We received much mail on “American Rebels,” our Independence Day issue from the forthcoming Nation Books release edited by Jack Newfield [July 21/28]. The response was overwhelmingly positive, although some found the choices controversial and many nominated their own rebels (some of whom will indeed be in the book), to wit: Russell Means (and a list of “noncitizens” that included Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, Chief Joseph, Geronimo, Cochise and ten more Native Americans), Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, Lennie Tristano, Martin Luther King Jr., Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, the Berrigan brothers, Helen Woodson, Ernest and Marion Bromley, Dave Dellinger, Maurice McCracklin, A.J. Muste, Juanita and Wally Nelson, Sojourner Truth, Zora Neale Hurston, bell hooks, Gloria Anzaldúa, Chela Sandoval, Alice Walker, June Jordan, Maxine Hong Kingston, Randolph Bourne, Lucy Parsons, William Sylvis, Bartolomeo Vanzetti, Barrows Dunham, Clarence Darrow, W.E.B. Du Bois, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Herbert Biberman, Eugene McCarthy and William Kunstler. –The Editors


When Jack Newfield’s book American Rebels is published, I’ll be handing it out to my kids (all adults) and their friends. What a lode of inspiration! Thanks, Jack, and to all the writers, for a brilliant shaft of sunlight through the gloomy clouds!


Bridgewater, Va.

I am pleased to know that I am not the only sixties survivor who still believes in the ideals that many of us supported then. Thank you, Jack. I feel better now.


New York City

Do you know why so few young people read your magazine? Ask yourselves, What does everyone on the cover of the excellent “American Rebels” issue have in common? They are all dead. Next time, I suggest a cover of leading activists under the age of 30. If the editors are too old or too stuck in the 1960s antiwar/civil rights era to know any, call me. I am 27. I’ll put a list together for you. Everyone knows about Bob Moses, Miles Davis and Walt Whitman. I want to know about Jeremy Scahill, Jeff Guntzel, Vivien Labaton.


We are pleased to report that Bob Moses is alive and well–and that learning from history has nothing to do with your age. –The Editors

New York City

We hear Walt Whitman singing, too–opera, that is. As Americans of Italian heritage, we are proud that this most American of poets drew his inspiration from Italian opera. Attending free outdoor concerts in New York, Whitman fell in love with the bel canto works of Bellini, Donizetti, Rossini and early Verdi. Whitman’s description of tenor Cesare Badiali can also serve as a vivid self-portrait: “a big, coarse, broad-chested feller, invested, however, with an absolute ease of demeanor; a master of his art–confident, powerful and self-sufficient.” As Whitman said, “But for the opera, I could never have written Leaves of Grass.”

Italic Institute of America

New York City

What an amazing piece on I.F. Stone! Doing research on Izzy, I was impressed by his confidence and intellect. The late Edith Tiger told me, “Izzy was never afraid to admit publicly that he’d been wrong.” For example, he’d gone to Palestine in 1947 to write a glowing book about the Haganah and the creation of a place for Jews, who’d been “hurt by bullies of Europe.” But as soon as he learned of the way the Palestinian Arabs were being treated, he incurred the wrath of Zionists, many of whom had been his supporters, by coming out in favor of a binational state. A man who briefly joined the Communist Party while in high school, Izzy had a lingering soft spot for socialist experiments. But after visiting the Soviet Union in the 1950s he said, “These are not honest men.”


Vancouver, BC

There is an odd omission from your tribute to I.F. Stone’s integrity and independence: his turnaround on Israel. No sooner was the 1967 Arab-Israeli war over than Stone began to criticize Israel’s actions and morals. He was well ahead of most journalists in this regard.


New York City

I.F. Stone was not only an outstanding journalist but also a good historian. I am particularly grateful for his groundbreaking book The Hidden History of the Korean War. Published in 1952, it is still one of the best books on the subject. It exposed the “axis of evil” of the time: MacArthur, Rhee and Chiang.


Newbury Park, Calif.

This quote from Izzy seems scarily apropos today, but it also seems like classic Izzy: “Now, government lies, but it doesn’t like to lie literally. Because a literal, flat and obvious lie tends to be caught up. So, what they do is, they become the masters of the disingenuous statement, of phrasing something in such a way that the honest, normal and unwary reader gets one impression–that he is supposed to get. And then, three months later, when he discovers it’s not true and he goes back to complain, they say, ‘That isn’t what we said. Look at it carefully.’ You look at it carefully, and sure enough, it was really double-talk, it didn’t say exactly what you thought.”


New York City

The Women’s Environment and Development Organization is proud to see our founder, Bella Abzug, on the cover of The Nation. Now more than ever we need Bella’s vision and truth-telling in the face of the Bush Administration’s extreme right-wing organizing at home and its imperialist ambitions abroad. WEDO continues Bella’s fight for gender equality and social justice. WEDO is challenging the negative impacts of globalization on women and the poor, and demanding a US foreign policy that respects multilateralism and advances peace and human rights. As Bella always said when I was her legislative assistant in Congress, “We must each wear the hat of an advocate. Never hesitate to tell the truth. Never give in. Never give up.”

Executive director, WEDO (www.wedo.org)

New York City

There’s more to the story of Bella Abzug’s run for mayor of New York. In 1976 Bella gave up her safe seat in the House to run for the Senate (slogan: “A woman’s place is in the House–and the Senate”) and came in second with 35 percent of the vote. Third and fourth were Ramsey Clark and Paul O’Dwyer, with a combined 20 percent. Do the math; what might have been… Jimmy Carter, for whose election Bella had worked like hell, treated her like crap, and she went looking for a job. Hence, the mayoral try.



As a jazz musician, I should be glad one of our number was included in your pantheon of American rebels, but my heart sank when I saw it was establishment icon Miles Davis. A middling trumpet player who did have a fine knack for putting a band together and a genius for self-promotion, this guy did more to take the spark of joy out of jazz than anybody I can think of. And jazz sure has its joyous rebels: Louis Armstrong, who sang “I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead” on the radio to the Southern sheriff who’d detained his band that day, and who bucked Eisenhower at considerable personal expense after Little Rock; or Lester Young, who suffered cruel ridicule at the hands of musicians for his strange new sound (soon enough to become the sound of the tenor saxophone), as well as persecution at the hands of the Army. Best would have been pianist Lennie Tristano, who made so many innovations and simply played better than anybody, but who thought the business was such a drag that he played and recorded at home and supported himself by teaching.


West Chester, Pa.

Miles Davis returned to Boston after a long hiatus to a sold-out hall. A fan for decades, I greeted him at the stage door with daffodils. His men moved to stop me, but he accepted the flowers. “That’s nice,” he said. He spoke to one of his aides, who asked me if I had a ticket. When I told him the show was sold out, he told me to wait. The aide returned with a second-row-center ticket! During the concert, Miles touched his lips and threw me a kiss. My seatmates looked at me in wonder. I was a 50-year-old white woman.


Manchester, Conn.

Will the left never end its willful blindness to the fact that Margaret Sanger wholeheartedly embraced the same eugenic theories that inspired Hitler, whose regime admired many of her suggestions about insuring the purity of “the race”? The charges against Sanger are irrefutable, despite the dismissal of them as regarding her “character.” Well, what kind of “character” would write, “Modern studies indicate that insanity, epilepsy, criminality, prostitution, pauperism, and mental defect are all organically bound up together and that the least intelligent and the thoroughly degenerate classes in every community are the most prolific”? Sanger should be noted for her involvement in important court cases that affirmed the power of the First Amendment, but so could any number of Nazis and Klansmen.


New York City

In a period of growing assaults not just on Roe v. Wade but on reproductive rights generally, the article on Margaret Sanger is a timely reminder of what true activists are made of. For a more direct view of Sanger, a still highly controversial figure, readers can check out the first volume in our four-volume edition of her papers: The Selected Papers of Margaret Sanger, Vol. 1: The Woman Rebel, 1900-1928 (Illinois).

The Margaret Sanger Papers Project
New York University

Rhinebeck, NY

In the late 1960s my fellow Jesuit Dan Berrigan introduced me to Dorothy Day down on the Bowery, where he was saying mass for her motley group of winos and other downtrodden people. More than thirty years later, now as an ex-Jesuit and recovering Catholic, I still regard Dorothy Day (and Dan Berrigan, for that matter) as the embodiment of the best the Catholic Church has to offer. They are to the church what your inspiring American rebels are to our country.