Writing Freedom: Turning Primary Documents to Narrative Nonfiction
The American Revolution never ended. It was fundamentally a promise of freedom, but the freedom that came with it was only partial. Traditional accounts assume there were two sides: the British and the American colonists. But in fact there were many “sides” clamoring over freedom. While the region of North America that broke with England was English in a sense, it was also Iroquois, Cherokee, and Shawnee. It was African. It was Irish, Dutch, and German. It was male and female, rich and poor, powerful and powerless. This Master Class will be based on Shorto’s forthcoming book Revolution Song: A Story of American Freedom, which weaves together the lives of six people from the revolutionary era: a slave, a native American, a loyalist woman, a founding father (George Washington), a shoemaker-patriot, and a British aristocrat. We will explore the nature of narrative, the use of primary sources, and the idea of “freedom”—what it has meant in American history, why it means different things to different people, and why the American project is still unfinished.
Russell Shorto is an American author, historian and journalist, best known for his book on the Dutch origins of New York City, The Island at the Center of the World. His forthcoming book Revolution Song: A Story of American Freedom will be published in November 2017.