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Kayla O’Connell Blog Post for 08/30

After reading the first chapter of “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn, I was filled with disappointment. Throughout the first chapter,  Zinn paints a portrait of Christopher Columbus & other conquerors who exploited the people of their new conquered lands. Zinn describes the inhabitants as both kind and extremely generous with both their belongings and manpower. Despite their kind efforts, Columbus exploited, raped, burned, and killed these innocent people. Throughout the chapter, Zinn continues to illustrate the disgusting truth behind numerous other unethical acquisitions in the Americas. Sadly, many other historical pieces of literature continue to ignore the truth behind these different historical events. 

As I reflect on these different events, one of Zinn’s questions remains prominent in my mind. Zinn asks, “Was all this bloodshed and deceit… a necessity for the human race to progress from savagery to civilizations”(17)? Although the Native Americans were forced into this new form of “civilization”, they should have been given the choice. In fact, the destruction of these peoples didn’t benefit their own civilization, but rather the white, European world. If Christopher Columbus and others never found the Americas, what would civilization look like today? I also have begun to question other important moments of history and how the removal of these events would have changed our society today. That goes to show how important historical events are to the formation of present day events.


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  1. Isabela Keetley Isabela Keetley

    I completely agree with what you said in the first paragraph. Reading this chapter it seemed that every page had a new story of bloodshed and deceit at the hands of the Europeans. The questions Zinn asks on page 17 also resonated with me after finishing the chapter. What would life be like now if Columbus never found the Americas and other Europeans didn’t mass murder the Native Americans that already occupied the land? Zinn puts fourth an argument that maybe these people were a lot smarter and more advanced than the settlers were able to realize at the time. I wonder if gender roles would exist if we had adapted their way of life instead of abolishing it.

  2. Madeline Orr Madeline Orr

    I was also disappointed when reading this chapter and it made me think about all of the other stories throughout history that tell a distorted narrative. Many people still see the story of Columbus as a heroic adventure but are not aware of the horrible bloodshed and cruelty that are a major part of the true story. I thought an interesting part of the chapter was how Zinn described many historical accounts as a quick disposal of facts that are surrounded by glorification. Many histories are told by the viewpoints of the conquerers or the leaders whose stories ignore the people and victims who may have suffered because of them. I wonder how frustrating it must be to have your true experience be shoved under a falsified story that idolizes people who may not deserve it.

  3. Elina Bhagwat Elina Bhagwat

    I think that the disappointment you bring up is really important because learning the truth about the history of America is the best way to learn and create a more inclusive nation. When reading about the horrible treatment of the Native Americans it really made me realize how much was left out of my history classes in high school. It makes me think about whether my teachers intentionally left out other perspectives of history or if us as a society is oblivious to the hardships faced by various ethnic groups in history. I like how you mention questioning other movements in history because Zinn’s reading makes me realize how much history that I believed to be true was simply written from a white man’s perspective

  4. Thomas Bennett Thomas Bennett

    Throughout my whole education, Indigenous people have often been referred to with the term “savage”. It is pretty appalling that this term has directly carried over as a characteristic of the first Americans from the descriptions literally given by Columbus and his men. While their tools may have been more rudimentary, with hindsight it is quite clear that their society in relation to gender equality and environmental sustainability was far more advanced than that of the Europeans. The fact that the term is still used today demonstrates how we are not so far removed from the history we learn about. Indigenous people were judged by unfair European standards and I would argue that the true savages of the time were the Europeans who treated the Indigenous people with brutality and violence in response to the kindness they received.

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