A People’s History of the United States

It starts with the Indians greeting Columbus, who takes some prisoner in order for them to show him where gold could be found. After being given a golden mask, they begin dreaming of even more riches. If I had learned about the Indian captives taken aboard the Nina and Pinta, perhaps I would have found more reason to have history stick, due to its depravity. Columbus made up part of his findings by this point, saying he’s “found” Asia (Cuba), basically making him sound like a desperate fool trying to convince his “buddies” back home he’s found a mecca of rivers with gold. It makes me imagine Charlie from Always Sunny In Philadelphia. The Indians begin learning the true intent of Columbus’ crew and retaliate en-force. Since Columbus’ promise of gold fell through, they dedicated their time to gathering more slaves to be sold in Spain. Due to Columbus’ lies, he had to become what we would consider a mob boss and began giving tokens to the Indians who found gold and those who didn’t, lost a limb and were left to bleed to death; hardcore dealings. They began committing mass suicide and taking out their infants to keep them out of the Spaniard’s hands; It only becomes more gruesome from here.

We also get background on the Arawaks and how they were polygamist except without the attachment. They have liaisons as long or short as they wish and women seem to have as much control of the relationship as the men. They also share communally so are unphased by giving personal items to others without a thought since they believe everyone would do the same for them. The Spaniard’s full control became completely cruel to the Indian slaves and is accounted in detail; They were Nazi-nasty cruel. Zinn then cites Las Casas testimony of what other horrible situations happened to the Indians before being wiped out. Quite detestable happenings, only makes my resolve in leaving the country much stronger. We are then shown, even if the numbers were closer to 250 thousand instead of starting at 3 million, end with none, but only before leaving 500? Quite a massacre. So even when we are cited with the detailed biography of Columbus by Morison, he shares the truth of Columbus’ genocide, but does in a way which doesn’t make him seem bad despite of it; pish. Zinn keeps the information simple and adds scope to make sure one grasps the concepts therein. I’m enjoying my second history lesson thus far. Zinn explains why historians don’t focus on the genocidal tendencies of our history, which is pretty logical. I also like how he gives a smattering of references throughout and the view of a community coming together peacefully is a myth and well-preserved. It’s interesting how my view has widened, I didn’t make an assumption of what is covered here, so it’s a bit easy-going into this and being able to let it broaden what little was already there from years ago. Then Zinn extends the fig leaf of knowledge informing outrightly what he’s covering and from what view. Zinn gives pretty sound advice with his declaring of this side of history, as well. He admits, regardless of what view is being presented, they’re both limited in standpoint. The executioners were also victims and the cycle continues, as do the victims themselves, but the executioners being victims doesn’t apply for America apparently: We came from the starting line of bullies as it turns out.

It moves on to the Aztecs and Cortes comparing what Columbus did with Cortes and Mexico. The Spaniards massacre the natives and take what they want and leave. We weave our way through the time comparing massacred native stories by different men for different and sometimes trivial reasons. One story involved a man trying to make a settlement in VA where he sacked and burned the Indian village when a silver cup was stolen. Then a governor runs into a chief in Jamestown, Powhatan and when some Englishman go to the Indians when they’re starving in the winter and the governor requests their return, he sees the chief’s response as arrogant and so sends a soldier to exact revenge by destroying the village and killing a multitude and kidnapping the chief’s wife and children, putting them in boats, then throwing the children overboard with great detail on how brutally they were shot. Over a decade later more of the Indians fought back, killing over 300 Englishman, women and children, starting a war. The English don’t go down easily either, they play at raising a white flag and kill the Indians when they let their guard down and kill them and their crops right when they’re ready for harvest, avenging the deaths of the 300 many times over, due to this plan working over 2 years. Powhatan gives a speech which has a part asking, “Why will you take by force what you have quietly by love?” He goes on to berate them with logic which is of course ignored. Then we start on the Pilgrims. Winthrop decides the Indians may have a “natural right” to the land, but not a “civil” one, which doesn’t make their claim legal and is considered acceptable to bully from them. They lie in wait making nice until an Indian criminal acts out and they use it to start a war and steal their land; We get more terrible comparisons which follow. Whilst the English won these wars, the Indians learn how the English were petty in warfare. Then I come across a passage reminding me of people I know personally, which is why I’m so good at staving them off; Years of practice doesn’t hurt. “They were clearly the aggressors, but claimed they attacked for preventive purposes…’All men of conscience or prudence ply to windward, to maintain their wars to be defensive.'” Hopefully my awareness and ability to smack down those who attack, as such, with my words will soon be noticed so I can put them behind me without them following like blood suckers.

Metacom, also known as King Philip, didn’t go down without taking down a significant number of Englishmen and when they killed him, the attacks by natives continued giving as good as they got. Unfortunately the English literally plagued the natives to death with disease and other tactics of war which dwindled their numbers from 10 million to under a million after Columbus’ arrival. Other islands had similar results of the natives being slaughtered due to inexperience of men with technology and trusting natures. Zinn rounds off the chapter by giving the opposing view’s side a knock down to size, to cover all bases. He questions whether Morison was correct in focusing the story of genocide in relation to human progress, but once he supports this argument with similar situations involving Stalin’s killing peasants for industrial Soviet Union progress and Truman explaining Hiroshima, I at least still follow the feelings of disgust and indignation, but it’s all to support the idea to have all the knowledge from both sides is more important than having one’s country look better or worse because of who won or has control over the history books. It may have been done for progress, but it shouldn’t be buried and forgotten; Own it, bitches. Also, when those who reaped the spoils of war financed more wars, it ultimately failed and left everyone either better (if one was rich) or worse for the others. We also stay ignorant by keeping the incorrect names for the people who were conquered only because of their loss in the war, but Zinn covers both sides consistently by incessantly asking questions to wonder whether these people deserved to be “brought down” by the leaders of “advanced” societies: It’s looking pretty sordid still. Then we trace the history of the people described as Indians to, perhaps validate Columbus in some way for his arrogant assumption. They were the minds to perfect growing corn and other veggies as well as what many claim for their own people’s: peanuts, chocolate, tobacco, and rubber!

Learning again, but seemingly more about the Hopi and Zuñi tribes, it’s deflating to see how comfortably and cleverly they were living before the arrival of the European explorers. We follow more tribes from the Eastern side of the country, among them including the Iroquois and Mohawks, who’s chief was Hiawatha and again showing how liberal and community-oriented they were. Sharing most everything with each other and living contentedly. They were also opposite in how they regarded women. The man would join the woman’s family and ultimately was decided by the wife when a divorce was wanted. They allowed the men to make decisions for the clan, but would veto the men out of office if they strayed too far from the women’s views for the betterment of the clans. Since the women were in charge of everything in the villages and worked closer to them, they were in charge of everything to do with them, whilst the men hunted. Also due to their manufacturing of war moccasins they had a bit of control over military matters. They taught the children their heritage of the tribe and independence and not to bend to overbearing authority (imagine where other cultures would be if they followed those values rather than picking and choosing which arrogant ignorance’s to value?) Iroquois also let the children decide when to potty train and being weaned (an interesting concept). Another interesting tactic (especially when considering this specific upbringing), if someone acted in an untoward fashion in war, they would be ostracized until the people decided he properly atoned for his action and had “morally purified himself.” When the Europeans tried to impose their own ways on the Iroquois, they responded how anyone would: You’re in my land, my rules, as it should have been. Before the Europeans stepped in, the Iroquois seemed to have an extremely idyllic lifestyle which would be nearly impossible to find today, (I’d like to be proved wrong). The Iroquois also were tentatively aware of their psychological health in their people and tried to aid in those developments. It makes one wonder why we don’t hear about more about those who were wiped out other than to hide how we may have mucked up our chances to learn from people who lived in a society which is what their “betters” were striving for.

The next chapter starts us on the African slave trade. Zinn poses the question of whether racism between blacks and whites will ever truly end: Ha, ha. There was a thought the first black slaves were supposed to be looked upon like those from Europe: “indentured servants”, but of course weren’t treated the same due to their trusting and native culture. To give us an idea of what the white settlers were dealing with in Jamestown, we learn of the starvation which lead to cannibalism. The colonists continued to suffer issues with the Indians defiance and resourcefulness due to the Englishmen not having the numbers to overpower them. The men who had decided to come weren’t necessarily all peasants needing to offer their services as servants, but some being skilled and those well off, not wanting to get their hands dirty and being forced to work by John Smith in the fields for necessity. The Indians meanwhile, didn’t need to put forth as much effort, since they knew the land and lived from it properly, making the settlers feel like fools. Then as people started joining the Indians, the jealousy became too much and so killing the Indians made the settlers feel superior and even killed those “traitors” who joined them, although none of this helped the settlers grow crops any more easily. Bringing in black slaves was, supposedly, the “answer”, but it wasn’t legalized for many decades.

The slaves from Africa and the Caribbean were first brought to the Portuguese and Spanish colonies by 1619, fifty years before Columbus; ten black slaves were brought by the Portuguese to Lisbon. So it had already been established for 100 years  which  black  people could be used as slaves. Sadly, their helplessness made their position as slaves easier for them to accept. They were put in a situation where they had no one of the same language, culture, or family to make them feel like they belonged there, of course besides the reason for their being there in the first place. Everything they knew was obliterated other than what they could hold onto by sheer willful tenacity, there being some aspects the Westerners couldn’t overcome by the Africans. They had military capabilities beyond them and would set up on the coast, but couldn’t penetrate the interior land, needing to make deals with the chiefs. African civilization is said to have been as advanced as Europe. The one downside for them was how easily swayed they were to sacrificing their own human lives for religion and or profit. It was a civilization of 100 million people skilled in farming with the use of iron contrivances. They also were skilled in weaving, ceramics and sculpture. There are also reports of even more “civilized”, from a European standpoint, living in 1602 in Benin, a West African kingdom. In 1680, there are more reports of how generous and friendly they are towards visitors.

The African way of punishing crimes which would be taken much more seriously elsewhere, were dealt with in fines or various degrees of servitude. They had more civility than Europe did at the time, which dealt with the same crimes by death. Also, whilst Africa had slaves of their own as well, it was more of a serf situation, but it was still used to justify Europe’s more aggressive slave trade. In African slave situations, most of them began to have more rights and inter-marry with the owner’s family, owning land, inter-merging with the culture, which if it was acceptable to the serf-like slave, I suppose isn’t too terrible to what happened in America at the time. Granted, African slavery wasn’t anything to be proud of either, but America took the whole lit-frosting cake with the terrible reign of hatred slavery brought. Since the blacks being brought into slavery were more impressionable and were being approached by their own people who were making a profit and being torn from their communal living, made it more difficult for them to fight back. They hadn’t the tools to understand this underhanded approach and were being thrust into a singular way of life. They were “smart” about capturing blacks of different tribes mostly who spoke different languages making camaraderie and trust improbable. The process of eliminating the weak was brutal as well. Amistad gave a taste of this line of history, as well as Roots, of course, but to read it in this detail is incomparable. First the Dutch, then the English dominated slave-trade. By 1800 10-15 million slaves were transported to America and Africa lost roughly 50 million to death and slavery in what was popularly called the beginning of modern Western civilization.

So due to the inability to get Indians or the settler to work the difficult land the availability of blacks who had been through the worst traumatic test of survival were easily used as slaves. Although it was the start and seemed controlled by the owner, those who had slaves who ran off or co-mingled were dealt with in a way to sway how they handled the slaves, making it methodically cruel regardless of what one would hope could be an escape-able life. Then there’s also the predisposition at the time of the color black being negatively defined and seen in a terrible light whereas white being described alongside beauty, etc. Also blacks and whites who were slaves and servants of America weren’t necessarily seeing each other as threats, obviously since laws began being passed against fraternization between them. Then punishment of the white servants was usually given by adding years of servitude to their sentence, drawing the line between races more still. Blacks may have been easier to enslave than Indians or whites, but not necessarily easy in itself. From the beginning they resisted enslavement (Ok? I understand the people weren’t pushovers, hell anyone who reads this book should be able to deduce the same!) through mutilation and death throughout the 200 years of slavery African-Americans rebelled. More often than not, they would try to escape, even more common was sabotage and other tactics which might be part of the stereotype of certain races being known as lazy, but only to assert they are human!

Some blacks were so desperate to escape from slavery they would jump ship to drown rather than suffer the sardine conditions aboard the ship, but those who stuck to communal lifestyle would run away in groups and try to live in the wilderness whilst those born into slavery would runaway singly and try to pass off as free men later. Once realizing their tactics, the Americans tried to adapt accordingly. Slave owners began realizing owning slaves and “breaking them” in was not easy and they usually not being “tame-able” until the slave was too old to be as willful. Later, as slavery became legalized, slaves consistently rebelled and drove owners to paranoia of the capacity of their capabilities, rightly. They fought back in groups, but would be defeated eventually due to their numbers not being large enough. There was even a time before racism firmly took hold which whites indentured servants teamed up with slaves due to being treated as badly as slaves and banded together due to the shared predicament. Since the owners saw the potential in winning their favors through offering previously withheld benefits, they began to do so to make it seem they were on their side and attentive towards their interests and well being. There was also an intricate design to keep blacks and poor whites apart, since whites clamored for whatever amount of higher status they could get and the upper class fearing rebellion and needing to control them as well as they could; They certainly did their job well.

The 3rd chapter begins with Bacon’s Rebellion and how to deal with the Indians, which Bacon had blatant enthusiasm in killing. He also came from high class, being more interested in the sport than helping the poor. When elected to the House of Burgesses only to organize armed groups to dispose of Indians, Governor Berkeley believed his to be a “rebel” and had him detained until 2,000 Virginians marched in his support, which Berkeley let Bacon go, only for he to continue on trying to “raid” Indians. He seemed to detest any kind of Indians and also accused Berkeley’s administration for favoritism to positions, not protecting farmers from Indians and giving him one more reason to attack and kill friendly Indians nearby. Bacon soon died from an assortment of bacterium. After his death, the rebellion soon lost steam. In the 1600’s-1700’s, people who were considered beggars would be exiled or put into workhouses. Those forced into exile to different countries had some hellish conditions to live through, including starvation leading to cannibalism and descriptive illness of all sorts. Through the 1600’s, detestable conditions and treatment of servants continued which left the masters invariably paranoid of rebellion. It seems due to the hardship of success and becoming a servant for need of employment gave the rich more reason to believe they were being wronged by the uprising, discontented servants. There was also mass desertion by white servants, so documentation was needed to prove one’s freedom and escape to another state wouldn’t help much since they would be extradited back. More than ½ the colonists in the colonial period were servants.

Mostly English in the 17th century, Irish and German in the 18th and as late as 1755, white servants made up 10% of Maryland. Whilst some indentured servants became successes after their allotted time, few of them were lucky enough to be among them. Those which were forced into labor, usually 1 in 10 would become “decently prosperous” and 80% were “hopeless, ruined individuals” becoming “poor whites”. Also, 17th century’s first group of servants in Maryland became more of a success than the latter half of the century, staying landless. Due to the amount of poor by the 1730s New York, a poor/work house was constructed. Although, some white workers who weren’t bound to servility, were still being mistreated, some having their wages withheld and would turn on the employer and essentially go on strike, but this being before there were unions, the workers were prosecuted for not doing their jobs, regardless of the “binding of their hand” which were the government fees they were charged. There are many stories confirming the greed of merchant dealers, as well. Also, there was a sense of discrimination from the employers by their employees which was noticed and soon being tried to extinguish them from their lofty positions. After one hundred years of discontent between the poor and rich, the gap between them, filled by the threat and doing of violence continued to escalate and needing to be gotten under control.

One fact also stayed the same, Indians were still impossible to enslave and when coupled with whites, not deciding to join the “advanced society”, but when the opportunity for whites to live among the Indians arose, they usually preferred to stay among them (Interesting, en’t it?). Which was soon dealt with by keeping the Indians isolated from poor whites, forcing the “pioneers” to move to the frontier, making them more dependent on the government and making the whites turn on the Indians, thus protecting the “security of the elite”; (crafty English/American bastards). Blacks and Indians had an even lesser chance of teaming up. Only in the Carolinas in the 1750s had they the chance to turn the tables for their numbers, but plans to divide and keep them in check through policies were made, making it so free blacks would be banned from stepping foot in Indian country and if fugitive slaves were to flee to Indian territory, policies were made to “require” them to return them, making it easier for blacks to have an aversion toward the Indians and whilst it did keep the fraternization to a minimum, there were some tribes who would still harbor and integrate black slaves into their communities. To help prohibit the same type of fraternization between black and white servants, it became a numbers game, making it so only 1 white to 6 blacks, to keep the black slaves in line. Racism was coaxed into existence more easily with how whites were given certain rights upon release which blacks were not making “class scorn” and white over black status more obvious and “racial contempt” another way to control the mixing between races (Jeez, how would all them black-haters explain this away? I’m referring to any which don’t rely on uniformed ignorance, if such a person exists). Another “handy control” of keeping the “little people” down was “profiling.

The 4th chapter begins with a summarizing of the 7 Years War, The Stamp Act and Boston’s discontent with the rich, which soon covered The Regulators. Then we get details about the Boston Massacre and once the English saw they had done enough damage, withdrew to settle the people down. Also a source for argument of The Stamp Act, Boston Massacre and the Tea Party is given as well as questions of disobeying the law, government loyalty and rights and obligations. It goes on to cover bits of the Declaration, in particular the bit about being harassed by “Indian Savages” and although Jefferson wrote of his “moral indignation” of slavery this was coming from a man who owned loads until his death, but had the hope of its abolishment and his mentioning of it was taken out of the Declaration, in the end; We also learn who read it after its completion.

The 5th chapter begins with Bunker Hill and a soldier being interviewed of the reason for his service and then heroic doings by William Scott. We move to George Washington and his way of handling a war where black slaves wanted to fight and Washington declining, but the British opposition commander offering freedom to those who fight for him in Virginia. It goes on to describe Indians fighting for their land and fighting on the side of the French, who were also fighting against the British. Then a successful attempt at biological warfare against the Indians is implemented. To those who did fight for the British, thousands were given freedom and chose either to leave on British ships to go to England, Nova Scotia, The West Indies or Africa, but many decided to stay in America, (land of opportunity). In Boston, blacks were trying to get something like welfare like the whites, to educate their children. Charles Beard, an author, realized the makers of the Constitution had a bit of economic interest in founding a federal government. Four groups were excluded from the Constitution: slaves, indentured servants, women and non-land owning men and didn’t reflect the interests of those people. It goes on to explain how the Constitution serves the interests mostly to the wealthy elite, enough to the small property owners to build a base support and they are buffers to the minorities and poor whites, making it easy for the “elite” to stay in control with the least effort, maximum law and made easy to accept with the bonding of patriotism and unity of the people (sounds about right). So by the end of the chapter we learn the Founding Fathers were protecting the rights of mostly the rich, keeping the status quo as it was, a balance of the dominant class, they not wanting equal rights between slaves and masters, property-less and property holders, Indian or whites. Half the people weren’t even considered by the Founding Fathers, specifically speaking, women making up half.

The next chapter starts where we leave off at the last chapter’s end. We’re first told of America and those other societies which oppressed women or saw them as a part of their property, then skip back to tribes who had greater respect, not necessarily not oppressive, but held more positions of authority and were valued more as equals than what women have tried to fight to regain. When girls came to America to be indentured servants they weren’t treated properly either and so from the master’s point of view, they were lazy, stupid, and or malevolent, (no wonder there are stereotypes for any race, as long as one’s a part of the working class). We are also given firsthand accounts, through letters to loved ones of the conditions for indentured servants and slaves alike. After, information of the surviving women who made passage on the Mayflower is given. So this nonsense of men being power-holders or “wearing the pants” came from English marriage indoctrinated religion. It’s not Christian, it’s ignorant teachings brought to the “New World” didn’t die on the ride here. There is also one of the longest dialogues in the book thus far from a woman who has more than a few children out-of-wedlock and fined for each of them. Also due to the severe lack of compromise of religion and the writings published to support the narrow-minded view made it more acceptable to follow these ideas as facts to be made rules and law of marriage. Anne Hutchinson, known for her outspokenness on religious matters is covered and a “coffee party”, the counterpart to Boston Tea Party is mentioned by letter from a woman to her husband. We are also given names of women who helped in the American Revolution who were portrayed as whores whilst women who had a less direct hand in it, like Martha Washington, were more revered (I remember being unimpressed learning about her in school, though the educators tried to make it seem highly important). Although due to the low volume of women on the frontier, they were more valued and like Indian society, had positions of power, at least enough to exert some standing.

Wages of women factory workers come next and literacy of women, since it’s not attended to, or thought important to educate women and became a personal goal to those as primary school teachers between the years 1780-1840. Two power-house sisters, Angelina and Sarah Grimke’ who spoke and wrote for equality for their gender in the 1830s made this chapter gripping. The next one focuses on the “Indian Removal” to make way for white society. This history is also taking away the idea presidents were ever noble, like Washington and Andrew Jackson. Jackson seemed manipulative with his ways of handling the Indians. If it wasn’t by killing, he accepted their help to defeat others, then get them to take part in capitalizing off their own land, becoming a part of “society”. Also the “Florida Purchase” was much more violent than it’s title allows. Jackson burned his way through villages until convincing Spain to sell. As the Indians were overcome and slowly pushed out, leaving them with the “option” to accept compensation for the land being occupied by settlers or staying, but being forced to abide by the American laws, made it impossible for them to continue to live as they did. Any American who tried to defend the Indians right to stay on their land was arrested regardless of being unconstitutional. Indian removal certainly was ruthless, but how else is one supposed to believe a nation was handed over, with no casualties?

Walt Whitman is quoted in the Brooklyn Eagle near the beginning of the American Revolution. Henry David Thoreau is also mentioned when he was put in jail (which I don’t remember hearing anywhere), for not paying a poll tax, which was paid by his friends against his consent, because he opposed the Mexican war and his stay in jail ended up being quite short. After, Ralph Waldo Emerson is quoted with a question to Thoreau whilst during his stay in jail. Frederick Douglass is quoted after, continuing on the topic of why going to war with Mexico was supported if not created by reporters to get people to be in line with the popular demand. From there we’re given opinions of the people against the war, increasing because of news supporting it, it seems and how the foreign-born living in the States increased by 10% after the war began. There’s a quote from a “free-thinker” about the war as well, which I’ll leave out so as not to make this longer than necessary. Men were being “persuaded” to join by getting drunk and made to sign the enrollment paper as well as being outright lied to so as to have as many “volunteers” as possible. There was much dissatisfaction from recruits, which today is widely accepted as a part of serving. Graphic war depiction is given after. Then we get quotes about Canada’s take-over by America and the threats to the Indians on the requirements on being allowed to stay, quoted by naval officer Revere. After short blurbs of New Mexico’s rebellion and of Los Angeles being reclaimed, we get first hand accounts of soldiers losing their humanity in support of pillaging and raping in Mexico. Once soldiers experienced what a tour in the military in Mexico consisted of, most didn’t reenlist despite offers to “sweeten” their stay. As the trek to overtake Mexico continued, some soldiers’ detestable behavior is given in more detail by their comrades accounts, most of the men fueled by alcohol. Also, because most soldiers resented and disliked being a soldier and on top of which disliked Mexico and its people, made them more susceptible to act out. Half the time the commanding officers were brutal and sadistic toward their men and so if called upon to help alleviate rebellion, no one would aid him, in particular, Col. Paine’s section. The end of the chapter gives the results of Mexico’s surrender.

The chapter after discloses how slavery is ended and why it failed with John Brown’s attempt and also the reason Lincoln succeeded a year later. It goes on to describe how one is supposed to relate to the details of slavery if one wasn’t one, giving statistics and how they sound in different ways. Also, slave revolts tended to occur more and in greater scale outside America, but we’re given an account of possibly the largest one in America happening near New Orleans and the reason for destroying the trial record of Denmark Vesey is also disgustingly detestable. An account of Harriet Tubman soon follows, after. We are also given more reasons why poor whites decided to help slaves and coincidentally, why they’re hired to oversee slaves; Also the details of marriages between slaves with their mutual monogamy and resistance to planned engagements; they also helped each other care for their children, as a community and gave responsibility to the elder children, making rivalry among them uncommon.

We move on to David Walker’s beliefs of slavery and why a high reward was given in the event of his capture. Then we move back to a quote by Frederick Douglass from his autobiography. It goes on to cover the Fugitive Slave Act and a speech is given by J.W. Loguen, half-black and escaping slavery and going to college to become a minister. His story becomes more interesting with the mention of his role in the Underground Railroad, his mistress and response to her blackmailing letter which his returning letter was printed in a newspaper, this all being covered in his memoir. After, Frederick Douglass’ fourth of July address is quoted, which I couldn’t agree more with at this moment; it’s not my fault America has disillusioned me, and since this seems to give logical support to my logically emotional reaction, I can’t help but tip my never-has-been patriotic hat. Then it moves on to covering Secretary of State, Daniel Webster’s quote in response to the recollection of the Revolution and the 1812 war.

By this time black abolitionists used every tactic available to further their cause and comparisons between the white abolitionists and black are given. It’s also covered whilst white abolitionists did “courageous…pioneering work”, black abolitionists were the backbone, understandably and also less publicized. Sojourner Truth is quoted before moving on to W.E.B. Du Bois quotes from his book, John Brown. When going through more quotes of supporters of John Brown and himself, we get to Abraham Lincoln again and more details as to why he succeeded in his end to slavery. He was fluid in his stance, enough to satisfy according to the city and times of election. We also find through corresponding letters between Lincoln and the editor of the NY Tribune, Greeley found Lincoln was hugely on a single-minded path, whether using the Union to be his main and only concern or helping free the slaves, we learn Lincoln pushed for laws to be passed, another main goal seemed to be trying to make every man equal regardless, even if he failed; enlightening.

We then go back to a quote from Du Bois about the Civil War. Many white slave-owners are surprised when some of their slaves run to join “the enemy”. Many people did seem to delude themselves slaves enjoyed their bondage, oddly. Also, after a time and protest made, blacks did eventually get equal pay as white soldiers in the war; not knowing if this meant much. Even when finally being told of their freedom and happiness for which, they still understood there would be hardships in having an acceptable status and possibly having to offer services as a “housekeeper” of sorts. Lincoln, unfortunately didn’t go on to make it any easier for the freed slaves to live, as it goes on to show. Although, upon Lincoln’s assassination, Andrew Johnson did help to reverse the little progress made. We see the rise and fall of power for black independence and equality from 1873-1901.

The next chapter begins with farmers rebelling against the landlord for collecting rent which seemed unfair, joined together and went up against a sheriff and 500 mounted posse far surpassing their numbers to begin the Anti-Renter movement. Landlords believed and assumed the right to take any and all timber from farms and none of the renters believed their conduct acceptable and when they signed an anti-rent bill and it failed to be passed, the war continued. Once two leaders were caught and given the option for lighter sentencing if they wrote letters to have the anti-renters disbanded, “the Law thus crushed the Anti-Rent movement.” They were made to believe voting would be the only acceptable mode of change. It moves into the Jacksonian period soon after and how he was a strikebreaker. Whilst “Jacksonian Democracy” tried to make every one support the system, the usual players were outside the realm of support: women, foreigners, every race besides white, but despite the white working class still felt they were being spurned, as well. We also cover when Irish immigrants were being overshadowed by the plight of blacks at this time. We move on to women textile workers who continually had to strike for the conditions and employers setting their hours back to get more work from them. An 11-year-old girl also gives testimony for the strike she was a part of. Also in Paterson, New Jersey we get a story about children going on strike due to the lunch hour being changed from noon to an hour later, but the threat of bringing in militia got them back to work, although to alleviate any more trouble, it was switched back. The largest strike to occur before the Civil War, happened in Massachusetts by shoemakers. July 1863 brought many black deaths due to white workers having to compete for jobs and a mob at a recruiting office began a three day killing spree; along the lines of 400 people were killed and a graphic description given from an observer.

We move on to how laws protected companies more than the workers around the time of 1860, one being in Massachusetts when 900, mostly women workers are trapped inside a collapsed mill and even with evidence the building couldn’t support the machinery, the jury found no criminal intent. When unions were being formed, most of the time blacks had to form their own, but apparently there were some who were less discriminating, the National Labor Union in an 1869 convention being mentioned. There are also a couple other races who had their own Declaration of Independence, one quoted from by the German Socialists in Chicago. In 1877, due to infested water and the Depression at its depth, the deaths of babies were being expected and numbers given, also the same year strikes by railroad workers in many cities brought the nations attention like no other conflict in labor had in its history. Those sympathizers of the railroad strikers in Baltimore took a more violent way of showing their support, getting the soldiers to react by firing back at them. The results of which had two handfuls of men and boys dead, one soldier wounded and a crowd of 200 smashing the engine of a passenger train, along with tearing up the tracks. Some soldiers sent to alleviate the riots decided to give up the arms due to the deaths of citizens in Pennsylvania. Many people, among them those who realized the hardships of those dealing with the railroad company’s and blacks learning they didn’t have enough to get the promise of equality in the Civil War and working class people realizing they aren’t united enough nor strong enough to overtake private capital and government power.

The next chapter begins with an opening of how different races and sexes of workers were oppressed differently to keep the wealthy safely in power, only making it seem more of a sick social experiment. From there it shows how labor for farming and mills became more efficient by machines and then goes on to mention who offered themselves for labor and the success driven minds to invent the machines to further the manufacturing processes. We also find the useful tactic of the reality of a “rags to riches” story and how common they truly were; most coming from well-off beginnings. One has to sell their soul before walking into the “club”. We learn more of the dirty dealings between those companies who owned railroads and how they plotted to keep their business between themselves and how much they valued human life. They bought as many companies they could and were able to capitalize off the people working for them, paying them barely enough to survive on due to being such deviously shrewd businessmen. We then learn the finer points of the Cleveland Presidency focusing on keeping bondholders happy more than relieving farmers for a drought which left them without seed-grain.

We then delve deeper into the people’s ideas of how becoming rich occurs and a stigma of one man believing it was the poor’s own fault most of the time they couldn’t extricate themselves from their plight. Also, businessmen began buying and giving charity to universities and coining the phrase “philanthropist” for their “kindness”. Covered after is how other nationalities were taken advantage of to work almost as slaves. In 1883 an anarchist manifesto is excerpted basically supporting equal rights without dividing sex or race. It then goes on to a bombing at Haymarket Square in Illinois where 8 anarchists are arrested and sentenced to death. It made a great stir internationally, but all but three were hanged, one taking himself out dramatically whilst being held. After all of this, the bomber is not confirmed and rumors of an undercover cop being the culprit stayed as such. I also realize now, this moment in history was covered in a thoroughly funny Comedy Central show called Drunk History; worth the gander, as well as being a movie called the Chicago 8. After, we follow more strikes and radicals during the Depression years, then go on to talk of the Farmers Alliance. During this time black farmers were also struggling for the same rights and some white farmers did team up and support having black delegates in the state executive committee. By the end of the chapter it’s declared the “supreme act of patriotism” is war, and how two years after McKinley becomes President, war with Spain is declared.

We begin on the profit system and the overseas continents and countries American government forces overtake and protect for their own cause. After which it focuses on the major manufacturing marketed and successfully sold overseas by well-known companies. It goes on to cover the Cuban Revolution in the 1890’s and how Winston Churchill wrote of how it’d be better if Spain kept it’s reign. It goes on to talk of the Lattimer Massacre and soldiers getting food poisoning, not knowing how many of 5000 died because of it. It reports of Cuba and how they saw the Platt Amendment. It seems American government wanted Cubans to give them rights which should be honored to the Cubans themselves above any others. It also reveals the takeover of the Philippines. Mark Twain as well as others comment on the war in the Philippines being a cruel one and helping America become a definitive power monster. Also the way black soldiers were treated during the war whilst they were in the U.S. drove them to egregious behavior in response to the violence and disdain they were looked upon with. By the end of the chapter, it describes how blacks, whites, men and women were plagued with unpatriotic feeling.

The chapter after gives background and an excerpt of a speech by Emma Goldman. Then it moves on to literary authors of the 20th century including Twain and a brief timeline of Jack London. We then move on to Taylorism and are given quotes of the strikes which occurred. Also a fire in the Triangle Shirtwaist Company is covered which went against certain laws making it so 146 workers were trapped and killed within the building. It goes on to notify of the American Federation of Labor after and how they chose their members, leaving out “unskilled workers”. We then get a background of what the Industrial Workers of the World went through in practicing their right to free speech. Once, in Massachusetts, parents began sending their children to families in New York so they could continue to strike. Lawrence tried to cite a statute preventing anymore children from being sent away, going so far as to post police at the railroad station, and upon trying to board, clubbing and trampling women and children, taking them to military trucks. The strikers held out and negotiations to end the strike began March 1912. Helen Keller is then quoted on her thoughts on the socialist movement and specifically toward Bill Haywood. It goes on to describe the growth of suffrage, which has another quote in response to an editor of the Brooklyn Eagle arguing her socialist stance like a “little bitch”. Keller’s response, printed in another newspaper is quite satisfying. It also gives the start of the NAACP founding and W.E.B. Du Bois’ position in it at the start. We also learn more of the repression of Socialism and the Ludlow Massacre which occurred in Colorado. It goes on to mention the war in Mexico happening at the same time and how WWI would be coming in four months.

The next chapter begins with the idea WWI was an Imperialist War. We are given an idea of the casualties of British and French soldiers against the German soldiers, then America steps in on the Spring of 1917 also giving the idea “conquest” of the foreign market gave prosperity to everyone and not only J.P. Morgan. W.E.B. Du Bois is quoted on his insightful thoughts of “the nature of the First World War”, which is printed several years before Lenin’s Imperialism. In 1917 when America declares war, the public doesn’t rush off in favor of it and it actually became quite an “unpopular war”. Then the Espionage Act is passed, which goes against one’s freedom of speech. Around 900 people went to prison because of it with no mention of its eradication, instead we read of immigrants being deported for unknown reasons and falsified crimes and the “class war” is continuing on through the 20s and 30s despite the U.S. supposedly being a “classless society”. If it’s one other thing this history provides it’s where and why a typical citizen should feel in debt to America. Perhaps one of its charms, to make one aware of whether one is getting the best attributes out of it’s government or not.

In February 1919 in Seattle, WA a strike was beginning for shipyard workers. During the strike, the city’s crime rate decreased to such an exponential proportion as to not being seen before by a commander of the U.S. Army in his forty years of service. The strike ended in five days due to “pressure” from international officers of assorted unions, according to the General Strike Committee. When the strike ended, arrests were made for being “ring-leaders of anarchy”. Then some “crazy shit” starts going down with Frank Everrett, a lumberjack who was a soldier and after he kills the leader of a mob, which was after he shot at the mob earlier, they get major revenge on him through torture and his death not long after. A mayor is quoted about his view of what the strike signified, being to “overthrow the industrial system”. Then in September 1919 another strike begins with steelworkers in Pennsylvania as well as other workers. The year after the war, still more were going on strike. By the start of the 1920s though, work became tolerable enough to the right number of people and the unrest calmed and further rebellion quelled. Immigrants were also having their numbers monitored so as to stay below a certain quota according to race; an interesting range. We move on to how Capitalism still seemed, in 1929 an undependable system. By the start of the 1930s people were losing their jobs. Children and adults alike were demanding to be fed, whether by school officials or restaurants in their town. Once Hoover badly handled veterans being evicted, Roosevelt was successfully able to win the election. He started the New Deal to help stabilize society, but people still dealing with evictions began backing each other up once targeted. Roosevelt’s New Deal was to keep the lower class from starting a revolution, but another example of D.I.Y. was in Pennsylvania when unemployed coal workers dug in small mines, then sold the coal below commercial rate, were prosecuted and local juries and jailers wouldn’t convict or imprison them. It goes on to mention the white and black farmers compensation differences and the committees and meeting they begin holding in regards to the mass unemployment. When the New Deal ended, Capitalism stayed intact and by the end of the chapter, war was still coming to America after covering the early 1930’s.

The next chapter begins with a quote including Great Britain, U.S., Canada plus twenty-one other countries declaring the war wasn’t imperialist and then two years later Germany invades Soviet Russia and the American Communist party continually describe the war an imperialist one and “a people’s war” against Fascism. It goes on to debate if this were true, showing it was the most popular and whether it was what it seemed or if there were those against the war. It mentions the popularity of air-raid shelters in the mid-1950’s and ends the chapter on Kennedy’s budget not changing much in his first year of office. During World War II it was too sensitive a time with war mentality to allow open discussion and the U.S. being a “hero” to “weaker” countries is something one might learn in school, but not through its actions in world affairs: instigation of war in Mexico and taking half the country, pretending to help Cuba get freedom from Spain and making a military base there instead, plus other exploitation’s of Japan and China. At one point setting 7,000 troops in Russia in 1918 and adding 5,000 to a Russian port as an “expeditionary force”.

Apparently there was also hesitation in speaking out on Hitler’s persecution of the Jews at first in 1934. It goes on to question the reasoning behind “covert” support of certain wars between other countries all to advance imperial interests of the United States. Then we are given the reason why America joined WWII, not to try and help the Jews, what did it was Pearl Harbor and whilst the American public was shocked to being bombed, the government wasn’t, also Roosevelt might not have known Pearl Harbor was going to be attacked, but did lie to the public for a cause he thought was right. It goes into quite a bit of detail, as do most of these I’ve mentioned. It continues to report of the United States’ plans to become an economic power and pushed Britain out of the way for oil rights in Saudi Arabia. It also mentions the reason the U.N. was created. As well, whilst Roosevelt started the Fair Employment Practices Commission, he didn’t seem interested in enforcing its orders, so blacks and women still had a hard time being treated as equal, obviously. Then we cover the Japanese and those American-born who experienced the internment camps after Pearl Harbor’s attack. Then we get statistics of the people who fought compared to those who deserted and how differently officers over enlisted men were treated. We get the black men’s perspective of joining the war as well, which didn’t seriously affect them either way. Then we are given to consider whether bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki were necessary to end the war, the answer being to the negative, it was not, but was done so as to have control of Japan before Russia declared war.

The war re-invigorated capitalism in America and Russia worked to rebuild its industry, which gave the Truman administration the ability to present them as an immediate threat. It then goes into the war between North and South Korea and the U.S.’ involvement. McCarthy also became an anti-Communist thorn, going so far as lying about documents from the State Department only to bully the Communist party from power, threatening Republicans and Democrats alike. J.F.K. seemed to share McCarthy’s views, however. Then Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are mentioned and the historical figures who tried to have their sentence appealed by two former Presidents, a stay of execution was given, but only for a short time, to prove a point no one accused of Communism would escape consequences. From this time throughout the 1950’s, America was on the lookout for Communists. There’s also mention of Captain America vowing to take out Communists as well, ha ha. Military funding increased during the 1950’s and got even higher when Kennedy was President in 1960, still gaining power in the 1970’s. Then we segue to Fidel Castro’s rise to power and after going to prison and getting out, he meets Che’ Guevara and after whom takes over Cuba’s government, America trying to make Castro’s uprising difficult, but failing to intimidate. Kennedy, upon election seemed to have adopted the responsibility to continue the attack and tries to bully Castro out, but his army was too much for America to reach its objective. By the end of the chapter Kennedy’s changes concerning economic structure is given and in the 1960’s a “series of…rebellions in every…”part,”of American life…showed…all the systems estimates of security and success were wrong.”

The next chapter starts with an excerpt of a Langston Hughes poem which also titles the chapter, proceeding with other poems showing the discontent of the black community. We than get a background of Angelo Herndon, a black man who joined the Communist Party and eventually was incarcerated for insurrection in Georgia. We then get to Truman’s slow-to-proceed policy of equality. 1965 still had 75% of segregation in schools in the South, 10 years after the guideline was made. We then go to Rosa Parks story and quote also including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s part as one of the leader’s of the boycott at age 27 and his home being bombed. Also whilst King preached to fight back with non-violence and love, others came to realize sometimes there has to be another way, in respect to dealing with Klansmen; even Indians used firearms to defend themselves against them. In 1960 blacks were having sit-ins at restaurants to show they wanted to have equality, peacefully and it continued until “Freedom rides” were added, where blacks and whites would travel by bus together across state lines and whilst J.F.K. was in office at this point he was more concerned getting the support of white southern leaders than enforcing equality. The two buses which tried this didn’t return, getting confronted with violence as local police and FBI stood by and watched, not interfering. Then after M.L.K. Jr.’s “I have a dream…” speech at a march was embraced by President Kennedy and other national leaders, Malcolm X’s quote seemed to be the typical feeling of those at the march, a much more serious than uplifting note. Kennedy found control of the march, making it no longer what it was, but a “democratic coalition”. There’s also a gun fight mentioned comparing it to be as violent as WWII in Watts, Los Angeles, CA in 1965. The Chicago 8 are again mentioned in regards to the Civil Rights Act which was passed being used against them. After, we cover the finer details of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. Then we find in the mid to late 1960’s to early 1970’s the FBI was a part of violently silencing any black militancy groups who were getting attention, including the Black Panthers. The chapter ends with a lecture on white and black poor in competition to attend inadequate schools.

The next chapter focuses on Vietnam and starts with the Vietnamese Declaration of Independence from French colonialists. We find the U.S. was also supporting 80% of the French war effort on Vietnam in 1954. Which the reasons for being possibly due to what could be cultivated from their land and if they would be swayed by Communism. After the French withdrew due to support of Ho Chi Minh being too great, the U.S. stepped in to make South of Vietnam their base, which became South Vietnam solely for American reasons. The NLF were helping Vietnam villages keep control whilst Ngo Dinh Diem tried to have otherwise. After Kennedy’s assassination, President Johnson outright lies to the public on an American destroyer, Maddox being attacked unprovoked. Then it goes on to describe the mass killings and hut destroying of the Vietnamese people. An American living in Laos at the time of the bombing and knew the language interviewed many locals during the massive upheaval. Once President Johnson declared he wouldn’t run again for all the negative feedback for keeping American soldiers in Vietnam, Nixon announced he would begin withdrawing troops and did, but also carried on the war by different means and also launching an invasion of Cambodia in 1970. In protest of the war, some Americans were going so far as burning themselves alive. We also get descriptions of Americans and some celebrities openly speaking at the White House of their disagreement of the war and the first time I’ve ever heard of Americans hijacking an American ship which had bombs going to airbases in Thailand. Then we find how the Pentagon Papers began. ROTC programs also became impacted by protests of the war. It also turned out grade-school educated people were against the war more so than college-educated. We also get an excerpt from Born on the Fourth of July from Ron Kovic’s point of view and by the end of the chapter Nixon admits in his Memoirs he knew the power of public opinion swayed the stay of war in Vietnam.

The chapter after starts with the struggle of women to get out of the appearance of only being good for making themselves be the support system for their husbands and how much beauty regimens they need in order to keep themselves at par to making their men happy; I paraphrase, of course. We then get a couple excerpts from The Feminine Mystique and it goes on to show even when women were getting more opportunities for equality, it was still a stressful struggle. After a thorough section on women liberation and family values, it goes to the conditions of prison inmates. We are also shown whilst the poor did commit more crimes than the rich, it was solely due to the law being on the side of the rich, not needing to break the law to get what they wanted; also helping was the ability to get attorney’s who could shorten or lessen the severity of a sentence leaving a larger number of poor black people being the ones to stay in jail. Then we get a description of how George Jackson’s murder inspired prisoners of Attica to protest and come together; it also mentions the film. We then revisit American Indians and how they only maintained their reservations because they couldn’t be made to take individual plots of land.

Then describing how many times America made treaties with the Indians only to ignore them for their own selfish reasons; mentioning one the Kennedy administration ignored to make a dam which flooded the Seneca reservation. Then in Washington state, Americans wanted sole fishing rights to what the Indians already had rights to and arrests began for defiance of their rights being ignored. We also get a humorous anecdote from an American Indian who spoke to a “non-Indian” of how they didn’t make proper use of their land when they had it. At one point Indians even stayed on Alcatraz Island making peaceful protest to the conduct of how the United States had ignored their agreements. We also learn in 1977 there was a teacher of 4th and 5th grades trying to break the stereotyped views of Indians by presenting the old and new texts inspiring some students to write to the editor with their opinions, one being quoted. After, we cover the Oglala Sioux Nation’s fight to keep their land at Wounded Knee and then being unencumbered of men and women talking about sex and the lack of use of bras in the 1960’s and ’70’s, gay and lesbian openness to talk, the wearing of pants by both sexes, and the protest musicians which became popular. We also cover the semi-liberalness of religious servants and their starting of families instead of only with Jesus. The end of the chapter imparts how much in the span of two centuries were we able to learn how to control people and how by the mid-seventies it started to show.

The early seventies showed there was not much trust in the government. It then goes into the Watergate debacle and how it would have been the other aid for people to start mistrusting the government, (the first being Vietnam). When Nixon resigned from office, it is made clear because he’d left, didn’t mean his policies would be abandoned. Ford pardoned Nixon from having criminal charges brought against him and was able to live comfortably on his pension in California. It goes on to mention the milk industry hiked up retail prices so as to make more money to contribute to the Nixon campaign. The reason for people’s discontent of the government also came from the inflation of prices and high unemployment occurring. Then we go into the decline of authority the President began to have and how after election he needed to find the support of powerful institutions. By 1960, the interest in voting was waning. James Carter was elected to change the disillusionment those before him had instilled in the public, and apparently did a pretty good job of it, getting the approval of blacks and appointing people who seemed appropriate to the areas mentioned, but then began to make some not so morally high-grounded decisions, like not helping rebuild Vietnam and not changing how the FBI and CIA went about their dealings, supporting their keeping of “secrets”. There was also a point when the public began to show less enthusiasm to his presidency when he made it clear he didn’t care if poor people could afford abortion and if life was unfair to those who didn’t have money. We are then shown the protests of people still working under unfair conditions and fighting for their rights.

The final chapter relates this textbook is biased in the opposing direction of most historical texts for the reason being the other side is so commonly acknowledged and taken as the whole truth and story. Which is why this covers the people’s movements so closely. The fact Zinn mentions how the “…American system is the most ingenious system of control in world history…” seriously disturbs me, but this chapter, if one is debating whether not they should delve into this slightly daunting text, should read the seven pages and see whether they’d like to learn another side of a history we’ve all heard and been bored silly by the teachers who lectured its requirement; but overall, if one has an open enough mind, one shouldn’t need the extra kick in reading this epilogue-like chapter and go for it straight on. It’s a good one and ends on a positively hopeful note, which at this particular moment in time, seems like an unattainable fantasy from a Californian perspective. Otherwise, tremendously worth the read, I learned more than I ever did in public school and would have read this in a heart-beat if I’d been told of it in my high school days.

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One thought on “A People’s History of the United States

  1. Pingback: America (The Book) & I Am America (And So Can You!) | Book Fiend

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