Eric Burin publishes ‘Protesting on Bended Knee’

Eric Burin
Eric Burin

The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota is excited to announce a timely, relevant and path-breaking new publication edited by history professor Eric Burin.

Protesting on Bended Knee: Race, Dissent, and Patriotism in 21st Century America spotlights the demonstrations associated with Colin Kaepernick, a professional football player who in 2016 began kneeling during the national anthem to draw attention to discrimination and injustice.

Protesting_CoverThe book officially launched Oct. 16, the 50th anniversary of John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s famed protest at the 1968 Summer Olympics, and Burin says the timing was not coincidental.

“The book has a bifocal perspective, with one eye on the present and the other on the past,” he said. “Like the publication date, the section headings, artwork and even fonts have historical significance.”

The volume opens with an extensive introduction by Burin that situates the Kaepernick-inspired protests within the context of the distant and recent past, and then carefully analyzes the demonstrations themselves, the causes they symbolized and the disparate reactions to them.

“Burin offers historical perspectives both on Kaepernick as an activist and on issues of racism, mass incarceration, and criminal justice reform, and this sets the book apart from treatments in the media that tend to focus on the contemporary response to the protests,” said Bill Caraher, publisher at The Digital Press. “To my mind, Burin’s Introduction is the definitive work on Kaepernick and the protests at present.”

The volume continues with 30 brief essays penned by a diverse array of authors, including scholars, veterans, sportswriters, coaches and others. Each describes what he or she sees in the protests. Some view the demonstrations as part of the quest to secure the rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Others discuss the legal landscape of dissent, the revival of athlete-activism, the tactics of protesters or counter-tactics of their opponents. Still others share their perspectives as individuals literally “in the arena.” These observations, together with Burin’s far-ranging introduction, provide a panoramic and contemporaneous account of the latest chapter in a freedom struggle as old as America itself.

Protesting on Bended Knee is a first draft of our history,” Burin said. “It’s history written in real time.”

Burin added that the volume seeks to foster civil dialogue about important issues.

“By offering diverse viewpoints and historical perspectives on the protests, the book provides common ground for constructive conversations about race, dissent and patriotism,” Burin said.

With this goal in mind, the Digital Press at UND has made Protesting on Bended Knee available for free as a download at or as a low-cost paperback from

In 2017, Burin edited another anthology with contemporary relevance, Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College. That volume was also published by the Digital Press at UND, which serves “to publish timely works in the digital humanities, broadly conceived. Whenever possible, [it] produces open access, digital publications, that can attract local and global audiences.”