Cover image for The untold history of the United States : young readers edition. Volume 1, 1898-1945
The untold history of the United States : young readers edition. Volume 1, 1898-1945
Stone, Oliver, author.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Atheneum Books for Young Readers, [2014]
Physical Description:
383 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
A people's history of the American Empire, adapted for the next generation of young history buffs.
Rebirth of a nation -- Roots of an Empire -- The New Deal: "I welcome their hatred" -- World War II: Who really defeated Germany -- The bomb: The tragedy of a small man.
Reading Level:
Ages 10 up.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
E741 .S763 2014 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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A people's history of the American Empire, adapted for the next generation of young history buffs.

There is history as we know it. And there is history we should have known.

Adapted by Newbery Honor recipient Susan Campbell Bartoletti from the bestselling book (and companion to the Showtime documentary) The Untold History of the United States by Academy Award-winning director Oliver Stone and renowned historian Peter Kuznick, this first of four volumes presents young readers with a powerful and provocative look at the past century of American imperialism.

This is not the kind of history taught in schools or normally presented on television or in popular movies. This riveting young readers' edition challenges prevailing orthodoxies to reveal the dark reality about the rise and fall of the American empire for curious, budding historians who are hungry for the truth. Based on the latest archival findings and recently declassified information, this four-volume series will come as a surprise to the vast majority of students and their teachers--and that's precisely why these books are such crucial counterpoints to today's history textbooks.

Complete with photos, illustrations, and little-known documents, this first of four volumes covers crucial moments in American history from the late nineteenth century to the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Author Notes

William Oliver Stone was born on September 15, 1946 in New York City. He attended Yale University for two years but left to enlist the U.S. Army requesting combat duty in Vietnam. He fought with the 25th Infantry Division, then with the First Cavalry Division, earning a Bronze Star, a Army Commendation Medal, and a Purple Heart before his discharge in 1968 after 15 months. Stone graduated from film school at New York University in 1971, where he was mentored by director Martin Scorsese.

He is an American film director, screenwriter, and producer. In the late 1970s, Stone was a scriptwriter and directed his first two films Seizure and The Hand. In 1978 he won his first Academy Award, after adapting true-life jail tale Midnight Express into a hit film for British director Alan Parker (the two would later collaborate on a 1996 movie of stage musical Evita). His other films include Scarface, Conan the Barbarian, JFK, and Natural Born Killers. He received two more Academy Awards for his work on the films Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July. His book, The Untold History of The United States, was published in 2012.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up-This adaptation of Stone and Kuznick's adult companion to Stone's Showtime network documentary examines instances where the United States "has betrayed its mission and the ideals of its own Constitution," especially in foreign affairs. As one might expect, the authors are critical of American politics and policies, discussing American imperialism in the Spanish American War, the malevolent dominance of armament and financial interests in World War I, and inadequate relief and reform during the Great Depression. About half of the book is devoted to World War II; the authors credit the Soviet Union for the Allied victory in Europe and criticize British and American failures to fully aid the Soviets and respect their need for a postwar buffer zone in Eastern Europe. They lionize Franklin Roosevelt's second vice president, the very progressive Henry Wallace, and are extremely critical of "small man" Harry Truman, whom they claim unnecessarily unleashed the atomic bomb on an already defeated Japan to diminish Soviet power and influence. The adaptation uses only a fraction of the adult title's content and is short on background and introductory material necessary for context. Contrary to the title's claim, much of this material is discussed in secondary history texts and YA library titles. It is similar in perspective to the second volume of Howard Zinn's A Young People's History of the United States (Seven Stories, 2007) and falls short of the objective coverage and analysis sought by most school libraries.-Mary Mueller, Rolla Public Schools, MO (c) Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Untold History of the United States, Volume 1 1 Writing History with Lightning The Birth of a Nation It was 1915, and chairs lined the long Central Hall on the second floor of the White House. The drapes were drawn, the gaslights turned down. A film projector clicked and whirred, its beam of light focused on the far wall like the great eye of a cyclops. President Woodrow Wilson, the twenty-eighth president of the United States, and his cabinet members and their families had gathered together to watch the first movie ever shown in the White House. The movie was called The Birth of a Nation. It was directed by D. W. Griffith. The three-hour-long movie was a black-and-white silent film; it had no spoken dialogue. Actors used gestures and pantomime to convey what they wanted to say. During key moments, title cards summarized the action. In short, The Birth of a Nation was a story told without words. Woodrow Wilson and the rest of the moviegoers that night didn't need words. They knew the setting, the characters, and the plot. They knew the good guys--and the villains. The movie was based on a popular book called The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan, a novel written by a Southern white Baptist minister named Thomas Dixon Jr. Using the worst racial stereotypes, Dixon tells a story that encompasses the antebellum South, the Civil War, Lincoln's assassination, Reconstruction, and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. The heroic Klansmen gallop in to rescue helpless white Southern women from the clutches of lustful black men. Dixon claimed that his novel was the "true story of the Ku Klux Klan conspiracy that overturned the Reconstruction government." But it was the exact opposite of the truth, and the president of the United States was screening it in the nation's capital. Movie poster for The Birth of a Nation. The Facts of Reconstruction and the Ku Klux Klan The actual record of Reconstruction and the Ku Klux Klan reveals a different story: The Ku Klux Klan formed in Tennessee in 1866, one year after the Civil War ended. Soon Klan groups spread across the South. Its members committed themselves to the use of physical violence in order to maintain white supremacy and violate the civil rights of others. The Klan attacked--and killed--black Americans who dared to speak out and who exercised their right to earn a living, buy land, attend school, worship as they pleased, and vote (a right granted to black men nationwide in 1870 by the Fifteenth Amendment). They attacked and killed white Americans who supported the rights of black Americans and who didn't vote the way the Klan wanted. The Klan's first wave of violence swept over the South from 1866 through 1871. That year, the federal government sent troops to arrest Klansmen and restore peace. For eight months, a joint committee of US senators and representatives investigated. They gathered testimonies, held trials, and handed down sentences. Two members of the Ku Klux Klan in their disguises. But it was too little too late. Most of the arrested Klansmen paid small fines and received minimal sentences. Many received suspended sentences and a warning. Often charges were simply dropped. Some Klansmen went into hiding or fled to avoid punishment. Many were pardoned. By 1872, the federal government succeeded in breaking up the Klan, but it couldn't dissolve white supremacists' commitment to control elections and the lives of African Americans. That commitment led to the resurgence of the Klan in the 1920s in reaction to foreign immigration, and again in 1960 as a reaction to the civil rights movement. Dixon's novel and D. W. Griffith's movie adaptation of it ignored the brutal realities of the Ku Klux Klan. Instead, the Klansmen were portrayed as noble white-robed knights who reluctantly took the law into their own hands in order to rescue white Southerners, especially "helpless" white women, from racial violence and what whites termed "Negro rule." This view of history is false. Southern white women were not helpless. They showed physical and emotional strength as they worked and managed businesses and farms while their husbands, fathers, and sons fought in the war. "Negro rule," or the notion that the newly freed and enfranchised black Americans would dominate and rule over white Americans, was true only in the wild imaginations of fearful whites--and perhaps in the wistful imaginations of black Americans who yearned to more fundamentally upset American racial hierarchy. The Birth of a Nation premiered in Los Angeles and opened to a packed house at New York's Liberty Theater on March 3, 1915. Soon the popular film opened in theaters across the country. African Americans who attended the movie deplored the ugly portrayal of the freed people--those who could have very well been their parents or grandparents--as lawless, ignorant, amoral, lecherous, and violent characters. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) protested the movie vociferously. It cataloged the film's numerous falsehoods and attempted to educate the public about the dire circumstance blacks faced in the post-Civil War South. Despite the protests and educational campaigns--and despite the blatant disregard for the historical record--the film became a phenomenal box-office hit. In 1915, the film inspired a group of white Southern men to climb to the top of Stone Mountain in Georgia and burn a cross. With this cross burning, the Ku Klux Klan, disbanded since 1872, rose again. The Klan used the movie to launch a recruiting campaign. Soon the group spread throughout the United States, and membership exploded to more than five million. The second wave of Klansmen renewed the fight to maintain white supremacy throughout the United States. They portrayed themselves as a pro-Christian, pro-American brotherhood. They added Catholics, Jews, immigrants, liberals, welfare recipients, and labor unions to their list of hated targets. That same year, 1915, fifty-six blacks and thirteen whites were lynched. Five were women. The Embellished History Woodrow Wilson sat in the darkened Central Hall, watching the closing scenes of The Birth of a Nation. In these scenes, Ku Klux Klan members ride in on their horses to rescue a poor white family from corrupt federal soldiers. The Klansmen take guns away from the freedmen and intimidate black voters at the polls. In this way, the Klansmen believe they have restored peace to South Carolina. The movie's final title card appears: Liberty and union, one and inseparable, now and forever. After the final credits, the film projector whirred and clicked to the end of the reel. Someone must have asked the president what he thought about the movie, because an enthusiastic Wilson reportedly said, "It is like writing history with Lightning and my only regret is that it is all so terribly true." Except it wasn't. It was all so terribly untrue. How did such a movie, one filled with so much misinformation disguised as fact, make its way to the White House? And, perhaps more disturbing, why did the president of the United States, a man with a PhD from Johns Hopkins University who went on to become president of Princeton University, accept the film's version of history so easily? President Wilson screened The Birth of a Nation as a personal favor to his close friend Thomas Dixon Jr. The president was also a historian who wrote many works, including the five-volume A History of the American People, published in 1902, and The New Freedom: A Call for the Emancipation of the Generous Energies of a People, published in 1913. This latter work, The New Freedom, served as a cornerstone to his presidential campaign. There is little doubt that the story told in The Birth of a Nation appealed to Woodrow Wilson, given his strong Southern heritage. The son of a Presbyterian minister, Wilson was born in Virginia in 1856 and was raised in Georgia and South Carolina. He was old enough to appreciate the horrors of a war that left at least 750,000 soldiers dead on both sides and one million wounded. Like his Southern forebears, Wilson grew up to regret the war's outcome and the radical changes it brought--namely, the freedmen's right to vote and receive equal protections under the law. During his presidential campaign, Wilson pledged to support justice for black Americans. "Should I become President of the United States they may count upon me for absolute fair dealing for everything by which I could assist in advancing the interests of their race." To many African Americans, Wilson betrayed that promise after his inauguration when, in line with Jim Crow laws that had separated blacks from whites since 1876, he too encouraged the separation of races. Although federal agencies were not segregated and black and white employees had worked side by side in the same offices for more than fifty years, Wilson permitted the offices of the Postmaster General, the Treasury, and the US Navy to separate black workers from white workers. The cafeterias and restrooms were segregated too. All federal job applicants had to submit photographs so that it would be easier to tell each applicant's race. Angry at the obvious discrimination, African-American leaders pressed Wilson to end discrimination based on a person's color. Wilson responded, "It is as far as possible from being a movement against the negroes. I sincerely believe it to be in their interest. [S]egregation is not humiliating but a benefit, and ought to be regarded so by you gentlemen." Both the novel The Clansman and the movie The Birth of a Nation distorted the history of race relations and reshaped it into a story that many people, including Wilson, believed. Ultimately, Wilson's belief in white supremacy may have influenced his domestic policies. Wilson, his supporters, and many other white Americans believed The Birth of a Nation because it felt true to them. History is storytelling. Usually, it's the winners who get to write it. In this case, even though the South lost the Civil War, Southerners had a big say in the history that was taught in the United States over the past 150 years. And that history has so often served to empower whites and disenfranchise black Americans. Excerpted from Untold History of the United States, 1898-1963 by Oliver Stone, Peter Kuznick All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Forewordp. xiii
Introduction: Rebirth of a Nationp. 1
1 Writing History with Lightningp. 3
The Birth of a Nationp. 3
The Facts of Reconstruction and the Ku Klux Klanp. 4
The Embellished Historyp. 7
2 The Rumblings of Revolutionp. 10
The Paris Commune: An Example for American Workersp. 11
The Rumblings of Protestp. 12
"The American Commune"p. 13
3 "Workingmen, to Arms!"p. 17
"The Concern of All"p. 18
Hay market Massacrep. 19
Private Greed versus Greater Goodp. 22
Part 1 Roots of an Empirep. 23
4 All That Glittersp. 25
"A Splendid Little War"p. 27
"To Rule, We Must Conquer"p. 29
What Really Happened in the Philippinesp. 34
5 I Pledge Allegiance to Big Businessp. 38
Presidential Assassinationp. 39
"South Americans Now Hate Us"p. 41
6 Wars South of the Borderp. 43
For the Sake of Moneyp. 43
War Is a Racketp. 46
Mexico, Inch by Inchp. 47
7 The "Great War" Beginsp. 52
A Single Sparkp. 53
Neutralityp. 55
The Lusitaniap. 56
From Neutrality to Warp. 58
8 Preaching to Americap. 61
Four Minute Menp. 62
Liberty Bondsp. 64
Propaganda and Discriminationp. 65
9 R.I.P. Freedom of Speechp. 67
The Spread of Censorshipp. 69
Chamberlain-Kahn Act of 1918p. 71
The Cost of Controlp. 73
10 Weapons of Mass Destructionp. 74
All Gloves Are Offp. 76
The Chemists' Warp. 80
11 Revolution in the Airp. 85
Lenin's Rise to Powerp. 86
Fourteen Pointsp. 88
The Aftermath in Russiap. 88
Opposition at Homep. 89
12 The War to End All Wars?p. 91
"Extremely Serious Problems"p. 92
The Rise of Fascismp. 97
13 Disillusionmentp. 99
Disillusioned Americansp. 101
Wilson's Conflicted Legacyp. 105
Part 2 The New Deal: "I Welcome Their Hatred"p. 107
14 The Stock Marketp. 109
The Bank Takes a Holiday (with Your Money)p. 111
The Rest of the Worldp. 113
Bankstersp. 113
Enter Franklin Delano Rooseveltp. 114
15 "People Can't Eat the Constitution"p. 117
The NIRA and NRAp. 120
American Fascists?p. 121
Abandoning the Goldp. 125
Baloney Dollarsp. 125
Democratic Strengthp. 127
Universal Health Carep. 127
16 "Why Should Russians Have All the Fun?"p. 131
Workers Unitep. 133
How to "Save" the USAp. 137
17 "The Time Has Come"p. 138
The Nye Committeep. 140
Taking the Profits Out of Warp. 145
18 The Profiteersp. 146
Growing Tensions in Europep. 147
American Follyp. 149
Solutions to Combat War Profiteeringp. 151
The Real Reason for Warp. 152
Infamous Chargesp. 153
The Final Reportp. 156
19 Death Calculatorsp. 157
"World Peace Through World Trade"p. 158
Another Hero for Hitlerp. 158
Doing Business with Nazisp. 162
Unintended Consequencesp. 165
Part 3 World War II: Who Really Defeated Germanyp. 167
20 A Deal with the Devilp. 169
Japan's Military Prowessp. 170
The Spread of Fascismp. 171
"A Grave Mistake"p. 173
Peace in Our Timep. 175
Blitzkriegp. 175
21 Radical Ideasp. 179
Principles over Politicsp. 180
The Responsibility of Sciencep. 182
"A Grave and Serious Situation"p. 184
"Working America into Warp. 184
22 Betrayalp. 189
Nazi Onslaughtp. 190
Americans Fail to Deliverp. 191
Behind the Scenesp. 192
War Provocationsp. 194
Intelligence Failurep. 195
A Sleeping Giant Awakenedp. 198
23 Russia, Disappointedp. 200
"Not One Step Backward"p. 203
Abandoned Plansp. 205
The Soviet Union's Heroic Strugglep. 206
Second Front Nowp. 208
24 The God of Warp. 210
Uncle Joep. 212
Finally, the Second Frontp. 214
25 The Road to a New World Orderp. 217
A Shift in Powerp. 218
"Hands Off the British Empire"p. 219
A Naughty Documentp. 221
"A Great Hope to the World"p. 223
The Death of a Presidentp. 226
26 A New Presidentp. 229
"Pray for Me Now"p. 230
The Education of President Trumanp. 232
His Cause Must Live Onp. 234
Tough-Guy Actp. 235
One More Betrayalp. 237
27 The End Is Nearp. 238
The United Nationsp. 240
A Stickler for Reciprocityp. 241
German Defeatp. 242
Another Kind of Reciprocityp. 246
The Truth Comes Outp. 247
The Number One Problemp. 249
Part 4 The Bomb: The Tragedy of a small Manp. 251
28 "Thank God for the Atom Bomb"p. 253
Entering Another World Warp. 254
"I Told You So"p. 255
The Luminariesp. 259
A Black Day for Mankindp. 260
29 The Man Would Be Presidentp. 263
A Dangerous Manp. 265
The Party Bossesp. 270
Just Five Feet Morep. 274
30 An Unconditional Surrenderp. 276
A New Presidentp. 277
A Fierce Fightp. 278
Terms of Surrenderp. 280
Uncompromising Termsp. 282
31 No Foe So Detestedp. 285
Executive Order 9066p. 288
Concentration Camps in Americap. 290
A Moral Crisisp. 295
The Atomic Decisionp. 299
32 Doubts on Destructionp. 301
One More Card to Playp. 304
"Now I Am Become Death"p. 306
Misgivings?p. 309
No Need for the Russiansp. 309
"A Peep into Hell"p. 311
33 The Race Is Not to the Swiftp. 318
The Real Targetp. 319
The Decisive Factorp. 321
Was It Necessary?p. 323
A "Cry-Baby Scientist"p. 327
A Different Outcomep. 328
A Time Line of Eventsp. 331
Photo Creditsp. 353
Sourcesp. 361
Acknowledgmentsp. 369
Indexp. 371