for which hee was executed, as hee well deserved. Now whether shee was better roasted, boyled, or carbonado'd I know not, but of such a dish as powdered wife I never heard of.”
John Smith, Pocahontas: My Own Story

Amy Hill Hearth
“Their story, as the Delany sisters like to say, is not meant as "black" or "women's" history, but American history. It belongs to all of us. (From the Preface of "Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years)”
Amy Hill Hearth

“This, indeed, goes far toward explaining the extraordinary popularity of captivity narratives, from the last quarter of the seventeenth century to the beginning of the twentieth. Generation after generation of readers turned to such writings with a special—and intense—curiosity. What was it like for you, on the other side of the frontier? How much, and in what ways, were you changed? Were the changes personally compromising? Did you accept them willingly, or even seek them out? Can we trust you now?
John Putnam Demos, The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America

Elizabeth Martínez
“Manifest Destiny saw Yankee conquest as the inevitable result of a confrontation between enterprise and progress (white) versus passivity and backwardness (Indian, Mexican).”
Elizabeth Martínez, De Colores Means All of Us: Latina Views for a Multi-Colored Century

“...week old infants, ward-bound juveniles with epilepsy, or those with profound retardation in his experiments. Involuntary, nontherapeutic, and dangerous experiments on children were far from unusual or dishonourable endeavours during the twentieth century. The practice was widely accepted, rarely questioned and integral to the phenomenal growth of medical research and human experimentation during World War II and the Cold War that followed.”
Allen M. Hornblum

“Takekuma Norman Takei (George Takei's father): America is a strange country... Despite everything, it's still a nation of ideals. Yes, justice here is neither blind nor fair. It only reflects the society. But this is an open society where people who want to can become a part of it. The system here is called participatory democracy, where the important thing is to participate. If people like me aren't willing to take a chance and participate, America stays that much farther from its ideals. My choice is to be in there with good people like Wayne Collins, the lawyer who is helping Mama with her legal battle. My choice is to help America be what it claims it is.”
George Takei, To the Stars

Tom C.W. Lin
“There were Black churches in America before we even became a country. Slaves organized churches in present-day South Carolina and Georgia before they were freed, and before we as colonies broke free from the tyranny of Great Britain.”
Tom C.W. Lin, The Capitalist and the Activist: Corporate Social Activism and the New Business of Change

“CRT is not up for debate. Critical reading and critical thinking about American history leads directly to "critical race theory." Only this is a misnomer, it's not "theory"; it's facts. It should be called "critical race analysis.”
Chinyerim Alizor

“Americans have long found it difficult to think about the nation's Founders with discernment. We eschew nuance and complexity for an all-or-nothing dogmatism that either venerates the Founders of views them with disdain. Let's strive to do better.”
Robert Tracy McKenzie, We the Fallen People: The Founders and the Future of American Democracy

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