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Adult Books 4 Teens
Inside Adult Books 4 Teens

The Pledge

Jones & Meyer, in a concise, fascinating history, bring the reader up to speed on the history of the pledge of allegiance. Considering that most teenagers have said the pledge more times than they can count, it may well be fascinating to them, too. This volume will also be useful for research projects involving the legal challenges to the pledge, including mandatory state requirements and challenges to the words “under God.”

Fun facts:
The pledge of allegiance was written in 1892.
We are the only country with a national anthem that pays tribute to its flag.
Mandatory state pledge laws began with New York, in 1898.
The pledge was recited in the House of Representatives for the first time in 1988, and has been ever since.
The Senate picked it up in 1999.

JONES, Jeffrey Owen & Peter Meyer. The Pledge: A History of the Pledge of Allegiance. 214p. Thomas Dunne. 2010. Tr $23.99. ISBN 978-0-312-35002-4. LC 2010029258.

The Pledge

Adult/High School–Born of anti-immigrant sentiment, nurtured by the jingoism of war, beloved by vast majorities of Americans, the pledge of allegiance has had a strange and checkered history. And it is a history well worth telling, as Jones and Meyer show in this mostly outstanding book. Starting with an extremely sensitive examination of the Gilded-Age origins of the pledge, with deft comparisons between the era of the robber barons and today’s nearly equivalent epoch of class disparity, the authors take readers through what amounts to a cultural and political history of 20th-century America. Though at times they allow their prejudices to show (they seem genuinely outraged by a school board member who compared the pledge to the Taliban forcing children to memorize the Koran), by and large, they offer a well-written and fair-minded account of the origins, development, and various struggles over the pledge. Why is the United States one of the only countries in the world to have such a strange ritual of allegiance? What does it mean to force someone to pledge an oath of allegiance? And why do Americans love the pledge so much? These are just a few of the questions that Jones and Meyer take on in this fascinating history.– Mark Flowers, John Kennedy Library, Solano County, CA

Angela Carstensen About Angela Carstensen

Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.


  1. Mark Flowers says:

    Something I noticed but didn’t really fit in the review:
    Looking at the history of the pledge thorugh the major wars of the 20th century we get:

    WWI: major support of the pledge, laws passed making it mandatory
    Korea and Cold War: Addition of “under God,” Congress takes it up, etc.
    Middle East Excursions: fight over “under God” decisively won by the pro-pledge folks.

    The odd man out:
    WWII: major court rulings limiting government’s ability to force citizens to say the pledge.

    The reason (in large part) for this happening during WWII?: A desparate attempt by Americans to distance themselves from Nazi oaths of allegiance and salutes, etc.

    I don’t have a grand conclusion – just interesting facts to chew on.