The American Citizens Handbook
The American Creed As It Was Known Before the 1960s
From the Introduction:
"It is a high privilege to be a citizen of the United States. There are those in less fortunate circumstances who would gladly give all they possess for the mere chance to come here to live."
From the Forward:
"To be a good father, mother, brother, sister,
These are the aspirations that have brought happiness and achievement to the America we all love. These are the aspirations that must help us find our way to new glory and grace in the midst of worldwide change. A great civilization must have roots in the soil of the past and its branches reaching to the stars of the future. Otherwise, it lacks the experience and motive necessary for noble achievement in the present. Has the nation lost its way? Let us return again to the faith of its youth. This faith is found at its best in the lives and writings of great leaders who have quickened and purified the national spirit."
Reviews of the American Citizens Handbook
"It is a compilation of just about everything that is significant and outstanding about the United States"
"We have in this book the evidence of a nation, and a civilization. Here, the bond holds firm; the salt retains its savor."
The American Citizens Handbook edited by Joy Elmer Morgan is a classic statement of the American Creed contained in original documents and essays. It tells the story of what it means to be an American in order to educate young people and immigrants on why its a treasured title to be called an American citizen. In today's politically correct world, which sometimes views America as a tragedy rather than a triumph and American history as a sad story of race, class and gender oppression, rather than the march of progress toward freedom and opportunity, it is a piece of subversive literature. And like much subversive literature it has been suppressed by those who find it heretical to their beliefs, in this case the original publishers of the book, the National Education Association.
Here is how Jay Nordlinger of National Review describes the interest in the book in the 1980s and the National Education Association's response:
The American Citizens Handbook was first published in 1941 to coincide with National Citizenship Day and went through six editions ending in 1968. As the excerpt above shows, the book has been rediscovered by conservative commentators who relish the irony that it was edited and published by the National Education Association, now a leftist organization whose leadership no longer believes in much of the creed proclaimed in the American Citizens Handbook.
Many things in this book probably offended the militants of the NEA leadership, but the positive references to the role of religion in public education and government, which is extolled both by the book's editor Joy Elmer Morgan and in numerous articles, was probably the nail in the coffin. Morgan in the introductory essay "Your Citizenship In The Making" has a section labeled, "Religious Ideals The Foundation." In 1941 that section said:
The 1968 edition waters down that portion of Morgan's essay and changes its emphasis to this:
The NEA leadership introduced many other changes of emphasis to tone down the unadulterated Americanism of the prior editions of the Handbook and its faith in the Constitution and other foundation documents of American democracy and heritage. The one this is most noticeable is on the back dust jacket, which gives a quote from Thomas Jefferson stating the need to periodically change the laws and Constitution, which ends with this sentence:
And that is probably what the leaders of the NEA thought of the drafters of the Constitution and of all of American history, it was the product of "barbarous ancestors" and should no longer be celebrated as a source of pride and inspiration. And so it was that the publication of the American Citizens Handbook came to an end, and if the stories above are to be believed, the NEA buried their remaining copies lest the words of celebration and pride continue to go forth.
For years we have have been picking up copies of the American Citizens Handbook wherever we can find them, at flea markets, book and ephemera auctions, book stores and on the internet. Below are pictures of all six editions we currently have available with a short description of the edition, condition and price.