This book explores the lives of five individuals whose lifetimes, laid beginning to end, together form a nearly-continuous sweep of four hundred years of American history: Roger Williams (1603-1683), Thomas Paine (1737-1809), Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902); W.E.B Du Bois (1868-1963); and Vine Deloria (1933-2005). Radicals all, each did more than anyone during their respective eras to challenge and ultimately force government to honor Americans’ natural birthright of individual liberty and equal justice. Each, has had a profound impact on American history.
In discussing Williams, Paine, Stanton, Du Bois and Deloria, this book makes two important observations. First, each argued in essence that governmental tolerance for the autonomy of all citizens is a fundamental, mandatory feature of American democracy. Second, each believed that religious orthodoxy has been a major source of society’s ills (including, specifically, American government’s intolerance), and all five endured serious negative repercussions for saying so.