American Midnight: The Great War, a Violent Peace, and Democracy’s Forgotten Crisis

Mariner: Houghton Harcourt. Oct. 2022. 384p. ISBN 9780358455462. $29.99. HIST
The chaotic period between 1917 and 1921 is an underrepresented era of American history. Students learn about World War I, but not much is studied about the violent harassment and jailing of conscientious objectors, socialists, members of the International Workers of the World (Wobblies), and the frequent, unpunished lynchings of Black people during this period. Hochschild (To End All Wars) recounts the horrors inflicted on individual citizens for attempting to speak their conscience about the U.S. involvement in the war. The American Protection League (APL), a private organization, had the approval to operate by the U.S. Department of Justice and President Wilson. Many chilling acts of violence and harassment conducted by the APL and similar groups under the guise of patriotism are depicted. Also illustrated in concise and alarming effect is how the Sedition Act and the Espionage Act were used to jail citizens as well. For example, the U.S. Postal Service used it to suppress mail that it felt was disloyal to the U.S. government or army, stopping the mailing of socialist newspapers and more.
VERDICT During the United States’ current tumultuous times, it is important to remember and revisit the forgotten injustices of the previous century. Hochschild succinctly does so here.
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