"A People''s History of the United States 1492 to present" is the America''s story written by Howard Zinn, a social/economic historian, in the words of America''s women, factory workers, African Americans, Native Americans, working poor and immigrant laborers of all nationalities.
Starting from Christopher Columbus''s arrival to President Clinton''s first term, "A People''s History of the United States 1492 to present" contains in-depth analysis of the most important events and facts in America''s history. These events and facts make this book a reliable resource for students and general readers of history. One strong criticism on American historians is that common people role is often overlooked and not presented in a desired way but this book explained in details the words of women, slaves and Indians etc. who were not considered as necessarily part of the mainstream and their struggle was not recognized although they played vital role in American Revolution.
Most of the history of the American Revolution focuses on "the founding fathers" but Howard Zinn gives credit to everyday people as Adams, Lincoln, and Jefferson, Washington would have hardly been able to find a country without the massive and concrete support of the common people. According to this classic American history, narratives of national unity and progress are a smoke screen hiding the deep conflicts between elite class and the masses that they use to oppress and exploit. The capitalism is originating and society is dividing in rich and poor classes. National resources and wealth is concentrating in a specific class and common people are struggling hard to keep them alive. Middle class is vanishing and distance between Upper class and poor are deepening and more deepening. Zinn examines racism in America from its origins, Columbus and the Indians, Racism, Columbus, and the American Indians are the facts of American history. Then Zinn goes on to present his view on its fatal effect on American society. Who did it benefit, who did it harm. Zinn presents the widely accepted theory that 5% of the population in this country controls 95% of the wealth. That 5% of the population is who benefited in Zinn''s view; the 95% of population scrambling around in eternal class conflict missed out. The main point is Zinn tells us, things, that most of people don''t want to hear, actual events that happened in American history.
It is fair to say that it is not the be-all-end-all account of American history but in order to come away believing America an evil empire / state, it would be better to lose sight of the reality of American history, namely that despite the corruption and evil, the principles written down in Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights have lived up to their true promise and continually get closer to their ideal. An informed electorate is essential to a functioning democracy, and the facts presented here go a long way towards helping Americans confront their dark past and learn lesson from it, rather than trying to escape from realities and sugar-coat it to prop up as an honorable nation with a right to arrogance.
Zinn reveals remarkably Lincoln''s duplicity when it came to the rights of blacks. In Chicago, he told one group, "Let us discard all this quibbling about... this race and that race and the other race being inferior." Two months later, in the southern part of the same state, he (Lincoln) promised that he did not even intend to "bring" about the social and political equality of the black and white races". Examples like this fill the book and can easily make someone read passages twice, to make sure they understood just what these revered men said. Naturally, Columbus is Zinn''s target from the first chapter, and in a quote that really sets the tone for the rest of the book, Columbus describes the serene beauty and pacifism of the Arawaks he encounhen in the same breath proposes making slaves of them.
Zinn follows women''s rights movements and the contribution women made to the labor movement in America. Zinn also follows the labor movement, from the rail road strikes in the 1800s, the coal miners’ strikes and the Ludlow Massacre, Pittsburgh strikes against Frick & Carnegie. Zinn presents the working middle class as simply a buffer between the establishment elite, and the anarchy that may occur without that class.
The over all impression of this book is that Zinn has uncovered some of Americas'' "untold" little secrets. He presents historic facts that are not always presented to the masses, but nonetheless are unarguably facts and Zinn is successful in forwarding those facts to general masses. Some critics may call him unpatriotic but there is nothing unpatriotic about this book. Writer’s perception is clear and reader should also read it with an open mind. It shows that Zinn cares enough about his country to take the time to criticize it, and hopefully change things for the better and bright future of nation. This is a dominant feature of this book and reader must keep in mind that purpose of this book is to provide knowledge – actual knowledge of history instead of merely praising the national heroes and their adventures.