A Response to a People’s History of the United States
Chapter One: I am a bit angered by the driving statement in this chapter, which is that the atrocities of the past are quietly accepted for the sake of progress. Howard Zinn uses the instances of Columbus’ first arrival to the West Indies and the eventual mass genocide that took place as an example of this very statement. Another example of such an injustice is the invasion of the British into North America and the Spaniards into South America. Other information released in this chapter is the fact that the Indians tried to appeal to their invaders more humane side so that both opposing powers could live in harmony.
Why is it that the hunger for space and land was so strong that the British could not find it within themselves to merely be happy in sharing? The Indians provided them with food in the harsh winter months as well as a means of protecting the British from exposure in the cold. It was pretty heartless to decimate an entire peoples after they were so hospitable. Howard Zinn also goes on to speak of the Indians’ customs and culture which also gives further insight as to why the Indians gave without expecting in return.
Chapter Two: This chapter begins to speak in depth about black slavery within America. The first Jamestown colonists were struggling with their new environment due to the fact that they were ignorant of the ability to grow food and could not depend upon the Indians’ help forced or otherwise due to the fact that they were outnumbered and were already on bad terms with them. So the ultimate effect was black slaves, the practice was already being used in South America and it was considered in a way ingenious.
I was a bit irritated that merely because the Africans were torn from their land and their culture they were considered inferior to the Europeans. Even though the Europeans could secure and invade the African coastline they were unable to subdue deeper within the continent, not only does that bring some sort of pride to me, it also shows the extent of the Europeans’ cowardice and laziness. Not to say that Africans had no cruelties with their nature and culture but it’s not as though they pursued to dominate foreign powers.
I grew angrier as the chapter went on to describe the treatment that the Africans suffered within the large slave ships and when they reached America were treated less than human. And Africans were considered dirty, soiled, and simply put: evil because of their dark, near-black skin. Howard Zinn also goes on to say that the experiment of placing someone white and someone black under more favorable conditions and viewing their interactions would not end up favorable due to the past history that both races shared.
Now I think that is not true for when you are young, you see color but you do not see it as a means to divide and categorize but merely the beauty that one is born with. Chapter Seven: Howard Zinn turns his attention toward the Indian population once more and the further extermination thereof. When America finally claimed its total independence from the British, the Indians fought alongside the British thus further cementing the animosity between the Indians and the Americans.
After the Revolutionary War, the British returned to their home across the sea while the Indians had to deal with and continue fighting the Americans for their land, but the Americans were expanding and moving westward. Andrew Jackson went southwest and fought the Creeks for their land and also succeeding against fighting the Spaniards for Florida justifying his actions by saying their god did not respect the American peoples and for that the Indians would suffer the consequences.
I return to my thoughts as to why the Americans could not find a method in which to peacefully coexist instead of having blood on their hands for their pure greed and need for expansion. The chapter’s title “as long as grass grows or water runs” was a phrase used by Andrew Jackson in which he tricked the Indian people into giving up their land easily, to this day it is still remembered by present Indians in the bitter recesses. Chapter Eight: We are introduced to the Mexican in this chapter as they were also looked upon with disdain under the American’s watchful eyes.
Mexicans were prohibited from crossing over the border and really were provoked into the long, drawn out battle between Mexico and America. It appears that the Americans were hungry for more land so as to justify their lust they created the illusion that the Mexicans were just as excited and impatient about this upcoming battle even though there was no open act of aggression on their part. This further angers me toward this supposedly “great” country because it appears to be an ongoing habit of conquest of other countries for the simple needs of the American peoples.
Instead of taking some initiative and actually trying to solve the problems that plague our culture and society, America looks to burden another country with the same problems that debilitate us. In other words, at least in the manner that appears to me, America is more of a virus or plague than a super power, we eat and away and use up all sources of resource until it has dried up and then we move on. All the while, we consider ourselves great and superior and on the other hand, almost anything foreign to us, inferior, odd, and weak.
America continued to war with Mexico until they finally surrendered and we extended Texas’ border up to the Rio Grande. The chapter is titled “we take nothing by conquest… thank God” but that is ironical due to the fact that is the way it appears to be by our manipulation but we are the driving force and blame behind it all. Chapter Seventeen: In this chapter we delve into the treatment and struggle of blacks within the 1950’s and 1960’s. Where the memory of slavery, lynching, and segregation is still fresh within the African American’s minds and lives.
The title’s chapter is in reference to a poem by Langston Hughes on what could possibly occur when a dream is deferred. It uses examples of other objects left alone such as sugar, raisins, and rotten meat. Not only was poems were put into effect but music like blues and jazz was another form as to how African Americans expressed themselves and the negative environment around them. Howard Zinn uses references to all the art forms around the time that expressed the collected dreams of African Americans and what they hoped to accomplish with their works.
One African American man named Angelo Herndon who became Communist and used his own thoughts as to the treatment of the unemployed and blacks to sway the people of Atlanta to invest $6,000 in the unemployed. Soon after, Herndon was placed under arrest for causing insurrection and was then asked a series of questions such as did he believe that the government should insure those who were unemployed and did he believe that African Americans should have complete equality with white people.
In response he said ” I believe that and so much more”, he was convicted and spent a five-year bid. This pleased me since his method of reaching to a broader audience not just black people scared the government as they began to see the militancy among black people. These new thoughts that black people began to question led them to call for more civil rights and this changed exponentially thanks to Martin Luther King and others who wished to see a change, who stressed nonviolence and love thus tying the bonds of brotherhood tighter among African Americans.