In "Jacksonland," Betrayal, Expansion, and a Burgeoning Democracy

Jun 9, 2015

Credit Courtesy / Penguin Press

President Andrew Jackson has become a towering, mythic figure in American history.

In grade school, children learn that he was a man of humble beginnings who rose to become president, of his heroism in war, and of his expansion of the United States.

They also learn about the Trail of Tears, the forced removal of Native Americans from their homes in the South and the march to Western reservations, along which thousands died.

In his latest book, Jacksonland: President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John Ross, and a Great American Land Grab, Morning Edition co-host Steve Inskeep takes a deep dive into the period immediately before so-called Indian Removal took hold.

It's the story of Jackson, a complex man of many contradictions when it came to Native American policy, and Cherokee Chief John Ross. As American democracy was still finding its way in the early 1800s, Ross used the media, the courts, and civil disobedience as tactics to fight against the loss of Cherokee lands.

Inskeep's book investigates the intertwined lives of Jackson and Ross at a crucial time in the nation's development. And while he says it's a story without any clear heroes, he emphasizes the themes are as relevant as ever.

Steve Inskeep is co-host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most widely-heard radio news program in the United States. The program airs each weekday from 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. on 89.1 WBOI. Inskeep is also the author of Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi.