The Cruel Years: American Voices at the Dawn of the 20th Century

The Cruel Years book cover “William Loren Katz has pioneered in the presentation of little-known history—especially of African Americans and Native Americans—to the American public. In this book he uses his considerable experience as a historical detective to let us hear the words of…working people, whose voices are ignored in traditional histories…These ordinary men and women tell their personal stories of living in an America that too often did not pay attention to them. We need to listen to the voices assembled in this remarkable collection. Hearing the words of these people is a requirement for a truly democratic society.” —Howard Zinn (from the Preface)

The Cruel Years (click to order from offers a vivid, poignant, and candid glimpse of the turmoil, oppression and injustice of the early 1900s through the words of 22 working women and men who reveal the anger, despair, and resiliency of their lives. (edited by William L. Katz and Laurie R. Lehman)

William Loren Katz was the award winning author of 40 books, including the eight-volume A History of Multicultural America.

Laurie R. Lehman was an Associate Professor of Education at Long Island University in Brooklyn, New York from 1992 to 2020. She was married to William Loren Katz for 25 years until his passing in 2019. Now, she is republishing three of his books and preparing his papers to be archived at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, New York.

Howard Zinn was the author of the highly acclaimed A People’s History of the United States and many other volumes.