Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A People's History of the United States

A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn
HarperPerennial, 2003
688 pages
Genre: History; Non-fiction

Summary: "America's story from the point of view of--and in the words of--America's women, factory workers, African Americans, Native Americans, working poor, and immigrant laborers." (from back cover)

Why I Read It: Well my focus is American history for my major so one would expect that I would read this but this was assigned for a class because Zinn recently died and this is such an important book to the study of history.

Thoughts: This book starts right out saying how it is going to be different than the history you learned in high school. You know Christopher Columbus, that guy who get a day off for and who discovered America? Yeah, he basically started a genocide on the Indians living in the Americas. And that is never really mentioned; instead he is celebrated for his vision and will. So Zinn's purpose is to bring stories such as this to the forefront-those who are celebrated and maybe shouldn't be? For example, did you know about Andrew Jackson's brutal treatment of American Indians? (Well I did because I despise him and have a lot of problems with him but a lot of people don't). What about socialist movements in the 1920s? Obviously the word "socialist" is a trigger word for many people but what do you seriously know about them? Besides deconstructing some of the American myths, Zinn also highlights underreported movements such as various labor protests.

One flaw, which he acknowledges, is the lack of discussion regarding Latino/a and queer movements (I read this for a college course and this came up). Obviously he can't cover everything but this is called a people's history so by excluding some people, what does that say to them when they're already excluded from traditional narratives?

Overall: It may seem like I really loved the book but I really didn't: 3 out of 5. So long and dense and boring. Not my cup of tea. But most of the people in my class loved it and got a lot out of it.


  1. Ah, I loved this book, so sorry it wasn't your favorite. :-(

    You might enjoy Lies My Teacher Told by James Lowen (I think that's how his name is spelled), it's sort of like A People's History, only more readable!

  2. I have read that actually and I agree that it is more readable!


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