Thaddeus Russell (born September 17, 1965) is a historian, author, and professor. He has taught history, American Studies, and the history of philosophy at Columbia University, Barnard College, the New School for Social Research, and Eugene Lang College.
International Socialist Upbringing
Thaddeus Russell was born and raised in Berkeley, California; he lived about three blocks away from the Black Panthers' national headquarters. His parents were part of the International Socialists (IS). By joining this Trotskyist organization, they left their middle-class lives to work in the heavy industry to organize the proletariat to join for revolution.
Thaddeus Russell's father heavily influenced his childhood from an ideological perspective. While working as a computer programmer, he organized a union at the Northern California headquarters of the National Forest Service. He met Russell's mother at a Young People's Socialist League meeting. Thaddeus was conceived a year later while on their tour of Europe visiting comrades in London and Paris.
His mother became a clerical worker at UC Berkeley to organize the secretaries and bring about a communist revolution. His stepfather left his world to become a steelworker and a truck driver for Safeway. The couple would host meetings at their house where they would discuss Marxist theory and the union shops they should infiltrate.
According to Russell's mother, he wanted to be in the IS when he was 10 years old. As a result, he ended up going to college wanting to learn more about socialism so that he could perfect it in his adult life.
Although he had ambitions to go to college early, Russell did not get good grades in school. According to an autobiographical essay, nearly flunked eighth grade and finished high school with a C average. His SAT scores were self-allegedly mediocre.
He eventually went to Antioch College in Ohio, where they didn't give grades and accepted all their applicants. He was the editor of Antioch's newspaper. He would later attend Columbia University, where he would earn his Ph.D. in History.
When Russell was a student at Antioch College, he had an epiphany about his ideologies and how they were put into practice. There were two students who held an anti-Christian art exhibit who had crosses on the wall and a barrel of fire in the middle of the room. One of the students took a cross and placed it in the barrel. While most people perceived this to be an act of anti-Christian 'racial violence,' they stated that they were expressing their opposition towards the Ku Klux Klan.
The students who held the exhibit eventually got expelled. Russell, who was the newspaper editor at the time, believed he was forced to come to their defense to make the point that this did not have to do with race. At the same time, he felt guilty for having to explain a horrific act.
To send a message to the administration for expelling the students, two more students broke into the college president's office; one of them excreted on his desk.
It was around this time when Thaddeus came to the conclusion that, while he enjoyed the liberal freedoms he had at the college, he detested its "puritanical, left-wing culture."
Later, when he was in Columbia, he noticed that the vast majority of his fellow classmates identified as socialist. He also realized that they were "hostile to the ways in which ordinary Americans chose to spend their leisure time."
Dismissal from Barnard College
In 2001, Thaddeus Russell became a history professor at Barnard College. He openly admitted to being an unorthodox professor. He curses a lot in the classroom, talks about sex, and uses politically incorrect terms. He eventually earned the nickname "Bad Thad" from his students.
He associates some of this with his upbringing. He has shared stories about his father's "sexual revolution." He eventually became an amateur pornographer - using his girlfriends as models - and declaring himself a nudist; Thaddeus was about 4 years old when this occurred.
In 2005, Thaddeus Russell delivered a presentation to his colleagues about "the conflict between the individual and community" in order to get a long-term contract and be moved into line for a shot at tenure. Several distinguished professors from Columbia showed up and reacted negatively. They sent emails to the hiring committee calling Russell's speech “improper,” “frightening,” and “dangerous.”
In 2017, after acquiring teaching experience and lecturing about history, politics, and philosophy at six different universities, Thaddeus Russell opened his own college called Renegade University. In the promotional trailer, he discusses how most academic institutions nowadays discourage people to think freely and embrace intellectual diversity. He alludes to the lack of free speech on college campuses, as well as the lack of authentic debate due to those disagreeing with the mainstream being silenced.
Russell says that students will see the most sacred ideas be challenged with radical radicals at Renegade University. The institution provides lectures both online and face-to-face classrooms across various cities. In addition, there will be classes devoted to people from different schools of thought debating one another; this includes notable debates like William F. Buckley debating James Baldwin, and Camille Paglia debating Betty Friedan, and Noam Chomsky debating Michel Foucalt.
- The history of the United States
- The history of American foreign policy
- The history of political ideas
On April 13, 2017, Thaddeus Russell started his the Unregistered Podcast. He describes it as, "A show about ideas, people, and behaviors that are considered inappropriate, out of bounds, or beyond the pale." His first episode was with Michael Malice.
Out of the Jungle: Jimmy Hoffa and the Remaking of the American Working Class
Published on September 11, 2001, Thaddeus Russell's first book Out of the Jungle: Jimmy Hoffa and the Remaking of the American Working Class is a tribute to labor union leader Jimmy Hoffa. He presents new interpretations of how the Great Depression, the New Deal, World War II, and Robert F. Kennedy's crusade against organized crime affected Hoffa's Teamsters and the American labor movement as a whole.
A Renegade History of the United States
Published on July 5, 2011, Thaddeus Russell's A Renegade of the United States re-tells the history and origins of America's freedom by using lesser-known historical figures. He argues that America's ideals were not defined and legitimized by the elite and intellectuals, but by those who lived on the fringes of society's history. These include slaves, immigrants, gangsters, and others who challenged the conventions of their day.