+ 1-888-787-5890  
   + 1-302-351-4405  
 
 
 
 

Essay/Term paper: Zinn's a people's history of the united states: the oppressed

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Research Papers

Free essays available online are good but they will not follow the guidelines of your particular writing assignment. If you need a custom term paper on Research Papers: Zinn's A People's History Of The United States: The Oppressed, you can hire a professional writer here to write you a high quality authentic essay. While free essays can be traced by Turnitin (plagiarism detection program), our custom written essays will pass any plagiarism test. Our writing service will save you time and grade.



Zinn's A People's History of the United States: The Oppressed


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 the
root of many of the problems that we as a nation have today. It is refreshing to
see a book that spends space based proportionately around the people that lived
this history. When Columbus arrived on the Island of Haiti, there were 39 men on
board his ships compared to the 250,000 Indians on Haiti. If the white race
accounts for less than two hundredths of one percent of the island's population,
it is only fair that the natives get more than the two or three sentences that
they get in most history books. Zinn cites population figures, first person
accounts, and his own interpretation of their effects to create an accurate and
fair depiction of the first two and a half centuries of European life on the
continent of North America.
The core part of any history book is obviously history. 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 Niñ
a, 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. From the Bahamas, Columbus sailed to Cuba and Hispañola, the
present-day home of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. One-hundred fifteen years
later and 1,500 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
the Pilgrims. Because of uneasy and hostile relations with the nearby Pequot
Indians, the Pequot War soon started between the colonists and the natives.
Needless to say, the colonists won, but it was at the expense of several dozen
of their own and thousands of Pequots. But despite Indian conflict, exposure,
starvation, famine, disease, and other hardships, the English kept coming to
America. In 1619 they were settled enough that they started bringing African
slaves into the middle colonies. Before resorting to Africans, the colonists had
tried to subdue the Indians, but that idea failed before it was created. Zinn
writes:
"They couldn't force the Indians to work for them, as Columbus had done.
They were outnumbered, and while, with superior firearms, they could massacre
the Indians, they would face massacre in return. They could not capture them and
keep them enslaved; the Indians were tough, resourceful, defiant, and at home in
these woods, as the transplanted Englishmen were not.
"White servants had not yet been brought over in sufficient quantity....
As for free white settlers, many of them were skilled craftsmen, or even men of
leisure back in England, who were so little inclined to work the land that John
Smith... had to declare a kind of martial law, organize them into work gangs,
and force them into the fields for survival.....
"Black slaves were the answer. And it was natural to consider imported
blacks as slaves, even if the institution of slavers would not be regularized
and legalized for several decades" (25). Black slavery became an American
institution that the southern and middle colonies began to depend on for their
economic success. The first stirrings of resentment began to come not from the
slaves but from the proletariat in the form of the frontier whites. Nathaniel
Bacon led a revolution against Virginia governor William Berkeley and his
conciliatory Indian policies. Bacon and others who lived on the western frontier
wanted more protection from the government against Indian attacks. Berkeley and
his cronies were so concerned with their own financial and political gain that
they ignored Bacon's Rebellion and continued their policies. In the end, Bacon
died a natural death (he caught a nasty virus) and his friends were hanged, but
for the first time ever, the government was forced to listen to the grievances
of the underclass that had been for the most part largely ignorable up to that
point. Meanwhile, class distinctions became sharper and the poor grew in number.
Citizens were put into work houses for debt and occasionally rioted against the
wealthy. More and more though, the anger turned from being just a class war to
being a war of nationalities. Impressment and other British policies distracted
the colonists from being mad at the bourgeoisie to being mad at their mother
country. At the end of chapter three, tension is mounting, pitting the Americans
against the English and the workers against the rich. The atmosphere was ripe
for revolution.
The reason that this book might be better titled A Proletarian's History
of the United States is that Zinn's main focus on the book besides the actual
history is the effect of the history on the common people and the workers, or
proletarians as Marx and Engels referred to them. While most history books focus
on the dominating Europeans, Zinn focuses on the dominated Native Americans, who
Zinn holds to be at least as advanced as their European masters. He writes that
"Columbus and his successors were not coming into an empty wilderness,
but into a world which in some places was as densely populated as Europe itself,
where the culture was complex, where human relations were more egalitarian than
in Europe, and where the relations among men, women, children, and nature were
more beautifully worked out than perhaps any place in the world.
"They were a people without a written language, but with their own laws,
their poetry, their history kept in memory and passed on, in an oral vocabulary
more complex than Europe's, accompanied by song, dance, and ceremonial drama.
They paid careful attention to the development of personality, intensity of will,
independence and flexibility, passion and potency, to their partnership with one
another and with nature" (21-22).

In the middle of the first chapter, Zinn uses the historical treatment of
Columbus to explain his own view on teaching history. "Thus began the history,
five hundred years ago, of the European invasion of Indian settlements in
America. That beginning, when you read [Bartolomé de] Las Casas... is conquest,
slavery, death. When we read history books given to the children in the United
States, it all starts with heroic adventure -- there is no bloodshed -- and
Columbus Day is a celebration" (7).

He goes on to vituperate historian Samuel Eliot Morison for his brief and buried
mention of Columbus's genocide of the natives. 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. To state the facts, however, and then bury them in
a mass of other information is to say to the reader: yes, mass murder took place,
but it's not that important... it should effect very little what we do in the
world" (8). Zinn says that "selection, simplification, [and] emphasis" (8) are
necessary to the historian, but he chooses to take a different stance in his
writings.

"...I prefer to tell the story of the discovery of America from the viewpoint of
the Arawaks, of the Constitution from the standpoint of the slaves, of Andrew
Jackson as seen by the Cherokees, of the Civil War as seen by the New York
Irish... 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. And so on, to the limited
extent that any one person, however he or she strains, can "see" history from
the standpoint of others" (10).

Zinn continues his identification with the oppressed as he discusses black-white
relations. 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. Servants
and slaves of different races saw each other as oppressed workers first and as
members of a specific race second. On the topic of slavery, Zinn berates the
American system, calling it "lifelong, morally crippling, destructive of family
ties, without hope of any future" (27). Some argue that African tribes had
slavery of their own so it was a part of their culture to begin with, but Zinn
says that "the "slaves' of Africa were more like the serfs of Europe -- in other
words, like most of the population of Europe" (27). Zinn commiserates with the
plight of the oppressed frontier whites, making Nathaniel Bacon out to be a hero.
Over the course of the next 80 years, Zinn cites routine injustices against the
working and under classes, saying that it "seems quite clear that the class
lines hardened through the colonial period; the distinction between rich and
poor became sharper" (47).
It is refreshing and commendable to see a history text that takes a
stance on the side of the peoples that seldom get represented. Columbus's
treatment of the Native Americans was atrocious, abominable, and abhorrent, yet
most history texts treat him as one the greatest men to have ever lived. 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.
This example may seem extreme, but both men were directly responsible for the
deaths of millions on innocent civilians and caused sheer terror and panic among
millions of other people. 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. 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. Equally accurate is Zinn's portrayal of colonial relations. 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. Zinn
asserts that there were clear contentions between the races that ultimately led
to the revolution when the anger of the masses that was originally directed
primarily at the bourgeoisie was redirected against England in the form of
rhetoric, concessions, and propaganda calling for loyalty to America's upper
classes and rebellion, first quiet and then loud, against England. "[The bind of
loyalty] was the language of liberty and equality, which could unite just enough
whites to fight a Revolution against England, without ending either slavery or
inequality" (58). Zinn is absolutely correct in seeing the ulterior motives of
our founding fathers; they realized that splitting from England would be good
for them financially, socially, and politically. What they did was harness the
people's anger against them and used it, quite ironically, for their own
advancement.
Ultimately, for the first 250 years of America's history, there was
oppression and class warfare on varying scales that are traditionally ignored or
unemphasized by traditional history texts, but Zinn masterfully shows the reader
are major and influencial parts of American history. To ignore the plight of the
conquored and oppressed is to ignore a part of history that cannot be ignored.


 

Other sample model essays:

Research Papers / The Outsiders: An Analysis
The Outsiders: An Analysis By: Yanir Seroussi Teacher: Mr. Saphir Class: 9s Introduction In this book analysis, about the book "The Outsiders" by S...
John Steinbeck's The Pearl / THE PEARL: A Review
THE PEARL: A Review The Pearl is a story about an Mexican Indian man and woman, set in the early to mid-1900's, in Bolivia. It was written by John Steinbeck as a short fiction book that tell...
The Picture of Dorian Gray: Corruption Through Aestheticism The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde is the story of moral corruption by the means of aestheticism. In the novel, the well ...
Albert Camus' "The Plague" The novel that I chose to do this report on was, "The Plague", by Albert Camus. It is about a plague that hit the European countries in the middle ages. ...
The Point of View in "Porphyria's Lover" "Porphyria's Lover" is an exhilarating love story given from a lunatic's point of view. It is the story of a man who is so obsessed with Porphyria...
The Problem of Global Warming The problem of global warming, an increase in the average temperature on Earth, is getting worse. The Earth has warmed 0.3 to 0.6 degrees Celsius since the l...
Creative Writing: There Isn't Much Time It is Monday morning and I have slept in, thanks to Thanksgiving. In fact, it's twelve o'clock and I am free for the afternoon. As usual, I si...
The Influence of Reading on Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary Reading provides an escape for people from the ordinariness of everyday life. Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina, dissatisfi...
Alvarez Shows Language is A Tremendous Difference In Everyone's Lives In His Story Rudy and Yolanda communicated in completely different languages. By language, I mean the written, ...
Locke's The Second Treatise of Civil Government: The Significance of Reason The significance of reason is discussed both in John Locke's, The Second Treatise of Civil Government, and in Jea...
Experience with Dream Essay - Reliable and great customer service. Quality of work - High quality of work.
Browns Mills, New Jersey, United States
Dream Essay - Very reliable and great customer service. Encourage other to try their service. Writer 91463 - Provided a well written Annotated Bibliography with great deal of detail per the rubric.
Browns Mills, New Jersey, United States
it is always perfect
Frederick, Maryland, United States
The experience with Dream Essay is stress free. Service is excellent and forms various forms of communication all help with customer service. Dream Essay is customer oriented. Writer 17663 is absolutely excellent. This writer provides the highest quality of work possible.
Browns Mills, New Jersey, United States
Only competent & proven writers
Original writing — no plagiarism
Our papers are never resold or reused, period
Satisfaction guarantee — free unlimited revisions
Client-friendly money back guarantee
Total confidentiality & privacy
Guaranteed deadlines
Live Chat & 24/7 customer support
All academic and professional subjects
All difficulty levels
12pt Times New Roman font, double spaced, 1 inch margins
The fastest turnaround in the industry
Fully documented research — free bibliography guaranteed
Fax (additional info): 866-332-0244
Fax (additional info): 866-308-7123
Live Chat Support
Need order related assistance?—Click here to submit a inquiry
© Dreamessays.com. All Rights Reserved.
Dreamessays.com is the property of MEDIATECH LTD