Railton

Ben Railton

Professor of English Studies and Coordinator of American Studies, Fitchburg State University
Areas of Expertise:
  • Media & Public Opinion
  • Immigration
  • Race & Ethnicity

About Ben

Railton is an expert in the histories of immigration and diversity in America. He is especially interested in changing our understanding of such histories and issues: helping us remember the recent and overtly discriminatory nature of our immigration laws, for example; and making us aware of how foundational diversity has been in American identity and community, for another. He also has expertise in the role that literature and culture can play in our civic life and collective memories, as illustrated by his involvement with the in-development American Writers Museum.

Publications

History and Hope in American Literature: Models of Critical Patriotism (Rowan & Littlefield, 2017).

Argues that it is only through an in-depth engagement with history-especially its darkest and most agonizing elements-that one can come to a genuine form of patriotism that employs constructive criticism as a tool for civic engagement.

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.
"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.
"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 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.

In the News

Regular contributionsBen Railton to Huffington Post.
"Brexit, Trump, and the Dangers of Global 'Jihad'," Ben Railton, Huffington Post, June 24, 2016.
"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.
"The Supreme Court Has Always Been Political," Ben Railton, Huffington Post, February 18, 2016.
"Occupation, Resistance, and History in Malheur," Ben Railton, We're History, January 20, 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.
"How to Reinvent Columbus Day," Ben Railton, Talking Points Memo, October 12, 2015.
Guest to discuss anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S. on Sputnik News, Ben Railton, October 5, 2015.
"Today's Anti-Muslim Sentiment is Yesterday's Fear of Catholics," Ben Railton, Talking Points Memo, September 30, 2015.
"The Forgotten Radical History of Labor Day," Ben Railton, Talking Points Memo, September 7, 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 in James Joiner, "The Declaration’s Cut Slavery Paragraph" Daily Beast, July 3, 2015.
"McKinney, Tamir Rice and the Liability of Playing While Black," Ben Railton, Talking Points Memo, June 8, 2015.
"The Surprising History of Memorial Day," Ben Railton, Talking Points Memo, May 25, 2015.
"Run Bernie Run...but Why?," Ben Railton, The Conversation, May 4, 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.
"America’s 150-Year-Old War on Activist Women," Ben Railton, Talking Points Memo, March 6, 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.
"Shared Pride, Then and Now," Ben Railton, The Conversation, November 27, 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.
"No, Your Ancestors Didn’t Come Here Legally," Ben Railton, Talking Points Memo, November 20, 2014.
"Storms of Persecution: The Asian American Experience," Ben Railton, Race in the Americas Project, 2013.