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Oppressed Essay, Research Paper

The Laden Dr. Howard Zinn s A People s History of the United States might bebetter titled A Proletarian s History of the United States. In the firstthree chapters Zinn expressions at non merely the history of the vanquishers, swayers, and leaders ; but besides the history of the enslaved, theoppressed, and the led. Like any American History book covering the timeperiod of 1492 until the early 1760 s, A People s History tells thestory of the find of America, early colonisation by Europeanpowers, the government of these settlements, and the lifting discontent ofthe settlers towards their leaders. Zinn, nevertheless, stresses the function ofa figure of groups and thoughts that most books neglect or skim over: theplight of the Native Americans that had their Numberss reduced by up to90 % by European invasion, the equality of these peoples in many regardsto their European opposite numbers, the importing of slaves into Americaand their indefinable travel conditions and intervention, the callousbuildup of the agricultural economic system around these slaves, thediscontented settlers whose predicament was ignored by the rulingbourgeoisie, and most significantly, the lifting category and racial strugglesin America that Zinn right credits as being the root of many of theproblems that we as a state have today. It is reviewing to see a bookthat spends infinite based proportionally around the people that livedthis history. When Columbus arrived on the Island of Haiti, there were39 work forces on board his ships compared to the 250,000 Indians on Haiti. Ifthe white race histories for less than two hundredths of one per centum ofthe island s population, it is merely just that the indigens get more thanthe two or three sentences that they get in most history books. Zinncites population figures, first individual histories, and his owninterpretation of their effects to make an accurate and just depictionof the first two and a half centuries of European life on the continentof North America. The nucleus portion of any history book is evidently history. In the firstthree chapters of the book, Zinn presents the major historical facts ofthe first 250 old ages of American history get downing from when ChristopherColumbus s Ni a, Pinta, and Santa Maria landed in the Bahamas on October12, 1492. It was there that Europeans and Native Americans foremost cameinto contact ; the Arawak indigens came out to recognize the Whites, and thewhites were merely interested in happening the gold. From the Bahamas, Columbus sailed to Cuba and Hispa ola, the contemporary place of Haiti andthe Dominican Republic. One-hundred 15 old ages subsequently and 1,500 milesto the North, the settlement of Jamestown was founded by a group of Englishsettlers led by John Smith ; shortly after that the Massachusetts BayColony was founded by a group of Puritans known to us today as thePilgrims. Because of uneasy and hostile dealingss with the nearby PequotIndians, the Pequot War shortly started between the settlers and thenatives. Acerate leaf to state, the settlers won, but it was at the expenseof several twelve of their ain and 1000s of Pequots. But despiteIndian struggle, exposure, famishment, dearth, disease, and otherhardships, the English kept coming to America. In 1619 they were settledenough that they started conveying African slaves into the middlecolonies. Before fall backing to Africans, the settlers had tried tosubdue the Indians, but that thought failed before it was created. Zinnwrites: They couldn t force the Indians to work for them, as Columbus haddone. They were outnumbered, and while, with superior pieces, theycould slaughter the Indians, they would confront slaughter in return. Theycould non capture them and maintain them enslaved ; the Indians were tough, resourceful, noncompliant, and at place in these forests, as the transplantedEnglishmen were non. White retainers had non yet been brought over in sufficientquantity & # 8230 ; . As for free white colonists, many of them were skilledcraftsmen, or even work forces of leisure back in England, who were so littleinclined to work the land that John Smith & # 8230 ; had to declare a sort ofmartial jurisprudence, form them into work packs, and coerce them into thefields for endurance & # 8230 ; .. Black slaves were the reply. And it was natural to see importedblacks as slaves, even if the establishment of slave dealers would non beregularized and legalized for several decennaries ( 25 ) . Black bondage became an American establishment that the southern andmiddle settlements began to depend on for their economic success. The firststirrings of bitterness began to come non from the slaves but from theproletariat in the signifier of the frontier Whites. Nathaniel Bacon led arevolution against Virginia governor William Berkeley and hisconciliatory Indian policies. Bacon and others who lived on the westernfrontier wanted more protection from the authorities against Indianattacks. Berkeley and his buddies were so concerned with their ownfinancial and political addition that they ignored Bacon s Rebellion andcontinued their policies. In the terminal, Bacon died a natural decease ( hecaught a awful virus ) and his friends were hanged, but for the firsttime of all time, the authorities was forced to listen to the grudges of theunderclass that had been for the most portion mostly ignorable up to thatpoint. Meanwhile, category differentiations became sharper and the hapless grew innumber. Citizens were put into work houses for debt and occasionallyrioted against the wealthy. More and more though, the choler turned frombeing merely a category war to being a war of nationalities. Impressment andother British policies distracted the settlers from being mad at thebourgeoisie to being mad at their female parent state. At the terminal of chapterthree, tenseness is mounting, opposing the Americans against the Englishand the workers against the rich. The ambiance was mature forrevolution. The ground that this book might be better titled A Proletarian sHistory of the United States is that Zinn s chief focal point on the bookbesides the existent history is the consequence of the history on the commonpeople and the workers, or workers as Marx and Engels referred tothem. While most history books concentrate on the dominating Europeans, Zinn

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focal points on the dominated Native Americans, who Zinn holds to be at leastas advanced as their European Masterss. 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 Europeitself, where the culture was complex, where human relations were moreegalitarian than in Europe, and where the relations among men, women,children, and nature were more beautifully worked out than perhaps anyplace in the world. They were a people without a written language, but with their ownlaws, their poetry, their history kept in memory and passed on, in anoral vocabulary more complex than Europe s, accompanied by song, dance,and ceremonial drama. They paid careful attention to the development ofpersonality, intensity of will, independence and flexibility, passionand potency, to their partnership with one another and with nature (21-22). In the middle of the first chapter, Zinn uses the historical treatmentof Columbus to explain his own view on teaching history. Thus began the history, five hundred years ago, of the Europeaninvasion of Indian settlements in America. That beginning, when you read[Bartolom de] Las Casas… is conquest, slavery, death. When we readhistory books given to the children in the United States, it all startswith heroic adventure — there is no bloodshed — and Columbus Day is acelebration (7). He goes on to vituperate historian Samuel Eliot Morison for his briefand buried mention of Columbus s genocide of the natives. This is one ofthe 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 statethe facts, however, and then bury them in a mass of other information isto say to the reader: yes, mass murder took place, but it s not thatimportant… it should effect very little what we do in the world (8). Zinn says that selection, simplification, [and] emphasis (8) arenecessary to the historian, but he chooses to take a different stance inhis writings. …I prefer to tell the story of the discovery of America from theviewpoint of the Arawaks, of the Constitution from the standpoint of theslaves, of Andrew Jackson as seen by the Cherokees, of the Civil War asseen by the New York Irish… of the First World War as seen bysocialists, the Second World War as seen by pacifists, the New Deal asseen by the blacks in Harlem, the postwar American empire as seen bypeons in Latin America. And so on, to the limited extent that any oneperson, however he or she strains, can see history from the standpointof others (10). Zinn continues his identification with the oppressed as he discussesblack-white relations. He says that blacks and whites are not naturallyprejudiced against each other as some would have us believe; he pointsto the fact that laws actually had to be passed to keep blacks andwhites from fraternizing. Servants and slaves of different races saweach other as oppressed workers first and as members of a specific racesecond. 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 hadslavery 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 ofEurope — 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 80years, Zinn cites routine injustices against the working and underclasses, saying that it seems quite clear that the class lines hardenedthrough the colonial period; the distinction between rich and poorbecame sharper (47). It is refreshing and commendable to see a history text that takes astance 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 mento have ever lived. If your value as a human being is measured by thenumber of lives you ruin, people you kill, and civilizations youdestroy, then Columbus is on par with Josef Stalin. This example mayseem extreme, but both men were directly responsible for the deaths ofmillions on innocent civilians and caused sheer terror and panic amongmillions of other people. The difference is that Columbus did it in thename of exploration and human progress, which Zinn correctly calls a bitof a misnomer, while Stalin did it to achieve his political ambitions,which Columbus was certainly not without himself. Columbus committedhorrible atrocities, and Zinn accurately portrays them from a uniquestandpoint, which gives long overdue respect and recognition to themillions of Indians who died in the name of progress. Equally accurateis Zinn s portrayal of colonial relations. Both African slaves andproletarian whites were pushed around, tormented, and used as pawns inthe political game of chess for the benefit of the bourgeoisie. Zinnasserts that there were clear contentions between the races thatultimately led to the revolution when the anger of the masses that wasoriginally directed primarily at the bourgeoisie was redirected againstEngland in the form of rhetoric, concessions, and propaganda calling forloyalty to America s upper classes and rebellion, first quiet and thenloud, against England. [The bind of loyalty] was the language ofliberty and equality, which could unite just enough whites to fight aRevolution against England, without ending either slavery or inequality (58). Zinn is absolutely correct in seeing the ulterior motives of ourfounding fathers; they realized that splitting from England would begood for them financially, socially, and politically. What they did washarness 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 wasoppression and class warfare on varying scales that are traditionallyignored or unemphasized by traditional history texts, but Zinnmasterfully shows the reader are major and influencial parts of Americanhistory. To ignore the plight of the conquored and oppressed is toignore a part of history that cannot be ignored.

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