A People’s History of the United States is a popular book by the United States American historian and political scientist Howard Zinn. In his book, he described a new concept of the history of the united states, where a larger number of people were being exploited by the elite high-status people with their conventional mindsets.
People’s history of the United States started when several people began migrating from other regions to this area of the earth during the period of an ice age. Since then, American History has been among the interests of many, and it is considered a brilliant and moving history in the world. In this article, you will find a people’s history of the united states that Howard Zinn tried to explain in his book with an exciting chronological order of true history which some might not have even studied in history class.
Before mentioning any matter, it is always better to understand the writer first for a better understanding of the concept and the ideas he is trying to portray in the book.
Howard Zinn was a World war II veteran and an American historian with political science as his strongest suit, being a professor of political science at Boston University for his time being, besides that he had many other professions as well; he was a philosopher, playwright, and many more, before shutting his eyes for eternity on January 27, 2010, he wrote a book named “A People’s History of the United States” which turned out to be his best seller for writing about people’s history.
People’s History of the United States- The Great Book
People’s history of the united states is a revolutionary book in the non-fiction column for bibliophiles. Howard Zinn’s book describes the hidden history of the united at a time when the elite rulers were doing all in their powers for their vested interests, including manipulation to neglection the voice of the masses.
Moreover, Howard Zinn’s book has been awarded as a runner-up in the “National Book Award,” selling more than 2 million copies and even being translated into French. History of the United States is recommended now in schools and colleges as an addition, and college students are becoming increasingly aware of this “quiet revolution.”
As mentioned by Howard Zinn as it mentioned some of the largely omitted sections of the academic history. The Zinn Education project was in the interest of supporting educators who were using the people’s account of the United States to teach middle and high school history.
It is available on google play as an audiobook for the history of the United States.
The book mentions the untold story with a lot of knowledge in the matters of political activism and awareness in concepts like civil rights movements, the ending of the Vietnam war, the anti-war movements, immigrant laborers’ and working-class rights, women’s rights, foreign policy for native Americans, raising the health and safety standards meanwhile mentioning Latin American history, gay or lesbian people’s history and many more which are spilled all over in America’s story and summed up in the words of Howard Zinn.
You can also check out the history channel documentary on the history of the United States as a show called America the story of us
historian Howard Zinn shows that he was writing about struggles and visions to enlighten them and inspire people from people’s history. In his writing, Zinn portrays many other people’s voices like Richard Hofstadter, Herbert Apthekar, and many more writers.
Howard Zinn’s scholarly research always included topics like civil liberties and the civil rights movement, as he was a professor of history and a political science scientist.
Chapter 1: Columbus, the Indians, and the Human Progress
The first chapter of the book, written by Howard Zinn, named the people’s history of the United States, describes Christopher Columbus’s arrival when the Arawaks were already present in the land and how they were baffled by the strange boat standing on the coast of America.
Colonization began with a Spanish expedition led by an Italian man named Christopher Columbus. He explored the shorter trade route to the east; instead, he found this new world. After Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492, several other Spaniard ships sailed towards the west to set colonies, starting from Cuba, Puerta Rico, and many other coastal areas.
Christopher Columbus was welcomed with harmony by the native Americans; little did they know that other ships were coming there soon to set up true history. The french covered the eastern part of North America, the civilized Portuguese brazil, whereas the English people landed in the east of America.
Zinn portrays how Columbus mentioned the hospitality of the native Americans and how they never said no to any of their possessions. This marked the beginning of the European invasion of American history under the Indian settlement.
In short, in this first chapter, while Covering Christopher Columbus’s arrival, Zinn explains the very beginning of American history from the standpoint of those who were already living in the lands in the untold story and not from the point of the European conquerors, who kept on annihilating the already residing races of the native Americans. This shows how Howard Zinn fundamentally changed the perception of history right from the very beginning when these stories were only limited to oral history.
Chapter 2: Drawing the Color line
In the second chapter of the history of the united states, Howard Zinn knows, being a historian, that, to find answers to the future, one must dwell in the past of that concept itself. So in this chapter, professor Zinn writes about the history of the roots of racism in the united states, which have been ignored in most accounts of the society.
Racism has always been people’s war and yet the most unspoken about. Zinn tries to explain the enduring insights of this color line, vivid details with the problem of the color line, and some other crucial questions like whether it will ever be able to end, or if not then, will people any time in future be able to live with harmony amongst this spectrum.
Howard Zinn’s quotations from several historical documents describe how the slave trade was introduced in America for plantation and cultivation right after the set up of European colonies.
Howard Zinn told how British colonies were flourishing, and more and more people were immigrating to this third world called America because of low death rates and better living situations; the population also increased because of the African immigrant laborers that were being transferred to America for rice and tobacco plantation, for manual labor work. Gradually, African laborers acquired one-fifth of America’s population.
Chapter 3: Persons of Mean and Vile Condition
In this chapter, Howard Zinn talks about the mean and while conditions of people who traveled to America hoping for a better life. Still, in America, they led another burdened life in more horrendous conditions than before, such as not even being allowed to get married without the permission of their masters.
This chapter surrounded the eighteenth century when the generation gap between the rich and poor was drastically increasing, and the rich elite superiors were now at the risk of any coming revolt against them shortly.
Howard Zinn highlights how elite superiors were terrified of the overthrowing of their rules and being revolted by mob rule time as this was the time in American history when the gap was between rich and poor, so the elite people started creating the best-used strategy to colonize any country, which is divide and conquer, they separated the white from black people, separated the African Americans from the native Americans and tried to grab the situation within their control.
Chapter 4: Tyranny is Tyranny
In the fourth chapter of his book, Howard Zinn uncovered the most assuring concept of American history. As it can already be deciphered from the title that tyranny is tyranny, this tried to unleash the truth of the founders of the American revolution.
In the usual people’s history, it is said that the founding fathers had an immense love for liberty and freedom. The truth is that they only granted menial freedom and power to the factory workers or laborers who would not give rise to any other civil war in American history, which they did not want.
Any form of tyranny is tyranny, meaning that the middle-class people at the forefront of American history were not doing any work of waiving off the colonies. Rather they were only trying to exert power from colonists’ hands to their own hands. Which can be termed as a self-chosen tyrant rather than what came on their own and settled their colonies without permission and forced power onto the already living people like America is their land.
Chapter 5: A Kind of Revolution
In this chapter, Howard Zinn uncovers another fascinating untold story in American history, where he stated that the native Americans took the side of the European colonizers in the revolutionary war than with American colonizers because, as said by Howard Zinn, the American colonizers disrespected the native American s more than the European colonizers did.
At the end of the revolutionary war, french or Indian war, the black Americans still did not get an equal say in the country; hence slavery continued even after the twentieth century, and apartheid was a factor of American history that can even be sighted even today somewhere, either as the case of George Floyd or anything else.
Then this chapter talks about the American constitution, where he stated when it was created and how it was more in the interests of the middle-class and wealthy Americans and not in favor of the working class. Howard Zinn also mentioned the bill of rights as a mere show-off for awarding people their justice, freedom, and fairness. In contrast, the situation is not as it was shown when the government started snatching some of the basic rights of Americans, sometimes even including the right to free speech for people.
Other Chapters & Howard Zinn’s Words
A People’s history of the United States has a total of 25 chapters; other than the five mentioned above, this book has chapters mentioned as the intimately oppressed, as long as grass grows or water runs, we take nothing by conquest, thank God, the other civil war, the socialist challenge, a people’s war, the impossible victory: Vietnam war, Carter Reagan Bush, the coming revolt of the guards, the Clinton presidency, where he stated the facts related to president Clinton’s first term experience which people’s history tells us not. In the end, this book has its last twenty-fifth chapter as the 2000 election and the war on terrorism, which mentioned the attack of 9/11 on New York.
Moreover, Howard Zinn also covers the part of world war I, world war II, and the American civil war while talking about laws and rights of crucial components of the society, such as child labor laws, with many perspectives that any library journal has ever read.
Howard Zinn has always been famous for his book named- A People’s history of the United States, and the crispest thing about this book is its frequent appearances of quotations by many labor leaders, fugitive slavery, and other similar personalities; how this book uncovers the unreported resistance in clear prose and explains the enthusiasm rarely encountered in the oral history of the united states.
Howard Zinn’s A People’s history of the United States, which is written by him and translated by Anthony Arnowe, tells us a lot about the enduring insights from the industrial revolution and the conditions of factory workers, along with covering the ruling of orthodox political parties over American history, meanwhile sharing concepts of the cold war and analyzing that through this popular media mode.
It is not uncommon for any very famous and renounced author to have criticisms for their writings. Similarly, Howard Zinn had criticism from the world regarding his book; some very common ones are from Colombia University historian Eric Foner. He stated how Howard Zinn wrote his book only from the single perspective of pessimism. The book emphasizes the failures rather than putting a non-biased view.
Eric also mentioned how Howard Zinn has only portrayed the feelings of laborers, women’s rights, blacks, and Indians as victims in American history. He also stated that this side of American history is as one-sided as the other one, which has been told all over until now.
So, he stated that Howard Zinn should pose his book from a continuous process perspective, saying the situation with Thomas Jefferson’s slaves, Andrew Jackson and Indians, and so on.
Michael Kazi from Georgetown University marks another famous criticism of A People’s history of the United States. He stated that Howard Zinn was too much motivated by the elite villains and the oppressed people that he, in an attempt to uncover the history of the united states, dwelled so much on the rich and poor, master and slave history side of America’s story that he distracted away from the actual focus.
Also stated in dissent, Michael Kazin said that the People’s History of the United States was unable to explain why the political and economic model of America continued to fail in the time, along with why the radical and socialist model also failed.
A Handy Book by Howard Zinn
Even after all the criticism and disagreements of Howard Zinn’s book and his ideologies, this book was awarded as the best seller selling over 2 million copies worldwide.
Moreover, this book helped a lot many historical newbies of schools and college students in reading a different perspective of American history of political activism, the industrial revolution, the generation gap in society, immigrant laborers, factory workers, and all the other aspects of the hidden history of the united states. This may be one of the many reasons that this book received the Lannan foundation Literary Award.
America is a great nation, which great leaders have led. The people’s history of the United States tells us about American history, American foreign policy, American economies, and a lot more historical archives to learn from and get help in the future for dealing with unnamed issues and things.
Maybe reading more perspectives of American history like A people’s history of the United States by Howard Zinn and some other by many different and great minds someday will help us to deal with issues or end some of a great many hurdles in society that persists like racism, sexism, inequality or the generation gap.