Professor of English Studies and Coordinator of American Studies, Fitchburg State University
Chapter Leader: Boston SSN
Areas of Expertise:
Connect with Ben
Railton is author of six books on American identity, national narratives, and collective memory, most recently Of Thee I Sing: The Contested History of American Patriotism (2021). He writes the daily American Studier blog, contributes the bimonthly Considering History column for the Saturday Evening Post, and is a frequent public scholarly tweeter @AmericanStudier.
No Jargon Podcast
In the News
"Progressive Populism: The Historical Contexts for a Vital New Book," Ben Railton, Huffington Post, April 1, 2016.
"Trump and the Klan: A New Controversy with Old Roots," Ben Railton, The American Prospect, March 7, 2016.
"Black History Month is More American and Relevant than Ever," Ben Railton, Huffington Post, February 22, 2016.
"Un-American? Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban is Sadly All Too American," Ben Railton, Talking Points Memo, December 8, 2015.
"Why It's Time to Reassess Walter Mondale's Place in History," Ben Railton, Talking Points Memo, October 20, 2015.
"Today's Anti-Muslim Sentiment is Yesterday's Fear of Catholics," Ben Railton, Talking Points Memo, September 30, 2015.
"Ahmed Mohamed and the American Myth of the Individual White Inventor," Ben Railton, September 18, 2015.
"The Long History behind Renaming Mt. McKinley," Ben Railton, Talking Points Memo, September 1, 2015.
"What the 2016 Candidates Can Learn from Jimmy Carter," Ben Railton, Talking Points Memo, August 21, 2015.
"The Unsettling Truth about America's Attack on Nagasaki," Ben Railton, Talking Points Memo, August 10, 2015.
"How Fox News and Donald Trump are Impacting the GOP," Ben Railton, The Conversation, July 16, 2015.
"Trump Has It Backwards: White Criminals Stole from Mexicans," Ben Railton, Talking Points Memo, July 7, 2015.
Ben Railton quoted on how the Founding Fathers addressed slavery by James Joiner, "The Declaration’s Cut Slavery Paragraph" Daily Beast, July 3, 2015.
"The Paragraph on Slavery That Never Made It into the Declaration of Independence," Ben Railton, Talking Points Memo, July 3, 2015.
"McKinney, Tamir Rice and the Liability of Playing While Black," Ben Railton, Talking Points Memo, June 8, 2015.
"Environmentalism Doesn’t Have to be Elite: How History Can Help the California Drought," Ben Railton, Talking Points Memo, May 14, 2015.
"Beyond Marathon Monday: How to Make Patriots' Day Relevant," Ben Railton, Talking Points Memo, April 20, 2015.
"The Historical Roots of Jeb Bush's 'Hispanic' Gaffe," Ben Railton, Talking Points Memo, April 8, 2015.
"Behind UVA's Violent Arrest, a Racist Past in Charlottesville," Ben Railton, Talking Points Memo, March 25, 2015.
"Hillary Clinton, Colin Powell and America's Double Standard," Ben Railton, Talking Points Memo, March 17, 2015.
"If This 1780s Southern Politician Fought Islamophobia, We Can Too," Ben Railton, Talking Points Memo Café, February 13, 2015.
"Sorry, Freedom Lovers: America's Hero Worship is Just as Bad as North Korea's," Ben Railton, Talking Points Memo, January 6, 2015.
"Conservatives Just Forgot Nearly 150 Years of History with Cuba," Ben Railton, Talking Points Memo, December 19, 2014.
"Mark Wahlberg's Ill-Timed Pardon Bid is the Epitome of White Privilege," Ben Railton, Talking Points Memo, December 8, 2014.
"What We Talk about When We Talk about 'Race Riots'," Ben Railton, Talking Points Memo, November 25, 2014.
Ben Railton quoted on the history of immigration, "The President’s Executive Order: What Difference Will It Make for Immigrants?" The Conversation, November 21, 2014.
"Yung Wing, the Chinese Educational Mission, and Transnational Connecticut," Ben Railton, ConnecticutHistory.org, 2013.
We the People: The 500-Year Battle Over Who Is American (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019).
Analyzes inclusive and exclusive visions of who gets to be considered American, from the beginning of European settlement until today.
"Side by Side: Locating Dissenting Voices in New England Public Spaces," American Studies Association Conference, October 31, 2013.
Uses Plymoth Plantation and the Salem Witch Trials Memorial to argue for how public spaces can become vital tools through which Americans learn about our multi-layered histories.
"The Even Bigger Read: Making American Literature National," Northeast Modern Language Association Conference, February 28, 2013.
Argues for works that all Americans should read, to help us engage collectively with our identity and community, in conjunction with the in-development American Writers Museum.
The Chinese Exclusion Act: What It Can Teach Us about America (Palgrave Macmillan Pivot, 2013).
Highlights three lessons we can learn if we better remember the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act and its contexts: a lesson about the history of immigration laws; one about diversity in America; and one about inspiring stories and identities. Each lesson has vital applications to our present debates and community.
Redefining American Identity: From Cabeza de Vaca to Barack Obama (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).
Argues for a new definition of American identity: a vision of cross-cultural transformation, of encounters and conversations between different cultures and communities and of the changes and new identities that they produce, as an experience that has been fundamental to America since its origin points and from which we are all descended in this 21st century moment.