Rad American History A-Z

Movements and Moments That Demonstrate the Power of the People

About the Book

From the New York Times bestselling team behind Rad American Women A-Z comes an illustrated collection of radical and transformative political, social, and cultural movements in American history.

“An engaging, fascinating, and necessary book that speaks truth to power.”—Congresswoman Barbara Lee

In Rad American History A-Z, each letter of the alphabet tells the story of a significant moment in America's progressive history--one that isn't always covered in history classes: A is for Alcatraz, and the Native occupation of 1969; C is for the Combahee River Raid, a Civil War action planned in part by Union spy Harriet Tubman; Z is for Zuccotti Park, and the Occupy movement that briefly took over the world. 

Paired with dynamic paper-cut art by Miriam Klein Stahl, the entries by Kate Schatz explore several centuries of politics, culture, art, activism, and liberation, including radical librarians, Supreme Court cases, courageous youth, punk rocker grrrls, Southern quilts, and modern witches. In addition to the twenty-six core stories, short sidebars expand the discussion, and dictionary-style lists refer readers to additional key moments. So while F is for Federal Theater Project, a New Deal-era program that employed thousands of artists, F is also for Freedom Rides and First Amendment. E is for Earth First!, but also for Endangered Species Act and Equal Rights Amendment. 

There are tales of triumph, resilience, creation, and hope. Each engaging, fact-filled narrative illustrates an eye-opening moment that shows us how we got to now--and what we need to know about our histories to create a just and sustainable future.

Advance praise for Rad American History A-Z

“I wish I’d had Rad American History A–Z when I was growing up; it’s a book I hope to read to my children one day. In such chaotic political times, this is a critical tool for young people to know how change happens, and to know that they, too, can make change happen. This book belongs on all library shelves as a transformative approach to history as we know it.”–Alicia Garza, cofounder of Black Lives Matter Global Network
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Praise for Rad American History A-Z

Rad American History A—Z is a book I wish I had when I was growing up—and it's a book I hope to read to my children one day. In such chaotic political times, Rad American History is a critical tool for young people to know how change happens—and to know that they too can make change happen. This book belongs on all library shelves and in history books as a transformative approach to history as we know it.”—Alicia Garza, founder of BlackFutures Lab and co-founder of Black Lives Matter

Rad American History A–Z is an engaging, fascinating, and necessary book that speaks truth to power. I’ve been a fan of the series for a long time and I know this addition will be a gem for all who read it.”—Congresswoman Barbara Lee

“I love all of the RAD books written by these ladies, but I think Rad American History A–Z is especially important. It’s a deeply researched, well-written, and powerfully illustrated look at our country and the people who have fought to make it better. It opens the door on many important struggles in history to minds, young and not-so-young, who may be inspired to think about conflict, protest, and social change in a new way.”—Corin Tucker, lead singer of Sleater-Kinney

“As multifaceted as the nation itself, Rad American History A–Z is an alphabet’s worth of movements and moments that have shaped the United States, including many history-makers such as young people who are often marginalized or omitted from traditional textbooks. Kate Schatz’s lively, accessible text and Miriam Klein Stahl’s energetic original art combine in a clear-eyed yet hopeful view of our shared history as a living thing—something we are all still creating.”—Rebecca Stefoff, adapter of Howard Zinn’s A Young People’s History of the United States and James W. Loewen’s Lies My Teacher Told Me: Young Readers’ Edition

Rad American History A–Z by Kate Schatz and Miriam Klein Stahl is a fabulous book! In telling the story of powerful moments in a people’s history of the United States, they fuse dynamic movements for social justice with labor history, iconic cultural innovations, landmark Supreme Court decisions, and feminist, anti-racist, and LGBT actions. With brilliant illustrations and clearly written stories of resistance, the book is an irresistible, joyous celebration of the power of the people.”—Bettina Aptheker, distinguished professor emerita of feminist studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz

“The lively writing and the complementary black-and-white illustrations make this an enticing read. . . . A concise and intriguing survey of the relentless fight for social change.”Kirkus Reviews
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Rad American History A-Z


CURB CUTS, CONSCIOUSNESS-RAISING, and constitutions. Supreme Court cases, voting rights, quilts, zines, and witches. Redwood trees and punk shows. Climate strikes and labor laws. The New Deal, the Bonus Army, and the only all-girl integrated jazz band in the US.

Librarians who fight for free speech. Athletes who take a knee. Children who march for freedom. Welcome to Rad American History A–Z, a book that explores several centuries of radical, powerful, and fascinating American histories.

We begin on Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay, where hundreds of Native Americans occupied an abandoned prison to draw attention to the plight of their people in 1969. We end in New York City’s Zuccotti Park, the tiny public space in lower Manhattan where the Occupy Wall Street movement began in 2011. In between, we range from Reconstruction to Riot Grrrl, from the East Coast to the West, and from the 16th century to the 21st. 

We’ve selected these stories for a number of reasons. For one, we think they’re rad, in the sense that they’re just really cool. For another, they also present different perspectives on how those who are considered radical have shaped and transformed America. These are people and groups with big ideas and outrageous creativity; people who have dared to be different, to fight for their rights, to create something new, and to defy unjust laws and corrupt power. In the words of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “It only has ever been radicals that have changed this country.”

RAD AMERICAN HISTORY A–Z is, of course, incomplete—because it’s a collection of stories about history, and every single book about history is incomplete. It’s impossible to include every important moment in American history, or every major significant social movement. Think of this as a sampling, a glimpse into just a few of the thousands of stories that have contributed to American history, and to the centuries-old movement for justice, equality, and truth.

Rad American History A–Z is also biased—toward the stories that don’t get told, the ones many readers won’t have heard of: stories of women, people of color, immigrants, indigenous people, and those whose histories aren’t always seen as important or central to the American story. These are the stories and truths that many people would prefer to deny, the details that often get ignored, glossed over, sanitized, or left out—especially in history books.

Here are stories of police brutality, racial terrorism, discriminatory laws and policies, the repression of women, and the mass incarceration of innocent Americans. But here too are stories of triumph, resilience, resistance, creation, and hope. The history of America cannot be boiled down to one single story, told from one single perspective—it is thousands and thousands of compelling, inspiring, sometimes shocking stories, told from the points of view of the diverse humans who’ve populated this land. Rad American History A–Z explores how we got to where we are now—and what we need to know about our histories in order to create a just, sustainable future.

HISTORY IS NEVER NEUTRAL—it’s never not political or somehow separate from culture and experience. The histories we learn are always shaped by the one doing the documenting, the teaching, the writing, the telling.

As artists, we made specific decisions on every page of this book. Some were practical: details got left out, due to word count and page limits. But beyond that, we made very intentional choices about which stories to include—and how to tell them. Where to begin and end? What points of view do we include? What might surprise, excite, and engage readers? What do we want people to know about America?

Our approach to answering these questions was to talk to people: to scholars and historians and journalists and movement leaders. To college professors and high school and middle school history teachers. And also: to the people who were there. The people who have participated in the moments and movements we explore, and those who are descended from the folks who once did. These generous and wise individuals shared their insight, their experiences, and their expertise, and helped us shape each story, and the book as a whole.

We asked them: What stories are you excited to see included? What is not there? Who and what are we overlooking? We reached out to people about specific stories and asked: What’s a little-known aspect of this history that we might explore? What do people often get wrong about this event or movement—and how does your community want this story to be told?

LANADA WAR JACK, the first Native American woman to attend UC Berkeley, described what it was like to arrive on Alcatraz Island that night in 1969. Leroy Hill, a speaker for the Grand Council of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy, clarified the political and cultural history of his people.

Eric Reiss shared stories about his late mother, Dr. Louise Reiss, whose pioneering work on the effects of nuclear radiation has long gone unrecognized. Tony Uranday, the son of the late farmworker and organizer Esther Uranday, also offered memories of growing up with a remarkable mother.

Judy Nagosian and Joan Ditzion talked about what it was like to write Our Bodies, Ourselves, the bestselling women’s health book of all time. Barbara Smith explained specific details about the early days of the Combahee River Collective. Alicia Garza discussed how she feels about being called the “founder” of Black Lives Matter.

Musician Corin Tucker and artist Tammy Rae Carland shared memories of their first encounters with Riot Grrrl. Amanda Yates Garcia described the witchcraft lineage she’s descended from. David Solnit offered anecdotes from the antinuclear protests he attended in Nevada in the 1980s. And multiple young climate activists detailed what they’re doing to protect the planet—and why it matters so much.

This process was especially important because of our own limited experiences and perspectives as white women creating a book like this. While we strive to be antiracist, and to share histories in the most respectful, accurate ways, we were brought up in educational and cultural systems that placed white people—mostly men—at the center of history and failed to teach us so much. Part of writing a book like this is unlearning our own internalized white supremacy, and we’re grateful to those who have offered corrections and pointed to places where we’ve needed to deepen our research and do better.

WE ALSO DREW UPON our own experiences and memories—these are valid forms of history-telling too. We toured a Center for Independent Living; we explored the extensive archives of Sister Corita Kent with the archivists who preserve her work. Miriam remembered her days as a young punk attending Riot Grrrl shows; Kate looked back at photos from Earth First! demonstrations she attended at Headwaters Forest in the 1990s; and we both recalled moments from the Occupy movement.

Miriam’s great-aunt Doris worked at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. She wasn’t there on the day of the deadly fire, but she’s there in the illustration that Miriam created. And the X chapter (pages 148–149) is inspired by our own high school history notebooks. It represents both the histories we wish we’d been taught, as well as the histories we have taught ourselves in the years since, as teachers, as activists, as history geeks, and as feminists looking to the past in order to understand our future.

We learned a lot while making this book, and we hope that you’ll also learn a few new things—about your history, your culture, your country, and yourself.

Thanks for reading, and for being rad.

Kate & Miriam

Rad Women Series

Rad American History A-Z
Rad Girls Can
Rad Women Worldwide: 20 Mini-Posters
My Rad Life
Rad American Women A-Z Postcards
Rad Women Worldwide

About the Author

Kate Schatz
KATE SCHATZ is a feminist writer, activist, and educator. She is the author of the New York Times best sellers Rad American Women A-Z and Rad Women Worldwide, and the accompanying journal, My Rad Life. Kate is the co-founder of Solidarity Sundays, a nationwide network of feminist activist groups, and she speaks often about politics, resistance, feminism, race, parenting, and more. More by Kate Schatz
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About the Author

Miriam Klein Stahl
MIRIAM KLEIN STAHL is an artist, educator, and activist and the illustrator of the New York Times best sellers Rad American Women A-Z and Rad Women Worldwide, and the accompanying journal, My Rad Life. In addition to her work in printmaking, drawing, sculpture, and paper-cut and public art, she is also the co-founder of the Arts and Humanities Academy at Berkeley High School, where she has taught since 1995. More by Miriam Klein Stahl
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