National Bestseller • New York Times and Washington Post Notable Book of 2022 • a New Yorker and Kirkus Best Book of 2022
From legendary historian Adam Hochschild, a "masterly" (New York Times) reassessment of the overlooked but startlingly resonant period between World War I and the Roaring Twenties, when the foundations of American democracy were threatened by war, pandemic, and violence fueled by battles over race, immigration, and the rights of labor
The nation was on the brink. Mobs burned Black churches to the ground. Courts threw thousands of people into prison for opinions they voiced—in one notable case, only in private. Self-appointed vigilantes executed tens of thousands of citizens’ arrests. Some seventy-five newspapers and magazines were banned from the mail and forced to close. When the government stepped in, it was often to fan the flames.
This was America during and after the Great War: a brief but appalling era blighted by lynchings, censorship, and the sadistic, sometimes fatal abuse of conscientious objectors in military prisons—a time whose toxic currents of racism, nativism, red-baiting, and contempt for the rule of law then flowed directly through the intervening decades to poison our own. It was a tumultuous period defined by a diverse and colorful cast of characters, some of whom fueled the injustice while others fought against it: from the sphinxlike Woodrow Wilson, to the fiery antiwar advocates Kate Richards O’Hare and Emma Goldman, to labor champion Eugene Debs, to a little-known but ambitious bureaucrat named J. Edgar Hoover, and to an outspoken leftwing agitator—who was in fact Hoover’s star undercover agent. It is a time that we have mostly forgotten about, until now.
In American Midnight, award-winning historian Adam Hochschild brings alive the horrifying yet inspiring four years following the U.S. entry into the First World War, spotlighting forgotten repression while celebrating an unforgettable set of Americans who strove to fix their fractured country—and showing how their struggles still guide us today.
ADAM HOCHSCHILD is the author of ten books. King Leopold’s Ghost was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, as was To End All Wars. His Bury the Chains was a finalist for the National Book Award and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and PEN USA Literary Award. He lives in Berkeley, California.
"Masterly...Hochschild’s sharp portraits and vignettes make for poignant reading." — New York Times Book Review
“In American Midnight, the historian Adam Hochschild, celebrated for his King Leopold’s Ghost and other volumes, recounts it with verve and insight… one of several fresh looks at a period that had previously received little widespread attention...Hochschild narrates a time as unsettled, frightening, and (perhaps) transformative as our own.”
— Boston Globe
“Brilliant historian Adam Hochschild … takes on the echoing years — a century ago — when pandemic and fire-stoking politicians buckled society." — Chicago Tribune
“A sweeping look at the years between World War I and the Roaring Twenties, when conscientious objectors to the war were maltreated and conflicts over race and labor were at a high pitch. Hochschild draws direct lines between events of that time and the unrest of today.”
— New York Times, 15 Works of Nonfiction to Read This Fall
“A chilling tale laid out with engaging storytelling and meticulous detail.” — Los Angeles Times
"A harrowing portrait of America in 1917-21, rife with racist violence, xenophobia and political repression abetted by the federal government. The book serves as a cautionary tale and a provocative counterpoint to our own era." — New York Times Book Review, Editors' Choice
“Exceptionally well written, impeccably organized, and filled with colorful, fully developed historical characters. … A riveting, resonant account of the fragility of freedom in one of many shameful periods in U.S. history.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Expanding his history begun in To End All Wars (2011), Hochschild brings to light people and themes that are often mere footnotes in other records of the Great War.”
— Booklist (starred review)
“Meticulously researched, fluidly written, and frequently enraging, this is a timely reminder of the ‘vigilant respect for civil rights and Constitutional safeguards’ needed to protect democracy and forestall authoritarianism.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“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.” — Library Journal (starred review)
“Award-winning historian Adam Hochschild (King Leopold's Ghost, To End All Wars and Bury the Chains) provides a timely, fast-paced, revelatory new account of a pivotal but neglected period in American history: World War I and its stormy aftermath, when bloodshed and repression on the home front nearly doomed American democracy. The period's toxic currents of racism, nativism, red-baiting, and contempt for the rule of law feel ominously familiar today.” — Shelf Awareness