A Review of A People’s History of
The United States
A People’s History of the United States concentrates on the personal experiences
and struggles of people who lived in the United States from 1492-present. It is a view of
history from the common man’s perspective, rather than the view of the leaders and
upper class of this country.
The book revolves around the views of history from the oppressed point of view.
Howard Zinn makes it clear from the beginning that he will value the views and
experiences of the oppressed over the view of the oppressor. He describes the conquest
from the point of view of the Native American population. He describes slavery in the
south from the point of view of the slave. He describes industrialization from the point of
view of the workers on the shop floor. He describes World War II from the point of view
of the soldiers on the front lines. He describes the Vietnam War from the point of
view of the Vietnamese. You have to realize that these are his views of history as he sees
them, and is only one side of the story.
There is no such thing as unbiased, balanced, truthful history. History is in the eye
of the teller. In this case, Howard Zinn’s view of the history of this great country is
extremely Marxist. He seems to pick and choose historical data that fits his agenda in an
attempt to evoke an emotional response from the reader. He does make some good points
pertaining to injustices and misconceptions regarding the idealistic view of history, but
unrealistic perceptions are made of the founding and progress of this country. You have
to ask yourself, which is more important, that Columbus made his way to America or
that he treated the Indians horribly when he got here ? Which is more important,
that the Declaration of Independence states, that “all men are created equal” or the fact
that the author of the Declaration owned hundreds of slaves?
Zinn seems to argue that we cannot end evils like genocide, exploitation, and
abuse until we “face” them ... drag them into the light of day. To that point we are in
complete agreement. But, the very heart of Zinn's “history” is distorted. To use the two
most obvious examples; he condemns Columbus for genocide and America for slavery.
However, on the genocidal religious practices of Native Americans and on the African
elements of the international black slave trade, Zinn is virtually silent. That silence is a
crime of sorts. It is a crime because it distorts the truth rather than advances it and justice
cannot be had by any means other than the truth. If Zinn wants justice he needs to face
the truth and to face it he has to be willing to look for it. In my opinion he has attempted
nothing of the sort in this book.
Zinn's interpretation of the motivations of the founders with respect to the
Constitution and the Bill of...