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A People's History

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Essay title: A People's History

A People's History of the United States 1492 – Present by Howard Zinn takes a realistic viewpoint that is not seen in many textbooks, and that is exactly the point. Zinn writes about the dark sides of United States icons, which students are rarely taught about. Through historical examples, such as Christopher Columbus' treatment of Native American Arawak Indians, Zinn supports his thesis. In Zinn's book, he displays his displeasure with the way Americans are taught glorified history, as does another author, James Axtell, in his article, "Colonial America without the Indians: Counterfactual Reflections", while in another article by Axtell, "The Moral Dimensions of 1492", he states that although the truth should not be hidden, if stressed too much it could make our heroes seem much worse then they truly were.

In each of the articles there are similarities and differences that can be compared and contrasted with each other. The main example of all the points deals with the explorer, Christopher Columbus, and the things that are ignored when people speak of him. For example, Columbus took many Native American Indians to Europe to be sold as slaves, and while on the ships thousands died due to lack of necessities. Many Indians even committed suicide to avoid becoming captives. Axtell's first article and Zinn's A People's History of the United States, are comparable, in that each author feels that students are merely being taught from the viewpoint of a person in power rather than including the views of the oppressed. Though his first article was similar to Zinn, Axtell's second article contrasts the theories of Zinn. In Axtell's second piece he tells the reader that even though we should not hide the fact that Columbus and our other heroes were not perfect, we should not forget all the good they have done once all the facts are considered. For instance, although Columbus took advantage of the Indians and their goods, he gained wealth, as did the Indians that both had previously never enjoyed. Through his discoveries, Columbus cleared the way for the expansion of the European colonies in the Americas. In contrast Zinn suggests that we should think about what that person did to others to become so famous. Lastly an interesting contrast is between Axtell's first and second piece. This is particularly so because it is an opposing viewpoint by the same author. In his first piece Axtell demonstrates how when we refer to heroes such as Columbus, we fail to mention (in depth at least) their oppression of others, in this case, the Indians. In his second piece Axtell suggests that if we strictly look from the viewpoint of the downtrodden we can make our heroes out to seem much worse then they really were.

Each of the articles demonstrates historical perspective by how we view leaders throughout history. Zinn's reason for writing is to prove his displeasure in the glorified way our leaders are presented to American students, and ignoring the side of the lesser people. Zinn wants the reader to learn more then the

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