Review of '50 American Revolutions You're Not Supposed to Know', Mickey Z, Disinformation £6.99
50 American Revolutions You're Not Supposed to Know is a useful reminder of a different US than the one shown to us by NBC or the New York Times. This little book takes us through some interesting historical facts of resistance in the US, the stuff they don't teach you at school. How many Americans know that Seminole Indians and runaway black slaves formed an alliance in Florida? Together, 'since 1738 they had built prosperous, free, self-governing communities'. Who knows about the struggle on Christmas Eve 1837 where an 'estimated 380 to 480 African and Indians members of the Seminole nation fought and threw back over a thousand US troops'? There will be no Christmas special on television about this event.
Or what about celebrating the anniversary of the Lowell Massachusetts mill workers, the 'girls and women who went on strike in 1844 against a wage cut and formed the first women's organisation to negotiate in a collective bargaining situation'? Martha Stewart will not be making an anniversary cake to remember this fight against women's oppression and exploitation.
The New York bus companies have reason to remember the memory of Lizzie Jennings. This black woman refused to get off a segregated bus in New York in 1854, and the campaign that resulted from this led to the desegregation of New York buses by 1860. It would take a civil war and another 100 years before Rosa Parks's refusal to give up her seat, also remembered in this book, helped spark the resistance to smash the segregation of the apartheid South.
Helen Keller may have been blind, deaf and dumb, but the US authorities still feared her. Why? Because Helen was a socialist, and she had a clear vision about the nature of capitalism and war. She wrote that 'every modern war has its roots in exploitation'. She was a real fighter. I think the advice she gave during the First World War is very good and should be taken up now: 'Strike against war - without you no battles can be fought.' No wonder J Edgar Hoover of the FBI followed her every move.
We learn about the battle to make and show the movie Salt of the Earth, a real life story of the struggle of New Mexico zinc miners and their families against the bosses, for a better life. In 1953 the House Un-American Activities Committee promised 'to prevent the showing of a Communist-made film in the theatres of America'. Despite persecuting all involved, they did not succeed.
The book takes us through cultural events like Marlon Brando bursting open his T-shirt and freeing the acting profession, to the paintings of Jackson Pollock, and Lennie Bruce the comedian, who told it like it was, only to be persecuted. They all dared to challenge the status quo.
With a new generation mobilising around the anti-capitalist and anti-war movements, both young and old are hungry for the truth and inspiration. This book is about some of our moments in US history, about our struggles. Rediscovering our past helps us to shape the future. This book is a good little gift for special occasions.