American History Quotes

Quotes tagged as "american-history" Showing 1-30 of 362
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

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

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

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

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

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

“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

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

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

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

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

“[Jeff] Sessions was "someone who thinks that the VRA ought not to have ever been in existence" because, for him, it was an "intrusive piece of legislation." Thus, in a move that flipped the Voting Rights Act on its head, his investigation targeted only counties where African Americans had won office.”
Carol Anderson, One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy

“In short, Virginia ensured that there would be schooling for whites but not blacks; and after that, the state changed its laws so that those who were illiterate would not be able to vote.”
Carol Anderson, One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy

“Paul Weyrich, a conservative activist and founder of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which eventually crafted voter suppression legislation that spread like a cancer throughout the United States, was brutally clear: "I don't want everybody to vote.”
Carol Anderson, One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy

“All that had to happen was for the GOP to reinforce the lie of voter fraud, create the public perception of democracy imperiled, increase the groundswell to "protect the integrity of the ballot box," require exactly the type of identification that blacks, the poor, the young, and the elderly did not have, and, equally important, mask these acts of aggressive voter suppression behind the nobility of being "civic-minded.”
Carol Anderson, One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy

“Based on a perception that had been carefully crafted, cultivated, and stoked by the GOP, state governments believed they had a mandate, a calling even, to wrestle this virtually nonexistent voter impersonation fraud to the ground.”
Carol Anderson, One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy

“The ACLU and NAACP went right after the core of the issue—there was no voter fraud. Therefore, there was no state interest at stake—certainly nothing that could warrant this assault on the Fifteenth Amendment. It "bear[s] repeating," they asserted, that Indiana had "not identified even a single instance of voter impersonation fraud occurring at the polls in the history of Indiana" and no one in the state has "ever been charged" with that crime. Ever. Moreover, when the bill was being drafted, "no evidence of in-person impersonation fraud was presented to the legislature," making SEA 483, at best, a solution in search of a problem.”
Carol Anderson, One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy

“A Republican seizure of power based not on the strength of the party's ideas but on massive disfranchisement denies citizens not only their rights, but also the "talisman" of humanity that voting represents. The lie of voter fraud breaks a World War II veteran down into a simple, horrifying statement: "I wasn't a citizen no more." It forces a man, a retired engineer who was instrumental in building this nation, into facing a bitter truth: "I am not wanted in this state." It eviscerates the key sense of self-worthy in a disabled man who has to pen the painful words "My constitutional rights have been stripped from me." It maligns thousands of African Americans who resiliently weathered the Missouri cold and hours of bureaucratic runarounds as nothing but criminals and frauds. It leaves a woman suffering from lung cancer absolutely "distraught" and convinced that "they prevented us from voting," because none of her IDs could penetrate Wisconsin's law. It shatters the dying wish of a woman who, in her last moments on earth, wanted to cast a vote for possibly the first woman president of the United States. But an expired driver's license meant none of that was to be.”
Carol Anderson, One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy

“Iowa congressman Steve King lamented the passing of "a time in American history when you had to be a male property owner in order to vote." Florida congressional candidate Ted Yoho echoed that sentiment when he also proffered, "You used to have to be a property owner to vote." Of course, after the Great Recession, with African American homeownership lower than it had been during the 1930s and the lowest of all ethnic and racial groups in the United States, the implications of the GOP longings were obvious.”
Carol Anderson, One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy

Abhijit Naskar
“Subhas Chandra Bose is to India what George Washington is to the United States of America.”
Abhijit Naskar, Hurricane Humans: Give me accountability, I'll give you peace

Abhijit Naskar
“If America stands today as a free country, it's because of those Americans who sacrificed their lives fighting against the redcoats. But there is another side of American history which is not taught in schools. And it's the bitter side of the story, so brace for it. The only reason the country called America even exists is because the native americans who were living in the land for a long time before the pilgrims arrived here from Europe, couldn't organize a large and strong enough uprising to fight them away from their land. This is more reason for each person of this sweet land of liberty to practice assimilation not segregation - this is more reason for each of us to come to the aid of the oppressed and segregated - this is more reason for each of us to stand upright against discrimination, narcissism, prejudice and sectarianism.”
Abhijit Naskar, Hurricane Humans: Give me accountability, I'll give you peace

“Usually Americans have traditionally viewed questions of race as ancillary episodes, interesting but often exotic eddies outside the mainstream of the American experience. Thus, it was important for the [Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture] to demonstrate through its interpretive frameworks that issue of race shaped all aspects of American life: from political discourse to foreign affairs to western expansion to cultural production.... It was also essential that the stories of the museum featured reflect the tension between moments of pain and episodes of resiliency. This must not be a museum of tragedy, but a site where a nation's history is told with all its contradictions and complexity.”
Lonnie G. Bunch III, A Fool's Errand: Creating the National Museum of African American History and Culture in the Age of Bush, Obama, and Trump

“I hope that the [Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture] never retreats from embracing controversy and, no matter how multifaceted or incendiary the issue, NMAAHC will strive to help the public find contextualization and common ground in a safe and civil environment. I trust that the museum will always be a bully pulpit where boldness and innovation are more than just words. And to use that platform to combat the creeping sense of selective historical amnesia that limits America's ability to understand its past, and itself. I hope that NMAAHC will always celebrate its diverse staff in ways that nurture, protect, and challenge. And it is my hope that the museum will prod and remind other cultural entities, both within and outside of the Smithsonian, that the ultimate goal is to make a people, make a country better.”
Lonnie G. Bunch III, A Fool's Errand: Creating the National Museum of African American History and Culture in the Age of Bush, Obama, and Trump

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