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The Books Briefing: The Lesser-Known Details of the American Experiment

O say can you read: Your weekly guide to the best in books
Source: Charlie Riedel / AP

Despite the cheery social schedule of barbecues and fireworks that it brings, Independence Day in the U.S. can be bittersweet for many. Familiar stories of patriotic heroism and idealism might prompt feelings of pride, but also of frustration, whether with the current state of the nation or with what those stories leave out. The lesser-known details of American history can be at once inspiring and sobering.

The historians Ethan J. Kytle and Blain Roberts recount how black Americans claimed the July

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