Always Free, Always Open


In an increasingly digital world in which pedagogical trends are de-emphasizing rote learning and professors are increasingly turning toward active-learning exercises, scholars are fleeing traditional textbooks. Yet for those that still yearn for the safe tether of a synthetic text, as either narrative backbone or occasional reference material, The American Yawp offers a free and online, collaboratively built, open American history textbook designed for college-level history courses. Unchecked by profit motives or business models, and free from for-profit educational organizations, The American Yawp is by scholars, for scholars. All contributors—experienced college-level instructors—volunteer their expertise to help democratize the American past for twenty-first century classrooms.

Why “American Yawp”?

Many American history textbooks struggle to encapsulate American history. Some organize around themes—The American Promise, The Story of American Freedom—while others surrender to the impossibility of synthesis and retreat toward generality—America’s History, The American People. But in the oft-cited lines of the American poet Walt Whitman we find as good an organizing principle as any other: “I too am not a bit tamed—I too am untranslatable,” he wrote, “I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.” Long before Whitman and long after, Americans have sung something collectively amid the deafening roar of their many individual voices. Here we find both, chorus and cacophony, together, as one. Always free, always open, this textbook offers the story of that barbaric, untranslatable American yawp.

What Does "Open" Mean?

The American Yawp is an open resource: you are encouraged to use it, download it, distribute it, and modify it as you see fit. The project is formally operated under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International (CC-BY-SA) License and is designed to meet the standards of a "Free Cultural Work." We are happy to share it and we hope you do the same.

Editorial Intent

The American Yawp constructs a coherent and accessible narrative from all the best of recent historical scholarship. Without losing sight of politics and power, it incorporates transnational perspectives, integrates diverse voices, recovers narratives of resistance, and explores the complex process of cultural creation. It looks for America in crowded slave cabins, bustling markets, congested tenements, and marbled halls. It navigates between maternity wards, prisons, streets, bars, and boardrooms. Whitman’s America, like ours, cut across the narrow boundaries that strangle many narratives. Balancing academic rigor with popular readability, The American Yawp offers a multi-layered, democratic alternative to the American past.


Any questions, concerns, or requests may be sent to Joseph Locke or Ben Wright.

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