The book began as a cover story in The Nation two years ago called "The 50 Most Influential Progressives of the 20th Century." The response to the article was so overwhelming that Nation Books thought it should be expanded into a book. It provoked a debate about what kind of people we should admire. Some people disagreed with people I included, or people I left out. That was what I hoped for.
The book profiles the progressive and radical organizers, activists, musicians, writers, artists, thinkers, politicians, lawyers, Supreme Court justices, and athletes who were part of the great social movements -- labor, women's rights, environmental, civil rights, etc. -- of the 20th century. Plus there's a final chapter on the 21st century -- including some of today's most effective progressive activists, organizers, writers, and thinkers -- to bring the story up to date. Some of the people in the book are quite well-known and many others should be well-known but aren't.
One of the themes of the book is that "the radical ideas of one generation are often the common sense of the next generation." For example, Social Security was considered a radical idea in 1911 when it was first introduced in Congress (by socialist Congressman Victor Berger from Milwaukee) and even when FDR proposed it during the Depression. Now even most Tea Party supporters favor Social Security, according to polls.
So far the response to the book (which came out in July) has been very positive. I've been promoting the book by doing lots of book talks, radio and TV interviews. I'll be taping the Tavis Smiley television show next week. I will be doing a book tour in New York on October 16 -- 19, including a talk at the New School and a talk sponsored by Demos where Bill Moyers will be interviewing me. I was even on Bill O'Reilly's Fox News show last month, where he attacked me and my book, about which I wrote two articles for Huffington Post , "My 5 minutes with Bill O'Reilly" and "Bill O'Reilly's Right-Wing Buffoonery" .
Sounds great. I'm looking forward to reading your book, Peter. Thanks so much for talking with me. It's been fun. And educational!