A People’s History of the United States
The Enduring Vision
How complete are our textbooks these days? Yes, they may cover Christopher Columbus’s all the way to today’s current events. But just how complete are they? Often books tend to lean a certain direction, and offer perspective from only one point of view; most commonly the views of the victors, dominant country or possibly stories of heroes. What about the other side? Far too often the lesser of the two is left out of the textbooks and out of our minds. There are always two sides to a story, in this case, much of what we read is a mere, “partial truth”. In the following paragraphs and analysis, assumptions and generalizations we have made about our country and it’s “heroes” will be examined in an in-depth interpretation of the standard American textbook, The Enduring Vision vs. Howard Zinn’s, A People’s History of the United States, a strongly worded book meant to offer a different point of view, one not of the hero, but of men they truly were.
Everyone knows who discovered America, Christopher Columbus, of course! “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue” At a very young age we are taught that, but that’s only half the story. According to, The Enduring Vision, “Religious Fervor led Columbus to dream of carrying Christianity around the globe, but he also hungered for wealth and glory.”(p.27) Upon discovery, Columbus became very fond of himself, and what he had done. He discovered a land and a people that before his discovery never existed. Because of this, Columbus’s hunger for wealth and glory came to the forefront. The textbook makes no mention of the less publicized portions of his life; it certainly was not carrying Christianity to the world. The book fails to mention, the cruel and inhumane things that were done to the Native American who currently inhabited the “New World”. Those actions seem to be brushed under the rug, because of the fact that he is an American hero. However, Howard Zinn offers a view from a different perspective. “…They willingly traded everything they owned….They were well built, with good bodies and handsome features…They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane….They would make fine servants….With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.” (Zinn 17) Columbus’s lust for wealth, power, and domination of the people blinded his view of spreading Christianity.
In Columbus’s report back to the royal court in Madrid, Spain, Columbus uses religious talk to convince the court that he was establishing a community, and to establish fame and a reputation back in Spain. In exchange for a little help, Columbus was to bring them, “as much gold as they need… and as many slaves as they ask.” Concluding his report he said, “Thus the eternal God, our Lord, gives victory to those who follow His was over apparent impossibilities” (Zinn 20) this was not entirely true, his report was exaggerated, however, the court granted him his expanded fleet and men. However, Columbus was not out to colonize the new world, he was looking for his personal gain; Gold, and slaves. This American “Hero” isn’t everything the history books and movies make him out to be. Columbus was a liar, cruel, and was out for glory and fame. It’s a sad truth to such an important piece of an American history. As American we would like to believe that Columbus was the man he was made up to be, and definitely not a “Christ-like” figure. He was much more than an explorer who owned a few slaves; he is a man responsible for the institution of slavery and the murder of many, many Native Americans.
Another well-known figure in history has a distorted past, he happens to be one of our most respected presidents; Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson is perhaps most known for his hand in writing the Declaration of...