Wide Awake: The Forgotten Force that Elected Lincoln and Spurred the Civil War (Hardcover)

Wide Awake: The Forgotten Force that Elected Lincoln and Spurred the Civil War By Jon Grinspan Cover Image
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“A gifted writer.”-Eric Foner, The Nation

A propulsive account of our history's most surprising, most consequential political club: the Wide Awake anti-slavery youth movement that marched America from the 1860 election to civil war.

At the start of the 1860 presidential campaign, a handful of fired-up young Northerners appeared as bodyguards to defend anti-slavery stump speakers from frequent attacks. The group called themselves the Wide Awakes. Soon, hundreds of thousands of young White and Black men, and a number of women, were organizing boisterous, uniformed, torch-bearing brigades of their own. These Wide Awakes--mostly working-class Americans in their twenties--became one of the largest, most spectacular, and most influential political movements in our history. To some, it demonstrated the power of a rising majority to push back against slavery. To others, it looked like a paramilitary force training to invade the South. Within a year, the nation would be at war with itself, and many on both sides would point to the Wide Awakes as the mechanism that got them there.

In this gripping narrative, Smithsonian historian Jon Grinspan examines how exactly our nation crossed the threshold from a political campaign into a war. Perfect for readers of Lincoln on the Verge and TheField of Blood, Wide Awake bears witness to the power of protest, the fight for majority rule, and the defense of free speech. At its core, Wide Awake illuminates a question American democracy keeps posing, about the precarious relationship between violent speech and violent actions.

About the Author

Jon Grinspan is Curator of Political History at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. He is the author of the award-winning The Virgin Vote: How Young Americans Made Democracy Social, Politics Personal, and Voting Popular in the 19th Century. He frequently contributes to the New York Times, and has been featured in The New Yorker, the Washington Post, and elsewhere. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Praise For…

“Jon Grinspan's richly detailed book more than earns its place on the teeming shelf of Civil War histories. This timely story of the half-forgotten Wide Awakes bears a powerful message for our frustrating political moment: the force that binds a coalition together lives as much in the feeling body as it does in the thinking head.” —Alexis Coe, bestselling author of YOU NEVER FORGET YOUR FIRST

“Grinspan's brilliant account of the Wide Awakes bristles with contemporary relevance. The dramatic story of this forgotten movement illuminates the militarism and violence, the passion and paranoia, in our politics. Here, brought to vivid life, is the pageant of American democracy in all its captivating complexity.” —Elizabeth R. Varon, author of LONGSTREET

“At last we have a history worthy of the Wide Awakes. This extraordinary youth movement played a pivotal role in electing Abraham Lincoln in 1860, and sent a loud signal to the world that Americans of conscience would no longer turn a blind eye to slavery. Jon Grinspan combines deep archival research with crackling prose to offer a book of surpassing resonance for their time and our own.” —Ted Widmer, author of LINCOLN ON THE VERGE

“Grinspan writes that most agreed that the system of slavery involved the silencing of opposition by violence-and in that sense, his book is timely indeed . . . A welcome study of an overlooked aspect of the Civil War and the events leading up to it.” —Kirkus Reviews

“[Grinspan is] a gifted writer . . . The reader is swept along as if in the midst of one of the era's mass parades.” —Eric Foner, The Nation on THE AGE OF ACRIMONY

The Age of Acrimony is that rare disturbance in the waters of the historiography of 19th-century America . . . An engaging, inviting, and ultimately disruptive story.” —The Boston Globe

“Brisk, edifying . . . Illuminate[s] a half-century of strife and grudging reform.” —Minneapolis Star-Tribune on THE AGE OF ACRIMONY

Product Details
ISBN: 9781639730643
ISBN-10: 1639730648
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Publication Date: May 14th, 2024
Pages: 352
Language: English