A people's history of the United States - (first 3 chapters) Summary and reflections.

Topics: Slavery, United States, History Pages: 8 (2482 words) Published: December 10, 2003
Summary I


A People's History of the United States is a book written by Howard Zinn, whose purpose is not to introduce someone to American History. He assumes his readers already know the basics. Of course, many people do not. It is not a history of the United States but it is a series of contentious corrections to the history traditionally taught in American classrooms.

Zinn presents the major historical facts of the first 250 years of American history starting from when Christopher Columbus's Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria landed in the Bahamas on October 12, 1492. It was there that Europeans and Native Americans first came into contact; the Arawak natives came out to greet the whites, and the whites were only interested in finding the gold. "They ... brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which 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 it 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 1).

This was Columbus first idea as soon as he arrived on the island. Expedition after expedition sent into the interior by Columbus had no success. The gold was not found, and hundreds of Indians had been killed for not finding anything of what was requested. After Columbus, comes Bartolome de Las Casas who was a young priest that participated in the conquest of Cuba, but then gave up and became a vehement critic of Spanish cruelty. Las Casas wanted to replace the Indians by Black slaves, thinking they were stronger and would survive, but later he found out the effects on black slaves so he decided to tell about the Spaniards and how they treated the Indians.

The Indians attempted to save their lives from the Spaniards who used to cut their bodies in pieces to "test the sharpness of their blades" (Zinn 6). The population of the Indians reduced a lot going from 10 million to less than a million. 115 years later and 1500 miles to the north, the colony of Jamestown was founded by a group of English settlers led by John Smith; shortly after that the Massachusetts Bay Colony was founded by a group of Puritans known to us today as Pilgrims. When the English first settled Martha's Vineyard in 1642, there were probably three thousand Wampanoag left.

"There were no wars on that island, but by 1764, only 313 Indians were left there... Behind the English invasion of North America, behind their massacre of Indians, their deception, their brutality, was that special powerful drive born in civilizations based on private property. It was a morally ambiguous drive; the need for space, for land, was a real human need. But in conditions of scarcity, in a barbarous epoch of history ruled by competition, this human need was transformed into the murder of whole peoples" (Zinn 16).

This is how the real history began. Not only with triumphs and victories but also with blood spread all over the lands where the "wars" took place.

Reflection I


In A People's History of the United States. Zinn writes about the dark sides of United States icons. I believe Zinn feels that students are merely being taught from the viewpoint of a person in power rather than including the views of the oppressed. In the first chapter of his book, Howard Zinn suggests that we should think about what Christopher Columbus did to others to become so famous. It is implied that this author is not really being amiable toward this hero, and the fact that he is trying to make it obvious to us that Columbus took the American Arawak Indians as slaves, took advantage of their goods, and killed thousands proves this.

In my opinion, even though we should not hide the fact that Columbus...
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