A People’s History of the United States Summary By Howard Zinn

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A People's History of the United States is an important book that gives voice to those who have traditionally been silenced in U.S.

history books-the marginalized, the disenfranchised and the oppressed.

The book takes readers through a journey of how these communities stood up to power and spoke out against inequality throughout our nation's history, highlighting their uprisings, protests and other forms of activism that took place despite a government built for the benefit of the wealthy.

The illustrations and facts are based on thorough research which makes this book an important resource for learning about our country's past from a different perspective.

A People's History of the United States

Book Name: A People's History of the United States (A brilliant and moving history of the American people)

Author(s): Howard Zinn

Rating: 3.9/5

Reading Time: 35 Minutes

Categories: History

Author Bio

Howard Zinn was a renowned historian, activist, and author who dedicated his life to educating people about the history of human rights, politics, and social injustice.

He had a strong understanding of how these issues have been distorted by mainstream media for centuries, which he would incorporate into the topics of his books.

Throughout his career, Zinn lectured on political science at Boston University for many years before leaving the world with a heartbreaking heart attack in 2010.

His passionate work spread like wildfire and still survives through any material related to his authorship.

It can never be fully forgotten thanks to his classic best seller 'A People's History of the United States', an ambitious account of American history from the perspective of those oppressed by or excluded from power.

Unmasking the U.S.: A History of Power and Struggle Through the Lens of Howard Zinn

Open book with history doodles and lettering. Education vector illustration.

Are you ready to learn the true American history? With Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of The United States” you’ll get a more realistic look at the tumultuous history of our country.

In this book, you’ll find out that America isn’t always the land of the free, and home of the brave.

Oftentimes it can be a land of pillage and plunder, racism and hatred.

It is a society built on privilege and exploitation where those with money and power have often taken advantage of the many who have none.

But it not only tells you about all of this unimaginable cruelty and subjugation that took place in our nation’s past; it also highlights great moments in America.

Zinn outlines how labor unions began to take root in the United States, how corporations came to dominate government policies, and why we are constantly embroiled in warfare.

No matter what your opinion or beliefs about America may be, this book should open your eyes to see its true colors – both good and bad – giving us an appropriate lens through which to view current events today.

Pick up “A People’s History Of The United States” for an eye-opening learning experience.

Uncovering the Dark History of Colonialism in America

It’s a sad fact that the mass genocide of America’s native people is rarely talked about, even though it had disastrous consequences.

When the first European settlers arrived, they subjugated the Arawaks in the Bahamas and forced them to lead them to gold.

Those who failed were punished with amputation, and thousands of children died in just a three-month period.

By 1515, a population of 250,000 had been decimated to just 50,000 survivors – with no more than 500 remaining by 1650.

It was only when historians looked closer at Christopher Columbus’ writings that they discovered what really happened after 1492.

Yet despite this gruesome past, popular historians have largely ignored this tragedy.

Even books like Christopher Columbus: Mariner painted a romanticized version of his journey without delving into his dark intentions or actions against Native Americans.

Many political leaders and government representatives use this absence of information to further push an agenda that keeps Native Americans unacknowledged or even invisible – thereby ignoring their history and suffering for too long.

In order to truly understand what happened in our history books should be altered so that these graves events are no longer hidden away from people’s eyes but instead become part of everyone’s education so that it is not forgotten any longer.

Eurocentric Prejudice Triggers the Devastating Transatlantic Slave Trade

Transatlantic Slave Trade

The Native American people were not about to succumb to the colonial presence and abide by the Europeans’ idea that women should be subordinate to men.

This caused an unending animosity between the two groups, culminating in colonists distributing smallpox-infected blankets to the natives as a means of reducing their population.

This had dire consequences, as seen when the native population on Martha’s Vineyard declined from 3000 to 313 over a twenty-two year period.

In response, European colonisers looked towards Africa for a source of slaves to serve them.

As a result of this newfound slave trade, wealth poured into Europe while thousands of Africans were transported in deplorable conditions across the Atlantic Ocean to America.

The sailing conditions were so cramped that many would not survive the voyage, but that presented no issue for these traders, who still profited immensely from it.

It is clear that Native American resistance left Europe with no other option than to acquire slaves from Africa, leading to what eventually became an extensive slave trade system across all of America.

The US Founding Fathers Put Laws in Place to Maintain their Wealth and Power and Keep Control of Government in the Hands of the Richest 10 Percent

From the start of the American slave trade, wealthy landowners wanted to protect their power and wealth by creating a system of laws and government that would secure their dominance for years to come.

This included early laws that made it illegal for whites and blacks to talk to each other, as well as stringent requirements for political office that prevented anyone but members of the wealthiest 10% from taking part in government.

This inequality remains to this day, thanks largely in part to the US Constitution – a document that was mostly concerned with protecting biological property owners, while never once referring to slaves, servants, women or anyone without a high net worth.

As history has shown us time and time again: the US government was built and is still controlled by wealthy landowners – keeping control firmly in their hands and stacking the deck against everyone else in terms of economic opportunities.

The Legacy of Women’s Rights and Activism in the United States: From the Jamestown Settlers to the Movement Against Slavery

Women in early American society were subjected to terrible conditions and mistreatment, but it wasn’t long before they began to organize.

Before the American Revolution, women were kept isolated from each other, which made it incredibly difficult for them to fight against their wrongful treatment.

They often happened to be sold into servitude with their own consent – arriving in Jamestown as early as 1619 – and were treated as second-class citizens, whipped and made to sleep on the floor without more than a blanket.

Elizabeth Sprigs wrote a letter in 1756 describing this mistreatment and saying that the people of America suffer in unimaginable ways compared to England.

Women’s literacy rate at this time doubled between 1760 and 1840, leading to them gaining some basic rights despite still being expected to ‘soften’ and ‘entertain’ men according to popular pocketbooks Advice To A Daughter.

Eventually Elizabeth Cady Stanton met Lucretia Mott – a moment seen as the start of the women’s rights movement in America – and so began female empowerment through protests and strikes demanding improved conditions such as health care reform.

Women also came forward as powerful voices for abolitionists protesting slavery, representing another important part of their contribution towards changing society.

The American Expansion of the 1800s: The Trail of Tears and the Mexican-American War

Mexican-American War

The US had a fierce determination to expand their territory as far as possible, often by any means necessary.

This meant taking control of Native American tribes and forcing them further West through acts of violence such as the Trail of Tears.

Further expansion meant a war against Mexico which saw an army composed primarily of immigrants with no weapons or support sent to battle against a well-armed enemy.

Thousands died in this conflict, and it ultimately resulted in the boundary between Texas and Mexico being established along the Rio Grande.

This acquisition of land was secured at an incredibly high price – violence against Native Americans and Mexicans alike.

The Cherokee were pushed across rivers and died from starvation on their way due to lack of provisions from the federal government, while drunken US soldiers pillaged Mexican villages in a horribly chaotic war that resulted in even more fatalities.

For this expansion to occur, it required a great sacrifice for those who suffered at its hands.

Lincoln’s Proclamation and the End of Slavery Was More Political Than Humane

The Civil War may have ended slavery, but it was not done out of a humanitarian impulse; the objectives that drove this horrific conflict were purely political.

It’s true that tensions between the North and South had been rising for years before Abraham Lincoln was elected, with both sides wanting different economic outcomes.

But as tensions boiled over and states began to secede, Lincoln’s main focus was indeed to keep the Union intact, its financial and political establishments safe – not to end slavery.

The Emancipation Proclamation is similarly misrepresented; this was simply an act taken in an attempt to force Confederate surrender by cutting off their labor source.

And while the Thirteenth Amendment barring slavery did result from this, conditions for black people didn’t really improve much until decades later, since Former Slave-owners had their land back and were able to vote again.

So ultimately, what we are left with for posterity is that the Civil War itself was a means of maintaining status quo in America – not of ending the injustice and horror of slavery.

This can be seen quite clearly when looking at who received assistance from Union forces after the war: wealthy former slave-owners who could cooperate economically and politically with those on top now got genuine relief – black people were largely abandoned to fend for themselves..

The Power of Unions: How Uniting Together Led to Big Changes in the 1800s

In the 1800s, a powerful labor movement began to emerge.

The tenant farmers realized that they had an option; they could stand together and use union power to improve their lives.

This is evidenced by their stand against singularly powerful landlords – like the Rensselaers, who owned so much land in New York that 80,000 tenants were paying them rent.

When a deputy came with notices of overdue rent for one family, he was met with 1,800 farmers and the sheriff who came with 500 men had to turn around and leave.

This feeling spread throughout the entire country and workers began to unite as a force using protests and strikes to make their voices heard.

Unions in Europe were already established but this new form of labor struggles saw its heyday in America between 1864 and 1900 when unionized workers increased from 200,000 to 1 million strong.

Laborers organized within big cities like Boston and Lynn, Massachusetts forming associations like the Factory Girls Association which pushed for improvement of working conditions in textile mills.

All of this signaled a major confrontation between capital and labor – one that changed history for generations to come.

The 1877 Railroad Workers Strike and the Formation of Radical Unions Showed Waiters the Power of Coming Together for Change

Radical Unions

During the industrial era of America, workers began to realize the extent of their collective power when it came to strikes – with some being more successful than others.

But even in those strikes that ended in tragedy, such as the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 which resulted in 100 deaths, the impact was clear: unions and democratic socialism were on the rise.

Organizations like The Shoe Maker’s Union possessed a revolutionary spirit and embraced socialist or communist ideals through publications like “The Awl”, which often quoted from Marx’s Communist Manifest users maximum protection.

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The Real Reason the U.S. Entered WWI: Economic Gain and Power for the Elite, Not a Genuine Defense of American Values

It’s clear that World War I highlighted the dishonest and hypocritical nature of the US government.

Take, for example,Woodrow Wilson’s claims about why the United States entered WWI.

He said it was due to the Germans sinking the Lusitania – without mentioning that it was carrying arms ammunition, gun cartridges and shells as well.

His speech revolved around asserting ‘American rights’ which couldn’t be abridged!

Yet at the same time as his rousing speech, Wilson removed the nation’s ban on private bank loans to foreign countries so that American corporations could profit from WWI by selling goods to Allied countries in the war – in just two years these corporations had made over $2 billion from it alone.

From Andrew Carnegie’s US Steel and Standard Oil controlled by Rockefeller Family to J.P. Morgan – all major monopolies were involved in this money-making project!

William Jennings Bryan then praised Wilson for “opening up weaker countries” for this “invasion of American capital and American enterprise”.

On top of this, during WWI citizens were forbidden from speaking against the war or publishing antiwar literature otherwise they could face jail time of up to 20 years under The Espionage Act.

Even those who opposed forced militarisation through Conscription Act faced persecution such as Charles Schenck, who was jailed for calling it a violation of Thirteenth Amendment prohibiting involuntary servitude.

All this goes to show that you can’t trust what the US government says all too easily – WWI gave us a clear example of their dishonesty and hypocrisy.

The US Economy Boomed with Wartime Spending, Fuelled by Fear-Mongering and Corporate Profiteering

WWII proved to be an economic boon for the United States.

It caused US military expenditures to skyrocket – permanently – and provided a much-needed inflationary windfall for select corporates.

The war effort directly contributed to increased profits for roughly 56 corporations that were awarded substantial military contracts, with General Motors’ president celebrating the growth of the economy through warfare.

World War II also saw a massive surge in the defense budget, prompted by fabrications of threats of communism as well as interventions in various areas such as Saudi Arabia’s oil industry.

This led to stockpiling of weapons and ultimately, a permanent military budget being adopted after the end of the war that remained at wartime levels.

Additionally, President Franklin D. Roosevelt wasn’t overly concerned with anti-Semitism in Germany but instead of how any potential war with Japan would affect US resources such as rubber or tin; it is assumed this played some role in prior sanctions imposed on Japan before Pearl Harbor.

In short, World War Two resulted in unequal distributions of wealth whereby select few gained significantly from contracts and arms stockpiling while everyday citizens faced falling wages because of wartime restrictions and rising prices due to inflation due to war spending resultingin dramatic changes within American economy into militarization.

The Vietnam War Sparked Outrage in America Over US False Claims and Brutal Atrocities Committed Abroad

Vietnam War

The true reality of US foreign policy has been largely hidden behind the bold promises of world peace and international stability.

But a deep dive into America’s activities around the world clearly paints a picture that is not as rosy as it might seem.

In reality, US foreign policy has been dictated by economic interests, and the nation’s government has been willing to go to great lengths to promote these interests – even if it means lying to the American public.

Take for example President John F. Kennedy’s public statements about helping Vietnam gain independence in 1959.

Privately though, his administration spoke of making “rich exportable surpluses like rice, rubber” from Vietnam — something far more sinister than aiding independence.

Similarly, was President Lyndon Johnson’s claim about North Vietnamese forces attacking U.S military boats in 1964 which was actually made up by the CIA to acquire congressional approval for military action against North Vietnam.

In addition to the deception spread through political rhetoric, the American people have also felt first-hand some of the worst effects wrought by US foreign policy in Vietnam throughout the 60s including horrifying war crimes such as those at My Lai 4 as well as unprecedented destruction due to massive bombardments and chemical warfare tactics used during this time period.

All this resulted in large antiwar demonstrations across America in an effort to contain and reject what some now call US imperialistic intentions revealed by their current policies around the globe — further proof that US foreign policy is still often guided by economic interests hidden behind misleading slogans and deceptions sold to the public through lies and falsehoods

The Civil Rights Movement: Government Cooptation Squelches Radical Activism, Unsurprisingly Leads to Aftermath of Brutality

The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s was a watershed moment in American history.

It embodied hope that the country could move towards justice, understanding, and acceptance.

The government’s response to this movement, however, was far from ideal.

Instead of embracing it as an opportunity for growth and progress, they sought to suppress what they deemed as an uprising or disturbance by any means necessary.

Take Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s march on Washington in 1962 as an example.

Before it took place, leaders like John Lewis had to speak directly to the Kennedy administration in order to get them to tone down the rhetoric since those in power feared a more militant approach.

And even when 200,000 people showed up for the event, all of whom were united by their demand for human rights, government inaction ensued over the next six years — leading to countless black people being killed while seeking justice.

By 1967, after all this brutality had taken place without consequence, any hope that America could meet “love with love” had been extinguished among many blacks living within its borders.

This resulted in some of the largest urban riots ever seen at that time — though even when legislation was eventually passed it still contained discriminatory language.

It is evident then that rather than justice or reform, the government’s actions in regards to the Civil Rights Movement tended towards suppression and compliance with their own hypocritical standards.

Reagan’s Presidency Showed How the US Government is Willing To Suppress Dissent and Protect Its Interests

Even after the war in Vietnam ended, the US government continued to demonstrate its control and strength with military action.

In May of 1975, for example, President Ford sent 200 troops into neighboring Cambodia despite the lack of Congressional approval.

The invasion was a response to the capture of a US cargo ship, the Mayaguez, by the country’s communist government — an event that occurred merely weeks after Vietnam officially ended.

Other administrations followed suit; Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush all maintained foreign policy agendas similar to previous administrations’, supporting oppressive and often corrupt regimes in places like Iran, Indonesia and Nicaragua.

To further protect US business interests in Latin America, Reagan also funded counter-revolutionary forces through secret deals with Saudi Arabia and Israel – but not before lying about their intentions once news broke out about the deals.

It is clear that even after the end of Vietnam war, the US government showed itself as a powerful entity capable of deceptive military action when needed.

The Government’s Misuse of Military Power and Expenditure: Robert Bowman’s Insightful Warnings

The US government has continually oppressed people of other countries to fulfill its capitalist greed.

From Operation Desert Storm in 1990, which was an attempt to gain control of oil resources in the Middle East, to military contracts that funnel billions of dollars of tax money to the super rich, history has proven this tactic to be true time and time again.

This pattern of oppression continually incites rage and anger amongst foreign people for two reasons: firstly because it is unjust, and secondly because it is used as a tool for political gain by those in power.

Robert Bowman had this view prior to September 11th 2001 when he stated that it’s not US citizens or practices that cause discontent abroad but rather the oppressive ways of the government.

This statement proved prophetic following 9/11 when despite these tragic events government policy remained unchanged; simply funneling more money into growing military budgets instead of providing humanitarian aid.

It’s become all too obvious that the US continues oppressing citizens in foreign nations to serve its own economic interests and politics.

We only have to look at Robert Bowman’s suggestion before 9/11- if they provided clean water systems along with food assistance -to see what a better approach to helping other countries would look like over what we have today: continuous oppression through military invasions

Wrap Up

The conclusion of A People’s History of the United States is one of deep concern: wealthy, powerful people have always been able to bend the US government in their favor, whether through close relationships with big corporations, robbing Native Americans of their land, enslaving African peoples and their descendants or pitting working-class people against each other.

It leaves us with the understanding that our only hope lies in solidarity and cooperation among all classes if justice is to ever be achieved.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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