Cover image for A people's history of the United States : 1492-present
Title:
A people's history of the United States : 1492-present
Author:
Zinn, Howard, 1922-2010.
Personal Author:
Edition:
Twentieth anniversary edition.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : HarperCollins Publishers, 1999.
Physical Description:
702 pages ; 25 cm
Language:
English
Geographic Term:
ISBN:
9780060194482
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

Since its original landmark publication in 1980, "A People's History of the United States" has been chronicling American history from the bottom up, throwing out the official version of history taught in schools--with its emphasis on great men in high places--to focus on the street, the home, and the, workplace.

Known for its lively, clear prose as well as its scholarly research, "A People's History" is the only volume to tell America's story from the point of view of--and in the words of--America's women, factory workers, African-Americans, Native Americans, the working poor, and immigrant laborers.As historian Howard Zinn shows, many of our country's greatest battles---the fights for a fair wage, an eight-hour workday, child-labor laws, health and safety standards, universal suffrage, women's rights, racial equality--were carried out at the grassroots level, against bloody resistance. Covering Christopher Columbus's arrival through President Clinton's first term, "A People's History of the United States, " which was nominated for the American Book Award in 1981, features insightful analysis of the most important events in our history.

Revised, updated, and featuring a new after, word by the author, this special twentieth anniversary edition continues Zinn's important contribution to a complete and balanced understanding of American history.


Author Notes

A committed radical historian and activist, Howard Zinn approaches the study of the past from the point of view of those whom he feels have been exploited by the powerful.

Zinn was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1922. After working in local shipyards during his teens, he joined the U.S. Army Air Force, where he saw combat as a bombardier in World War II. He received a Ph.D. in history from Columbia University in 1958 and was a postdoctoral fellow in East Asian studies at Harvard University.

While teaching at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, Zinn joined the civil rights movement and wrote The Southern Mystique (1964) and SNCC: The New Abolitionists (1964). He also became an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War, writing Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal (1967) and visiting Hanoi to receive the first American prisoners released by the North Vietnamese.

Zinn's best-known and most-praised work, as well as his most controversial, is A People's History of the United States (1980). It explores American history under the thesis that most historians have favored those in power, leaving another story untold. Zinn discusses such topics as Native American views of Columbus and the socialist and anarchist opposition to World War I in examining his theory that historical change is most often due to "mass movements of ordinary people."

Zinn's other books include You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times (1995) and Artists in Times of War (2004). He has also written the plays Emma (1976), Daughter of Venus (1985), and Marx in Soho (1999).

(Bowker Author Biography) Howard Zinn grew up in the immigrant slums of Brooklyn, where he worked in shipyards in his late teens. He saw combat duty as an air force bombardier in World War II, and afterward received his doctorate in history from Columbia University. His first book, "La Guardia in Congress", was an Albert Beveridge Prize winner. In 1956, he moved with his wife and children to Atlanta to become chairman of the history department of Spelman College. He has since written and edited many more books, including A People's History of the United States, SNCC: The New Abolitionist; Disobedience and Democracy; The Politics of History; The Pentagon Papers: Critical Essays; You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times; and The Zinn Reader (Seven Stories Press, 1997).

Zinn is also the author of three plays, Emma, Daughter of Venus, and Marx in Soho. Among the many honors Zinn has received is the 1998 Lannan Literary Award for nonfiction. A professor emeritus of political science at Boston University, he lives with his wife, Roslyn, in the Boston area, near their children and grandchildren.

(Publisher Provided)


Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

According to this classic of revisionist American history, narratives of national unity and progress are a smoke screen disguising the ceaseless conflict between elites and the masses whom they oppress and exploit. Historian Zinn sides with the latter group in chronicling Indians' struggle against Europeans, blacks' struggle against racism, women's struggle against patriarchy, and workers' struggle against capitalists. First published in 1980, the volume sums up decades of post-war scholarship into a definitive statement of leftist, multicultural, anti-imperialist historiography. This edition updates that project with new chapters on the Clinton and Bush presidencies, which deplore Clinton's pro-business agenda, celebrate the 1999 Seattle anti-globalization protests and apologize for previous editions' slighting of the struggles of Latinos and gays. Zinn's work is an vital corrective to triumphalist accounts, but his uncompromising radicalism shades, at times, into cynicism. Zinn views the Bill of Rights, universal suffrage, affirmative action and collective bargaining not as fundamental (albeit imperfect) extensions of freedom, but as tactical concessions by monied elites to defuse and contain more revolutionary impulses; voting, in fact, is but the most insidious of the "controls." It's too bad that Zinn dismisses two centuries of talk about "patriotism, democracy, national interest" as mere "slogans" and "pretense," because the history he recounts is in large part the effort of downtrodden people to claim these ideals for their own. (Feb. 16) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Excerpts

Excerpts

People's History of the United States, A Chapter One Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progress Arawak men and women, naked, tawny, and full of wonder, emerged from their villages onto the island's beaches and swam out to get a closer look at the strange big boat. When Columbus and his sailors came ashore, carrying swords, speaking oddly, the Arawaks ran to greet them, brought them food, water, gifts. He later wrote of this in his log: They . . . brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks' bells, They willingly traded everything they owned . . . They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features . . . They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane . . . They would make fine servants . . . With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want. These Arawaks of the Bahama Islands were much like Indians on the mainland, who were remarkable (European observers were to say again and again) for their hospitality, their belief in sharing. These traits did not stand out in the Europe of the Renaissance, dominated as it was by the religion of popes, the government of kings, the frenzy for money that marked Western civilization and its first messenger to the Americas, Christopher Columbus. Columbus wrote: As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts. The information that Columbus wanted most was: Where is the gold? He had persuaded the king and queen of Spain to finance an expedition to the lands, the wealth, he expected would be on the other side of the Atlantic--the Indies and Asia, gold and spices. For, like other informed people of his time, he knew the world was round and he could sail west in order to get to the Far East. Spain was recently unified, one of the new modern nation-states, like France, England, and Portugal. Its population, mostly poor peasants, worked for the nobility, who were 2 percent of the population and owned 95 percent of the land. Spain had tied itself to the, Catholic Church, expelled all the Jews, driven out the Moors. Like other states of the modern world, Spain sought gold, which was becoming the new mark of wealth, more useful than land because it could buy anything. There was gold in Asia, it was thought, and certainly silks and spices, for Marco Polo and others had brought back marvelous things from their overland expeditions centuries before. Now that the Turks had conquered Constantinople and the eastern Mediterranean, and controlled the land routes to Asia, a sea route was needed. Portuguese sailors were working their way around the southern tip of Africa. Spain decided to gamble on a long sail across an unknown ocean. In return for bringing back gold and spices, they promised Columbus 10 percent of the profits, governorship over new-found lands, and the fame that would go with a new title: Admiral of the Ocean Sea. He was a merchant's clerk from the Italian city of Genoa, part-time weaver (the son of a skilled weaver), and expert sailor. He set out with three sailing ships, the largest of which was the Santa Maria, perhaps 100 feet long, and thirty-nine crew members. Columbus would never have made it to Asia, which was thousands of miles farther away than he had calculated, imagining a smaller world. He would have been doomed by that great expanse of sea. But he was lucky. One-fourth of the way there he came upon an unknown, uncharted land that lay between Europe and Asia--the Americas. It was early October 1492, and thirty-three days since he and his crew had left the Canary Islands, off the Atlantic coast of Africa. Now they saw branches and sticks floating in the water. They saw flocks of birds. These were signs of land. Then, on October 12, a sailor called Rodrigo saw the early morning moon shining on white sands, and cried out. It was an island in the Bahamas, the Caribbean sea. The first man to sight land was supposed to get a yearly pension of 10,000 maravedis for life, but Rodrigo never got it. Columbus claimed he had seen a light the evening before. He got the reward. So, approaching land, they were met by the Arawak Indians, who swam out to greet them. The Arawaks lived in village communes, had a developed agriculture of corn, yams, cassava. They could spin and weave, but they had no horses or work animals. They had no iron, but they wore tiny gold ornaments in their ears. This was to have enormous consequences: it led Columbus to take some of them aboard ship as prisoners because he insisted that they guide him to the source of the gold. He then sailed to what is now Cuba, then to Hispaniola (the island which today consists of Haiti and the Dominican Republic). There, bits of visible gold in the rivers, and a gold mask presented to Columbus by a local Indian chief, led to wild visions of gold fields. On Hispaniola, out of timbers from the Santa Maria, which had run aground, Columbus built a fort, the first European military base in the Western Hemisphere. He called it Navidad (Christmas) and left thirty-nine crewmembers there, with instructions to find and store the gold. He took more Indian prisoners and put them aboard his two remaining ships. At one part of the island he got into a fight with Indians who refused to trade as many bows and arrows as he and his men wanted. Two were run through with swords and bled to death. Then the Nina and the Pinta set sail for the Azores and Spain. When the weather turned cold, the Indian prisoners began to die... People's History of the United States, A . Copyright © by Howard Zinn. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

1 Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progress
2 Drawing the Color Line
3 Persons of Mean and Vile Condition
4 Tyranny is Tyranny
5 A Kind of Revolution
6 The Intimately Oppressed
7 As Long as Grass Grows or Water Runs
8 We Take Nothing by Conquest, Thank God
9 Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Freedom
10 The Other Civil War
11 Robber Barons and Rebels
12 The Empire and the People
13 The Socialist Challenge
14 War is the Health of the State
15 Self-help in Hard Times
16 A People's War?
17 "Or Does It Explode?"
18 The Impossible Victory: Vietnam
19 Surprises
20 The Seventies: Under Control?
21 Carter-Reagan-Bush: The Bipartisan Consensus
22 The Unreported Resistance
23 The Coming Revolt of the Guards
24 The Clinton Presidency
Afterword
Bibliography
Index