An Analysis of A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn

A People's History of the United States is a 1980 non-fiction book by American historian and political scientist Howard Zinn. In the book, Zinn seeks to present American history through the eyes of the common people rather than political and economic elites. A People's History has been assigned as reading in many high schools and colleges across the United States.[1] It has also resulted in a change in the focus of historical work, which now includes stories that previously were ignored.[2] The book was a runner-up in 1980 for the National Book Award. It has been frequently revised, with the most recent edition covering events through 2005. In 2003, Zinn was awarded the Prix des Amis du Monde Diplomatique for the French version of this book, Une histoire populaire des États-Unis.[3]More than two million copies have been sold. Reviews have been mixed. Some have called it a brilliant tool for advancing the cause of social equality. Others have called the book a revisionist patchwork containing errors. In a 1998 interview, Zinn said he had set "quiet revolution" as his goal for writing A People's History. "Not a revolution in the classical sense of a seizure of power, but rather from people beginning to take power from within the institutions. In the workplace, the workers would take power to control the conditions of their lives."[4] In 2004, Zinn edited a primary source companion volume with Anthony Arnove, entitled, Voices of a People's History of the United States. Columbus to the Robber Barons[edit]

Chapter 1, "Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progress" covers early Native American civilization in North America and the Bahamas, the genocide and enslavement committed by the crew of Christopher Columbus, and incidents of violent colonization by early settlers. Topics include the Arawaks, Bartolomé de las Casas, the Aztecs, Hernán Cortés,Pizarro, Powhatan, the Pequot, the Narragansett, Metacom, King Philip's War, and the Iroquois. Chapter 2, "Drawing the Color Line" addresses the early enslavement of Africans and servitude of poor British people in the Thirteen Colonies. Zinn writes of the methods by which he says racism was artificially created in order to enforce the economic system. He argues that racism is not natural because there are recorded instances of camaraderie and cooperation between black slaves and white servants in escaping from and in opposing their subjugation. Chapter 3, "Persons of Mean and Vile Condition" describes Bacon's Rebellion, the economic conditions of the poor in the colonies, and opposition to their poverty. Chapter 4, "Tyranny is Tyranny" covers the movement for "leveling" (economic equality) in the colonies and the causes of the American Revolution. Zinn argues that the Founding Fathers agitated for war to distract the people from their own economic problems and stop popular movements, a strategy that he claims the country's leaders would continue to use in the future. Chapter 5, "A Kind of Revolution" covers the war and resistance to participating in war, the effects on the Native American people, and the continued inequalities in the new United States. When the land of veterans of the Revolutionary War was seized for non-payment of taxes, it led to instances of resistance to the government, as in the case of Shays' Rebellion. Zinn wrote that "governments - including the government of the United States - are not neutral... they represent the dominant economic interests, and... their constitutions are intended to serve these interests."[8] Chapter 6, "The Intimately Oppressed" describes resistance to inequalities in the lives of women in the early years of the U.S. Zinn tells the stories of women who resisted the status quo, including Polly Baker, Anne Hutchinson, Mary Dyer, Amelia Bloomer, Catharine Beecher, Emma Willard, Harriot Hunt, Elizabeth Blackwell, Lucy Stone, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Margaret Fuller, Sarah Grimké, Angelina Grimké, Dorothea Dix, Frances Wright, Lucretia Mott,...
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