Jamestown

Length: 8 Pages 2075 Words

Dr. Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States might be better titled A Proletarian’s History of the United States. In the first three chapters Zinn looks at not only the history of the conquerors, rulers, and leaders; but also the history of the enslaved, the oppressed, and the led. Like any American History book covering the time period of 1492 until the early 1760’s, A People’s History tells the story of the “discovery” of America, early colonization by European powers, the governing of these colonies, and the rising discontent of the colonists towards their leaders. Zinn, however, stresses the role of a number of groups and ideas that most books neglect or skim over: the plight of the Native Americans that had their numbers reduced by up to 90% by European invasion, the equality of these peoples in many regards to their European counterparts, the importation of slaves into America and their unspeakable travel conditions and treatment, the callous buildup of the agricultural economy around these slaves, the discontented colonists whose plight was ignored by the ruling bourgeoisie, and most importantly, the rising class and racial struggles in America that Zinn correctly credits as being Continue...


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The difference is that Columbus did it in the name of exploration and human progress, which Zinn correctly calls a bit of a misnomer, while Stalin did it to achieve his political ambitions, which Columbus was certainly not without himself. The atmosphere was ripe for revolution. Before resorting to Africans, the colonists had tried to subdue the Indians, but that idea failed before it was created. In the first three chapters of the book, Zinn presents the major historical facts of the first 250 years of American history starting from when Christopher Columbus's Nia, Pinta, and Santa Maria landed in the Bahamas on October 12, 1492. The core part of any history book is obviously history. This is one of the most heinous crimes a historian can commit, Zinn says, because "Outright lying or quiet omission takes the risk of discovery which, when made, might arouse the reader to rebel against the writer. The first stirrings of resentment began to come not from the slaves but from the proletariat in the form of the frontier whites. of the First World War as seen by socialists, the Second World War as seen by pacifists, the New Deal as seen by the blacks in Harlem, the postwar American empire as seen by peons in Latin America. If your value as a human being is measured by the number of lives you ruin, people you kill, and civilizations you destroy, then Columbus is on par with Josef Stalin. Columbus committed horrible atrocities, and Zinn accurately portrays them from a unique standpoint, which gives long overdue respect and recognition to the millions of Indians who died in the name of progress. He says that blacks and whites are not naturally prejudiced against each other as some would have us believe; he points to the fact that laws actually had to be passed to keep blacks and whites from fraternizing. Both African slaves and proletarian whites were pushed around, tormented, and used as pawns in the political game of chess for the benefit of the bourgeoisie. Equally accurate is Zinn's portrayal of colonial relations. "Thus began the history, five hundred years ago, of the European invasion of Indian settlements in America.