Howard Zinn

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Outline of “Drawing the Color Line”, chapter 2 of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States

p. 23“. . . that special racial feeling . . . that combination of inferior status and derogatory thought we call racism.” Zinn says we need to understand how racism started in order to see how it might end.

Factors that led to U.S. slavery

24 a—“The Virginians needed labor”—to grow food & tobacco

25 b—“They couldn’t force Indians to work for them”

c—“White servants had not yet been brought over in sufficient numbers”

d—Colonists sense of frustration: see quotation from Morgan

e—Slavery and trade of African people was already established

“Black slaves were the answer.” (I take this sentence as Zinn stating the fact that this is what the Virginia colonists decided, as it is what their actions indicate.)

26-7Cultural comparisons based on primary accounts of European travelers from around 1560-1680 show African civilizations in a very positive light. Zinn returns to questioning the idea that slavery and other forms of oppression, including genocide, were part of the United States’ destiny, or were necessary for the sake of human progress. He mentions an interesting historical difference between African vs. European history relating to “class status”.

27-8Zinn compares Africa’s own history of slavery with European/colonists slave trade—partly to address the question of whether Europeans were hurting those they enslaved any more than they were already suffering: Zinn mentions “two elements that made American slavery the most cruel form of slavery in history: the frenzy for limitless profit that comes from capitalistic agriculture; [and] the reduction of the slave to less than human status by the use of racial hatred...”

28-9Conditions regarding slavery are described—cruelties of the worst kind—ending with this startling estimate: “. . . Africa lost 50 million human beings to death and slavery. . .”...
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