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The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame Paperback – June 26, 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Nation Books (June 26, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568586817
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568586816
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #179,504 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Kirkus Reviews
“Crisp, snappy bios of important progressive Americans in recent history. . . . A provocative collection that includes a timeline and a roster of up-and-coming contenders for a new century already showing signs of progress.”

Jonathan Kozol

“A compelling narrative of the major social justice movements of the United States and the ways that high ideals are transformed into action. I’ve found myself caught up in the sweep of history the book encompasses and in the richness of the details embedded in each story. Terrific reading.”

Frances Fox Piven“A great collection of gripping stories. A book you won’t want to put down.” Robert Kuttner“Peter Dreier’s superb book is a timely and heartening reminder that America’s most valuable citizens were resolute and inventive progressives. A wonderfully written antidote to this decade’s choice between centrism and defeatism.”
Nelson Lichtenstein, MacArthur Foundation Chair in History, University of California, Santa Barbara

“Skillfully crafted... a call to action for our generation and the next.”
Joe Harting, KBTK’s Mitch and Joe Show
“[Dreier] is the kind of guest that is made for stimulating talk!”

America Magazine: The National Catholic Weekly“Since the tabloid culture trivialized public virtue by the indiscriminate use of the termhero, it is refreshing when a publication gives an overused term like greatest a sharper definition. Nation Books has published The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame, by Peter Dreier, a distinguished professor of politics at Occidental College. Greatness, for Mr. Dreier, describes those who make the United States ‘a more just, equal and democratic society.’” San Francisco/Sacramento Book Review“This invaluable compendium will be of interest to the general reader or scholar, closing with an outstanding bibliography. [An] outstanding reference book….” Andrew Tonkovich, OC Weekly’s Bookly Blog (Costa Mesa, CA)“[P]rovocatively fun. . . [T]he book is both predictably satisfying and also a discovery, with plenty of names new to this amateur Lefty history scholar—and a generous “B” list of another fifty of Dreier’s favorites. . . . [I]n his clearly life and struggle-affirming collection of portraits of some of the greatest citizen-activists in the history of our republic, Peter Dreier might fool us into seeing something like progress. . . . Reading these lovely sketches, of real people (with failings, tragedies, mistakes made) he seems to me to add lightning velocity to betterness and betterhood.” Beyond Chron (San Francisco, CA)“[G]iven the current climate of rising inequality and economic unfairness, Dreier’s inspiring histories of these courageous and idealistic visionaries could not have come at a better time. . . . Dreier includes enough kernels of wisdom and insights in each piece to leave readers marveling at the legacy the 100 have left.” Ron Radish, PJ Media“So the reason I got the book — I know how publishers and their publicity departments work — is that Dreier asked them to mail it to me. Expecting me to take the bait and attack the book, he could then come up with a line for an ad: “The reactionary right-wing writer Ron Radosh hates this book, so you know it has to be good,” or something along those lines. So, indeed, I accept the challenge, and henceforth will make some serious observations about what Dreier has written.” Library Journal“[T]his book openly celebrates the people behind the progressive ideas and movements that have shaped the United States and its history and that [Dreier] believes have made it a more humane and inclusive place. . . . [Of] interest to people who enjoy reading history and are interested in those who made a real difference in American progressive life.” Jack Rothman, Professor Emeritus at the UCLA School of Public Affairs, writing for the Huffington Post“The array of personages covers varied ethnic identities and ideological leanings. The narratives are crisp and readable, reflecting Professor Dreier's earlier career as a journalist. . . . With so many right-wing and callous influences saturating our culture, the book serves as a wholesome antidote.” History Wire“[F]ew will deny that the progressive subjects chosen… have stepped up to the plate for a variety of noble causes far more than the average citizen. . . . Liberals will easily find people of like mind whatever their field of interest.” Frying Pan News.org“[N]ervy… A corrective to Greatest Generation blather, Dreier’s 100 profiles refract a century of progressive movements through the lives of leaders whose native radicalism helped push America toward a more humane vision of society.” ALA Booklist“Author Dreier has put his years of experience as a teacher, community organizer, government official, and journalist together to condense a century of astounding change and action into one volume. Hard decisions must have been made, but in the end, The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame brings together names and faces from every movement and every decade. . . . Overall, a solid, if broad, entry in an ever-topical field.”

John Atlas, Huffington Post Occupy Wall Street blog“Dreier brings his 100 greatest Americans to life with pithy, dramatic and colorful biographies and presents them warts and all. … Dreier is clearly trying not only to educate readers but also provoke them to think differently about our history and to reconsider what we mean by "great." While you might not agree with Dreier's hundred, he provides an impressive case for the importance of leadership and social movements and how progressives and radicals inside and outside of the establishment made America a more livable and humane society.” Red Weather Review (online)
“Dreier, a politics professor at Occidental College, has produced a labor of love that will dazzle lefty readers and offer others insights into the lives of men and women who have dedicated themselves to fostering social change in the United States. They range from the widely celebrated Jackie Robinson and Ted Kennedy to less seemly, in-your face figures like Rev. William Sloane Coffin, the Yale chaplain and antiwar activist, and Rose Schneiderman, the young Jewish immigrant, sweatshop worker, and union organizer.”

Harold Meyerson, The American Prospect Blog“[E]minently valuable…. an outstanding reference work that provides portraits of movement activists, exceptional legislators, dissident artists and prophetic voices from the era of Eugene Debs through the time of Tony Kushner….[D]eeply researched and highly readable.” John Atlas, Shelterforce“Dreier’s well-written and inspiring book belongs on the shelves of all social justice activists and would be a great gift for Americans, young and old, who need to be taught (or reminded) that, as Dreier writes, we all stand on the shoulders of the progressives and radicals who made America a more livable and humane society.”

About the Author

Peter Dreier is E. P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics and Director of the Urban and Environmental Policy Program at Occidental College. He writes regularly for the Nation, American Prospect, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Talking Points Memo. He lives in Los Angeles, California.

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Customer Reviews

The biographies are brief and well written.
Diane Mautner
It's a great book to read at your leisure ... you could do a story a day for 100 days or, as I did, find it hard to set aside.
Kathleen Mele
This is a book that every progressive and history buff will want to own.
B. McEwan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By B. McEwan TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 15, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a book that every progressive and history buff will want to own. It is an excellent overview of key figures in 20th Century American progressive movements, thus making it a useful reference book to keep on the shelf of a home library. The thumbnail bios of the 100 people included in author Peter Dreier's "social justice hall of fame" are concise and easy to read, making this a book that I will return to again and again to refresh my memory of who was who and what they accomplished.

Dreier's introduction, in which he explains his criteria for selecting the 100, is a good read in itself. The author explains what in his view makes someone great, and it is more than just having an idea, or even of acting on that idea to achieve results. Ultimately, says Dreier, greatness in a social justice context may be applied only to those whose ideas had "moral force." Americans "who may have been great in their specific fields of endeavor, but who did not contribute to making America a more just, equal or democratic society" are omitted from this particular collection. He mentions a few of those who, although highly influential, did not make the cut, including Bill Gates, Ronald Reagan, Walt Disney, Babe Ruth, James Watson and Ernest Hemingway. Some of those, explains Dreier, "actively opposed movements for social justice." This made me think of Reagan's comment that ketchup should be considered a vegetable in school lunches and of Walt Disney naming names, falsely, in front of the notorious House Un-American Activities Committee.

That is not to say that those individuals who are included in the book are unadulterated good guys.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Glenn Weisfeld on April 9, 2013
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This book is a very authoritative collection of sketches of the lives of some transformative figures in recent US history. These are people that the standard textbooks gloss over. Foibles of these stalwarts and sectarian disputes are acknowledged. Labor history in particular needs this sort of attention. The book is very well written and lively, although the author makes a common mistake in using "whom." This book should inspire activists to emulate these true heroes. Most of your favorites are here, and some obscure ones are recognized.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Natalie on November 6, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is just simply a terrific book. It is a series of short biographical notes on the 100 most important progressives of the 20th century. But that really doesn't do justice to the book. Reading these stories gives you a really great understanding of and appreciation for the leaders of the progressive movement. It seems that today, few people remember, must less understand, the leadership roles and sacrifices these men and women undertook in making the United States what it is today. If your history classes in high school and college skipped this important part of our history (and most did!), then you owe it yourself to buy this book and become educated about a period in our history that the powers that be would very much like us all to forget.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful By J. Markham on August 10, 2012
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I thoroughly enjoyed reading this well-researched and fascinating anthology of the great movers and shakers of our time - past and present history. The theme that the radical ideas of the past have become the accepted norms of the day rings true (unionizing, women's suffrage, integration), which is why it is that much more important that we recognize the individuals who have paved the way. Prof. Dreier's choices combine recognizable names with those seemingly written out of the history books - I am definitely looking forward to a sequel!
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Kathleen Mele on December 3, 2012
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If there were more Progressive's on school boards, these are the kinds of stories you might find in Social Studies textbooks. These are the stories we should have learned in school. The 100 names whose stories are told here are not all names you will recognize. Some are very well known and others are names that should be. It's a great book to read at your leisure ... you could do a story a day for 100 days or, as I did, find it hard to set aside.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Thomas W. Day on December 7, 2012
Format: Paperback
I'm surprised there aren't more illiterate pseudo-con "reviews" of this book. The hillbillies who have panned it obviously didn't read much of "The 100 Greatest Americans." I expect they're disappointed their mythical heroes, Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, and Ronny Rayguns, are missing. However, the examples listed in this book are inspiring in a time when corporate welfare and criminality has peaked, again. If nothing else, this could serve as motivation for the Occupy kids who need all of the inspiration they can find in a nation full of Walmart customers and McDonalds/Monsanto consumers.

The beauty of a book like this is that you can randomly pick a page and find an inspirational short biography to kick start your day. I checked this out from the library, but quickly ended up owning a copy. It makes an interesting gift, too.
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14 of 21 people found the following review helpful By John Atlas on July 6, 2012
Format: Paperback
Just finished reading Peter Dreier's new book, The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame. It's an uplifting, inspiring easy-to-read book about the people and movements that changed America for the better. Some (like Martin Luther King, Jane Addams, and Betty Friedan) are well-known but many of them are not as famous as they should be, and Dreier's book brings them to life. It even has a great chapter on the 21st Century, introducing us to some of the key activists currently on the front lines of the struggle for social justice. The book makes a great gift. Social justice groups should order copies for staff, leaders, and members.
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