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Month: August 2020

Jack Kirkpatrick Blog post – 8/30

Throughout my time studying History in high school, my professors changed my perspective on history by revealing the truth behind many major events including the slave trade, former presidents, former generals, etc. However, we never looped back to 1492 and the real truth behind the birth of the British colonies and soon to be United States of America.

Just reading the opening paragraphs in Howard Zinns, “A Peoples History of the United States,” I was baffled by how outgoing the Arawak Natives were. Zinn explaines they were so eager to meet the new settles that they “swam out to get a closer look at the strange boat” and later “ran to greet the men bringing them food, water, and various gifts before trading.” It is already clear to me how mistaken I was not only on Columbus’ character, but the morality of all the “settlers.” I may just refer to them as “conquerers” from now on after reading Columbus’ writing stating “They would make fine servants… with fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want… On the first isn’t which i found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever is in these parts.” It is clear the history books lied, painting Columbus and the other “hero’s” in a positive light covering up the cruel, dark reality with a mask of humility.

I also was very intrigued by the fact that Columbus was essentially risking his life doing the dirty work for the Spanish sailing into the unknown, but was only promised 10% of the profits. Columbus was also extremely lucky aiming to find gold in Asia but underestimating the size of the planet only made it a quarter of the way there stumbling upon the America’s.

Finally, Zinn writes “Beyond all of that, how certain are we that what was destroyed was inferior?” Thinking about previous information in the text, this question raised about the Native people to the settlers brings up a great point. The native Americans got less geographical luck for there civilization, not having the proper farm animals for Better and faster agriculture and not having steel or iron for weaponry. Just because they did not have the resources the settlers had in the west, does it truly mean they were superior? They had knowledge the western people didn’t know with plants and herbs, being able to abort children with a simple herb amoung other impressive knowledges. It makes me ponder, what if we learned to live with the native people and shared information and resources so that we could both profit from the relationship; symbiosis.

It is transparent to me now that it is true, the winners of history write the history books. But what isn’t clear to me is why kids are continuously being taught the wrong history. If part of the goal of studying history is so the mistakes of the past are not repeated, then why not explain our dark history in school earlier, so that kids can learn from our past mistakes and come to peace with the fact that our history might be sinister, but it’s something we can all learn from and strive to be better as they write our history books in the near future. Kids would gain a better moral compass at a younger age if they knew the truth. We all need to learn from past mistakes, it’s simply how we grow as individuals and society as a whole.

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Christina Glynn’s blog post for 8/30

After reading the first chapter of Howard Zinn’s A Peoples of the United States, I am in disgust with Christopher Columbus, someone who I thought was so great. The American education system has taught children only one of the many perspectives of the story of Christopher Columbus. From historians to textbook writers to teachers there’s not one person to blame for the romanticizing of Columbus’ story. Columbus day is known as a celebration and most children only know Columbus as some hero who “discovered” America. Personally, as a child, I would always look forward to Columbus Day; It was a day off of school. I think the leaders of our country, teachers, historians, and as well as textbook writers need to expand on the idea that Christopher Columbus raped, killed, abused, and burned innocent people. Although I understand that it is easier “to emphasize the heroism of Columbus…and to deemphasize their genocide,” I feel that it is very wrong to avoid the truth of this man who we have been celebrating for centuries.

 

Christopher Columbus’ story is just one of the many stories in American history that are romanticized. Well to be exact, there aren’t any stories we are taught regarding the discovery of America that don’t involve Europeans taking over indigenous land. Zinn wrote that John Winthrop, the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, took over the Indian land because he thought they had a “‘natural’ right to it … a ‘natural right’ did not have legal standing.” This shows that the “discoverers” and “heroes” of America came to the land thinking that they owned every part of it with little to no respect or regard for the indigenous people who had been occupying the land for centuries. In addition to the Puritans, who were a part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the Pilgrims’ story of Thanksgiving is celebrated annually throughout the whole country. The romanticized story of Thanksgiving gives off the image that the Pilgrims did this great thing of hosting a huge feast with the indigenous people. The problem is it is often forgotten that the Pilgrims invaded the Indian’s land, crop fields, and animals. This shows that the leaders, historians, and textbook writers of our country are quite ashamed of some aspects of America’s history and the coming of our country.

 

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Christopher W. Blog Post 8/30

Zinn (1980) opens up his book by describing a historic moment in American history that we all have been taught in our History classes since elementary school: when Christopher Columbus discovers North America. Although, Zinn (1980) introduces further details about Christopher Columbus’ discovery of North America that astonished many individuals, namely me, as most American history books do not characterize Columbus in the negative light Zinn does. He then goes on to insist that historians and members of society, in general, must stop being complicit in accepting immoral moments in history at face value for some other ideological interest that connects everyone, such as progress (Zinn, 1980). This is especially true if we ever want to escape this cycle of repeating what has already happened in the past. As many people would say, different level, same devil.

Moreover, Zinn (1980) writes, “We have learned to give them exactly the same proportion of attention that teachers and writers often give them in the most respectable of classrooms and textbooks. This learned sense of moral proportion…is accepted more easily than when it comes from politicians at press conferences. It is therefore more deadly” (p. 9). Here, Zinn (1980) suggests that every time we hear about a horrible event in history, we instantaneously dedicate a finite amount of attention and compassion towards the victims impacted by those tragic moments in history and continue on with our lives without giving anything a second thought. When we do this, we subconsciously lower ourselves to accepting the executioners in history viewpoint Zinn (1980) details throughout this chapter instead of allying ourselves with the victims’ point of view that can motivate us to address the infirmities of our past to create a better present that will inevitably influence our future (p. 10). A modern-day example of this subconscious process is the negative relationship black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) students have at predominantly white institutions (PWI), such as Richmond.

Even though countless BIPOC voice their frustrations and share their opinions on what needs to systematically change at their PWIs- for instance, taking more severe action against students, even if they are white, who discriminate, harass, and assault BIPOC- it utterly feels like their- our- voices and freedoms are being silenced, restricted, monitored and, in some cases, “handled”, just like the Arawaks of the Bahamas, just like the Aztecs of Mexico, just like the Incas of Peru, and just like the Powhatans and Pequots of Virginia and Massachusetts. So, I wonder if it is possible for our world to ever return to its idyllic form Zinn (1980) mentions when communities were not tainted with the egocentric values and ideals that guided Western civilizations in the 15th Century but were adorned with egalitarian principles and practices that brought the fantasy of a utopia to life.

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Sam Hussey Blog Post 8/29

After reading chapter one of Howard Zinns’ A People’s History of the United States, I am left questioning many aspects of western civilization and the actions of our ancestors that brought our society to where it is today. Zinn exposed the awful truths of colonialism that are often left out of our history textbooks and early discussions of how we got here. However, when you take the time to actually unpack all of the genocide and malicious behavior of the colonizers, it is a lot to take in. While reading this passage, I felt sick to my stomach that my life has been build off of the mass murder of the indigenous people who rightfully called this place home before Columbus ever stepped foot on a boat. Everything I have in my life and everything my ancestors did for me was build off the subjugation of others and the dehumanization of the local people. Was this the only way to advance civilization to its achievements of today? Was there a more humane way to achieve this level of innovation and globalization? I understand that oftentimes you have to destroy to create. But what does that mean for those who get destroyed? Is that simply a part of civilization that gets lost in time, similar to Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest? Humans evolve just like any other species, but we are all equal when we are born. However, where we are born can provide massive advantages to your status. Zinn touches on this with the importance of natural resources played with the success of the colonizers. They had iron, which gave them weapons and guns. They also had horses, which allowed them to cover vast distances much more efficiently. They were not elevated beings over the indigenous people in the Americas, they were simply born with privilege.

Privilege continues to be a controversial topic that causes massive societal issues across the world today. In the US, we have seen the negative effects of privilege over the last several months erupt into the black lives matter movement. The basic understanding that you are born with privilege based on the color of your skin is something that many Americans still don’t understand, which causes those who are not privileged to be discriminated against and racially profiled for their lack of privilege. Many people still do not understand the privilege they are born with and did absolutely nothing to deserve. Columbus had the same mindset when he first met the natives. After one of his first encounters with the Arawaks, he wrote  “They would make fine servants… With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want”. Columbus truly believed that he was a superior being to these people despite being composed of the same DNA and being no different at birth. This inhumane ideology has been passed down from generation to generation and still remains in the minds of many Americans today. After reading this passage, it was evident that many of the same ideologies from 500 years ago can still be found today in our country. We have made a lot of progress, but there is still more to be made.

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Zachary Andrews Blog Post 8/29

After reading the first chapter in A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn, I was intrigued by the slew of new information that I had not previously known about Christopher Columbus, his crew, and his true intentions behind exploring the New World. The thing that I don’t entirely understand is, why is it that conflict between humans always arises? When Columbus and the other explorers such as Pizarro, Cortes invaded the New World, why did they have the urge to start a conflict with the Native Americans? I understand that the explorers were there to make money, find gold, claim new land, and seize glory for themselves but could there have been a way for them to achieve these things without destroying the Native American population throughout North America?

 

About three pages into the first chapter, I read an excerpt from one of Christopher Columbus’ trip logs. The excerpt stated that Columbus had the intention of subjugating the Natives so that he could have a large workforce. My question regarding this is that why would something like this immediately come to his mind? I know that he, Columbus, needed to fulfill his promise of bringing back gold and other resources to Spain but why did he feel the need to assert his power over a community of people who welcomed him with open arms? This and other stories such as the one regarding Rodrigo, a deckhand, who was the first to spot land; however, Columbus claimed that he did and not Rodrigo. Because of this, Columbus earned a 10,000 maravedis yearly for the rest of his life as a pension instead of Rodrigo. After fulfilling his promise to the Spanish throne, he returned to Spain and earned his new title of “Admiral of the Ocean Sea”. After analyzing this, I recognized that this new title gave Columbus referent power. He could then use this title to request more funding and voyage resources because the new title proves that he is a successful explorer and that he has experience.

 

Another quote from the text that caught my eye was, “How certain are we that what we destroyed was inferior?” This quote, regarding the Natives Americans, is a question posed towards the explorers and other mass murderers of the Christopher Columbus era and beyond. Were the Native Americans truly inferior or did they have information and technology that we hadn’t invented yet? That is a question that we are still asking ourselves today… what would have happened technologically, culturally, and socially if we hadn’t destroyed the Native American population? A similar genocide event that was mentioned in the book was the failed attempt to get rid of the Jewish people. The Spaniards expelled the Jewish people from their land, alongside other nations as well. Even the Roman Empire expelled the Jews from their land. Then both the Soviet Union and the Hitler attempted to fulfill a genocide. Throughout history Jews have been picked on and shoved aside. This same concept that was applied to the Native Americans was also applied to th Jewish people. Other people regarded both the Native Americans, the Jews, and others as inferior. Luckily the Jewish population was not completely killed. The Jewish community ended up giving the world people like Albert Einstein, Sergey Brin (co-founder of Google), Adam Sandler, and more. We were able to see what the Jewish population could bring to the world but we weren’t able to see what the Native American population could have given us.

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Delaney Demaret Blog Post for 8/30

Howard Zinn’s chapter on Columbus, the Indians, an Human Progress not only covered a new perspective on colonial genocide on Native Americans, it also laid a foundation for the need for new perspectives in the following chapters. The way it questions, then subsequently defends, its purpose for expanding the American narrative leaves a strong need to dissect the way we’ve learned our histories. Zinn notes that while emphasis in historical retelling is inevitable, we can still carefully analyze this “learned sense of moral proportion”. Somewhere down the road of American exceptionalism, self-committed atrocities got lost in the rest of our history, that which is told by the victors. Misconceptions of human progress should not dictate how and why we learn our stories. While we cannot go back in time, it is entirely possible to rewrite a broader history. 

What strikes me most about the dissonance between the flaws of the American education system and broader historical perspectives is the misconception that modern amends can’t be worked towards. Un-learning demands a constant thought process, but it is one that can and should be implemented at every level of education. Historical white supremacy, specifically that regarding the eras of colonization and globalization, is deeply embedded within the narratives we are taught to remember. Most importantly, relearning our history can’t exist within a bubble of higher education, it must expand far into American culture on the whole. 

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Sophie Peltzer Blog Post for 8/31

While reading the chapter by Howard Zinn about the realities of Christopher Columbus and the “discovery” of America, I was obviously shocked and disgusted to learn how untrue everything I had been taught was. I was aware of the controversies regarding the celebration of Colombus Day and had a basic understanding of why we should not celebrate a colonizer who killed thousands of Native Americans out of greed, but I had no idea how truly bad the reality of the situation actually was. It made me feel such pain for the Native American/Indigenous community, and gave me new respect on perspective on the celebration of Columbus Day in America.

Thinking about this, I remembered a time in my own life where I have received backlash from speaking against the harms of celebrating Columbus Day. Over the summer I was discussing the (albiet limited) information I had on why society was slowly turning to see the wrongs of celebrating, and my family with whom I was discussing it with had an unexpectedly passionate response. They told me that I shouldn’t believe everything I see on the Internet, and that I needed to stop rewriting history to make everything an issue of injustice and make everything seem so negative and bad. I was shocked by my family’s unwillingness to accept a story of history that wasn’t taught in the mainstream, and it truly made me realize how deeply the issues went. I was reminded of this moment while reading the chapter, realizing the disgust I felt and understanding how hard it can be to change the narrative we have always been taught. Despite the challenging nature of reading something so tragic, I think it is more important now than ever that we start teaching history not to cater towards any particular audience or serve any particular lesson or meaning other than teaching the facts, because we can see now how painting hisory in different lights can cause people harm even hundreds of years later.

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Tess Keating Blog Post for 8/30

The first chapter “Columbus, The Indians, and Human Progress” of Howard Zinn’s, A People’s History of The United States was quite eye opening. Similar to many people, many things I learned about American history at a young age were romanticized. Columbus was the good guy who discovered new land, we got a day off from school to celebrate him, and there was even a catchy phrase to remember the date of his journey (“Columbus sailed the ocean blue in fourteen-hundred ninety-two”). We learned about the Pilgrims and Indians in Massachusetts and that they shared a meal together, and for that we celebrate Thanksgiving, while half the class dressed up as Pilgrims and the other half as Indians. While giving us catchy songs to sing and costumes covered in feathers, the education system failed to mention the horrors of what actually occurred. For a while now I have known that these events were always what they seemed, but still hadn’t been actually taught about any of it. To have fun celebrations of American History, children are taught in the incorrect, sugar coated version of it. Reading this chapter gave intense detail of what actually occurred when Columbus went on his journeys. 

 

Something I found interesting was that in many of Columbus’s journal entries he writes about the horrific things he did. Columbus wrote, “They would make fine servants… With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want… I took some of the natives by force…”(Zinn, 1-2). While he admits and discusses all of his wrongdoings, children and people of all ages are still shielded from this information and are given a false sense of what actually happened and who he actually was. This leads me to wonder what other parts of history the citizens of our country are being brainwashed to believe and if it will ever be uncovered.

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Blog Post 8/30

Having grown up in Mississippi, I am no stranger to a revisionist portrayal of our nation’s history. Following the Reconstruction era, white southerners rewrote the history of the Civil War and indoctrinated generations of white students with the false narrative of an unjustified federal government takeover of the South. This ploy proved successful, contributing to the rise of the KKK and the glorification of the Confederate battle flag and Confederate monuments. The parallels are striking between the white South’s revisionist history of the Civil War and Howard Zinn’s first chapter of “A People’s History of the United States,” titled “Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progress.” 

Zinn’s depiction of Columbus’ discovery of the Americas offers an insight into the bleak reality of this chapter of American history. One story that stuck out to me was Columbus’ treatment of the Arawaks. In his journey to find gold, Columbus came across the Arawak people, whom he treated as commodities that could fill the void of gold. Zinn described the genocide of the Arawak people: “In two years, through murder, mutilation, or suicide, half of the 250,000 Indians on Haiti were dead” (Zinn 348). The Arawaks who were not murdered outright were worked to death: “By the year 1515, there were perhaps fifty thousand Indians left. By 1550, there were five hundred. A report of the year 1650 shows none of the original Arawkas or their descendants left on the island” (Zinn 348).

Samuel Eliot Morison, a Harvard historian and author of Christopher Columbus, Mariner (1954), buried the numerous accounts of enslavement and murder such as this one under a glorification of Columbus’ journey and discovery of America. Morison’s book is not the exception, though. Prior to Howard Zinn’s textbook, stories like these were often neglected. This neglect did not occur because of a lack of evidence suggesting a different narrative, though. 

Bartolomé de las Casas, a priest who became a “vehement critic of Spanish cruelty” wrote many reports of the conquistador’s mistreatment of the Indian people (Zinn 348). Las Casas described the “Endless testimonies … [that] prove the mild and pacific temperament of the natives … But our work was to exasperate, ravage, kill, mangle and destroy; small wonder, then, if they tried to kill one of us now and then … The admiral, it is true, was blind as those who came after him and he was so anxious to please the King that he committed irreparable crimes against the Indians” (Zinn 364-382).

Howard Zinn’s PHUS paints a picture of entitlement and superiority, and an indifference to human life. While this picture is frightening and largely untold, it is indicative of what the future of America would hold: oppression of many, enforced by the leadership of a few, endorsed by a white, male populace resistant to change.

 

*Citation numbers reference Kindle location for E-Book, not physical page number

 

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Carly Cohen 8/30 Post

The first chapter of Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History Of The United States” really caught me by surprise. For all of my life I was told how great of an explorer and person Christopher Columbus was, and reading that this was actually not true really shocked me. Knowing that I was told false information for my whole life made me question what else I have been taught that also isn’t true. History is a strange thing and involves a lot of human error. We are told versions of stories that could not actually be the reality of what happened. This chapter showed me that I was intentionally told the incorrect version of Christopher Columbus’s story. 

In the reading I learned the harsh realities of what Columbus did. He held thousands of Indians hostage and enslaved and raped them. One tribe in particular, the Arawaks were really affected by the actions of Christopher Columbus. They were entirely wiped out, “none of the original Arawaks or their descendants [were] left on the island.” (Page 5).  This opened my eyes to the fact that Columbus was not as good of a man as I once believed. We are not told the full story about the way Columbus acted because the version we hear in grade school is short and sweet. It gives us false hope that our country was founded in a peaceful and comforting way, so we have a false sense of security in the place we live.

 

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Annie Waters Blog Post 8/30

Upon finishing Chapter 1 of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, I am amazed at how ignorantly I was taught history of American colonization in my youth and adolescence. From my cheerful and sing-songy kindergarten Thanksgiving play to my fifth grade “explorer assignment” for which I documented an account of all of Jacques Cartier’s explorative accomplishments and presented a proud biography summarizing my findings, colonization was always romanticized in my elementary education. It was not until my eighth grade US History class that I began to recognize the inequity so tightly entwined with the history of colonization, though my experience may be comparable to Harvard historian Samuel Eliot Morrison’s half-assed attempt at covering any liabilities in his brief and dismissive mentions of Columbus’s faults. This was the year that I learned from one of my most progressive history teachers, who told us basic information about the massacres and other horrors committed by conquerers, but in retrospect probably only treated this as part of the process, an unfortunate necessity in history’s progression.

If I’m being reasonable, I can’t really blame this teacher personally. After all, as Zinn notes on page 8, historian’s accounts of the past … “cannot be against selection, simplification, [or] emphasis.” In acknowledgement of this, it was really impossible for my early education to not be tarnished by ideologically motivated accounts of history that were written in favor of colonization and mass produced as allowed by the populations of wealth that supported the publication of such ideas.

Nevertheless, I can’t help but wonder how the world might be different, and likely better, if Columbus had never enslaved and killed the Arawak people, if the Spaniards hadn’t overworked Indigenous tribes to the point of near extinction, if the English had never massacred the Pequot people, and if the Massachusetts Bay Colony had never pursued King Philip’s War. If America’s Indigenous tribes had been allowed to further develop and maintain their populations and communities without interference from colonizers, how might the land we live on look different today? Proponents of colonization often assume society would have developed into something much less advanced than it has, but is this really true? After all, Zinn describes the League of the Iriquois as a confederation of tribes that embraced equity in property through communal ownership, assigned equal governmental power to men and women, and enforced justice in a way that encouraged repentance rather than assigning permanent criminal status to certain individuals. In many ways, I’d consider these characteristics of society to be much more socially advanced than the parallels we see today, from extreme disparities between socioeconomic classes to continued lack of adequate female and BIPOC representation in government to the destructive nature of our criminal justice systems.

As I conclude these thoughts, the thing that most resonates with me from this reading is Zinn’s justification for his approach to history. asserting that it is deceitful to illustrate nations as communities with universal interests and that writing history with the goal of maintaining patriotic morale in this sentiment is wrong. He further elaborates that he doesn’t intend to approach the telling of history in order to avenge its victims and denounce their oppressors, as this would ultimately exhaust our moral energy to absorb further knowledge of history. With this in mind, how do we find the answer to telling history in such a way that appropriately recognizes the injustices of our past and subsequently encourages proper social reform without deterring young learners from the pursuit of this academic discipline?

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Blog Post 8/30

After reading the first chapter of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, I am disappointed with America’s education system. I am aware of the mistreatment of the Natives by European settlers but not to the extent that was portrayed through this book. I feel as if it is almost a crime to hide this information from our youth. Of course, I understand that some of the events may be traumatizing or too gruesome but the fact that I didn’t even know there were millions of Natives killed in just this time period (not even including during Western expansion) is ridiculous and stunning.

I feel it is unfair for the historians who write our history textbooks to be able to decide what is fit for us to know or not. We should be given all the information in order to form our own opinion on the history of this country. It’s saddening that so many people celebrate Columbus Day, believing that Columbus was some great hero when in reality he was a greedy narrcessist with tunnel vision who didn’t care who or how many died as long as he got what he wanted

Additonally, as I reflect on the current state of our country, I wondered what it would be like if we modeled our behavior after the Natives. They respected each other for who they were. There were no laws yet people understood that their actions had consequences, but at the same time, if they properly atoned for their faults, they would be forgiven. No one was power hungry or invasive of other people’s property. Obviously, our world is very different from what it was over 400 years ago, but just understanding the principle of community and respecting others would take our country pretty far.

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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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Morgan Crocker Blog Post For 8/30

After reading Howard Zinn’s first chapter of A People’s History of the United States, I realized this book would be interesting because it will tell the story of a familiar historical event from an unfamiliar perspective. The perspective Zinn uses is the perspective of “the people”, not of “the heroes”. I am pretty sure everyone learned about how Christopher Columbus was a hero and sailed across the sea and found this New World, North America, in the middle of his voyage.  Well Zinn uses the perspective of the Arawak to tell the story, by doing this he introduces new information to the readers that was not taught in school. New information like, Columbus being greedy, ruthless, and navigationally incompetent which leads us to the simple truth, there was nothing noble or heroic about Columbus’s expeditions to the New World. The natives welcomed the foreigners even though they were invading their land, and the invaders like Christopher Columbus, Francisco Pizarro, and Hernando Cortes still responded with violence and cruelty. For some reason the history textbooks left that part out, which led many people to believe these men were heroes for finding all this new land and getting rid of the natives.

 

Howard Zinn makes it clear that his book is not just another history book filled with the same typical boring history lessons. Instead it is a book responding and challenging the many history lessons that have been from the perspective of conquerors, colonizers, and etc. By writing this book Zinn is telling a version of history that is typically not taught in schools, this version holds people like Christopher Columbus accountable for their crimes which is great. Columbus and other known explorers seemed to not express any guilt about torturing and murdering innocent people that were in their way of conquering new land and new wealth. Zinn uses comparisons between the people of today and the conquerors from history, that really showed how Americans have not really changed. Just like in history we are divided between the rich and the poor, the powerful and the powerless, we definitely have changed since 1492, but not as much as the history textbooks make it seem.

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Julia Borger Blog Post for 8/30

After reading the first chapter of A People’s History of the United States, to say I am eager to keep reading and learning from this book would be an understatement. I loved how authentic the entire section felt, explaining the beginning of the discovery of the Americas without sugarcoating any details, widening my perspective on everything I was previously taught about Columbus and the early world explorers. I found many details astonishing and almost unbelievable, and found myself angry and disappointed in past textbooks, articles, and lectures that left this kind of information out to fit the mold of traditional history lessons. I believe all history textbooks should take notes from this book- not only because they need to update their lessons and details, but also to adapt their way of relaying the information. Instead of boring, monotonous facts we have all heard before, this was descriptive, fresh, and much more relevant, which helped establish a greater connection to its readers.

 

I also enjoyed reading the small excerpts written by the people of that time period, giving the reader a firsthand look into what was really going on at the time, and the writer’s opinions on it. I liked how it broke up the actual author’s text, adding evidence and proof to support their claim. I found Las Casas’ accounts of the way the Spaniards treated the Indians very compelling, especially when he said, “My eyes have seen these acts so foreign to human nature, and now I tremble as I write” (7). It inspired me to begin writing in a journal again, because who knows what history books will want in 100 years!

 

Finally, I could not help thinking about the comparisons between the conquerors and the people of today. Although the world has changed considerably since 1492, primal human instincts are still the same- people desire things that are valuable to assert their dominance, and will stop at nothing to procure these things. Instead of valuable gold and land, they are pay checks and houses. People yearn for status, power, and wealth, and I don’t know if that will ever change, or what that will look like in the future.

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Zariah Chiverton Post for 8/30

Although we should never just take things as they are, the first chapter made me realize how much we really have to analyze the information we are given. As we have been talking about, we know that history is written by the victors, and because of this, we are left with a one-sided story from conquerors, masters, and other exploiters. What is left behind are the histories that were ignored but still very much matter, because their lack of accounts in textbooks is telling of another story. Even instances where a perspective other than an imperialist is included, important information is casually brushed aside. Take the journeys of Christopher Columbus for example. While what he did to the native people is not completely ignored in textbooks, it is not fully emphasized either. What he did was mass murder but that type of language was never used to describe his expedition. This is not the only example of this but instead, this happens in the time, even with major events in history. How events are being written in textbooks is as much of a problem as what is being written and is as problematic as leaving information out.

 

Throughout this reading, what kept getting my attention was the drastic difference between the natives’ introduction to new people compared to that of the invaders. Despite there being foreigners on land that was rightfully theirs, they were still welcoming and generous. For some reason, that was never offered in return. Whether the invader was Columbus, Cortés, or Pizarro, their response to generosity was violent and savage behavior. For the sake of short-lived materialistic gain, they treated the natives as expendables and had a constant disregard for the value of their lives because they were different. Regardless of where in Europe they came from, these colonizers showed a pattern of violence. It is unfortunate that due to the lopsided history that we are provided, we are unable to analyze the patterns of the native people, who, in only a few accounts, proved themselves to be respectable people.

 

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William Coben Blog Post for 8/30

This reading offered yet another example of the false reporting of Columbus’s journey to the Americas, and truly exemplified the problems and flaws with the glorification Columbus day that we see annually. After listening to the
Podcast immediately before this, I am surely confident that the story I idolized for many years is full of banter, lies, rape, exploitation, manipulation, and many more horrid traits that would disturb the entire world should the real truth become common knowledge.

To touch on a few points that stuck me as more enlightening and interesting than others; the fact that Columbus arrived in the Caribbean in the early stages of his journey, enslaved the residents of that territory unless he was granted gold was sickening to me. It is recorded in the text that in two years that Columbus occupied that territory, modern day Haiti’s population depleted by more than 50% due to enslavement, torture, and suicide. Furthermore, when Columbus came up short on the Gold that he promised his financial supporters in Spain, he instead gave them enslaved people from the Caribbean area, which further aided the depletion of the indigenous population. Overall, the narrative of Columbus arriving in the Caribbean, and after the United States was gruesome, pitiful, and horrifying, and allowed me the opportunity to understand the deep problems rooted in the recordings of history.

To touch on one final point that was intriguing about the passage; Zinn was intelligent to mention the reasons for the celebration of Columbus Day, as well as providing a justification why. He noted that whenever historians account the past, they choose what facts emphasize the narrative that they are trying to push, and consequently people are left with a broken record of the past in which they are unable to obtain the truth without extensive research and digging. Secondly, Zinn hinted at the fact that this type of recording supports the view of governments, conquerers, leaders, and diplomats. In society, those type of people and Regimes are viewed as leaders with goals in mind, and modern day history is taught to unify a country, and celebrate the untrue accomplishments of “leaders” that were actually people of poor moral and ethical standards.

Conclusively, this reading was fascinating for me as I was able to deduct the true story of Columbus, identify the problems with reports and accounts of our countries, and world’s past, and understand the reasons behind this poor reporting.

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Podcast Episode 2

Leadership and the Humanities Podcast

Episode 2: The Trouble with History and Truth

We talked last time about the fact that history is written by the victors, which is to say, by people. And if there’s one thing we know about people…

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Blog Post 1 (8/25)

I believe that the only way to be able to move forward is to look back at past experiences and analyze them and see what mistakes we have made. I really enjoyed reading “why history matters” by Corfield where he mentions that history is not only useful for us but rather essential and needs to be taught and remembered. This importance comes from the fact that every human being on earth has their present knowledge linked to past experiences.

 I always thought that present knowledge is wholly dependent on people’s history and I was amazed to see that Corfield has mentioned this claim and backed it up with scientific evidence such as genetics. Learning and understanding how history is so vital in shaping individual lives from an expert’s perspective were interesting as his arguments were really engaging. It allows every person to sit down and look back to reflect on past experiences and understand how they can shape their present knowledge, morals, values, and beliefs. Such an act as Corfield explained is essential because being rootless causes harm not only to oneself but also to people around in society. Therefore, rather than following the steps of people in power who always tend to write and change history the way they want and the way they benefit from it, learning about one’s past allows people to weigh what they think is right or wrong and derive into their own personal conclusions. Personally, I think this is the best way to change the present and be able to move ahead as I mentioned earlier because this task helps individuals develop their critical thinking and gain more information from several resources that are not biased.

 In addition to that, I liked how Cortfield presented a counterpoint to his argument by Henry Ford who tried to prove that history is “bunk”. He weighed his arguments precisely and refuted Ford’s point with evidence, and finally came to the conclusion that history is with no doubt important even if studying the subject does not directly affect one’s life. I agree that every chance to gain education about the past is not useless. For humans to be able to further evolve we have to look back and dig deep into our ancestor’s history and understand it. This opportunity allows a person to learn how to be a leader. Therefore, the subjects of history and leadership complete and even rely on one another; when we realize our past mistakes we grow and become better leaders.

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8/25 Blog Post Elina Bhagwat

All three readings assert several claims about the true meaning of leadership and how history relates to leadership. Corfield makes an interesting claim that “all people are living histories.” This means that everyone has a past and events in their lives that have brought them to their current point in life. I think that this concept is important to look at when studying leadership and how to act as a successful leader. With studying history also comes examining human beings and how humans have learned from the past. This relates to Bass’ claim that the “leader should be the most important element of government.” This claim may have been more relevant while monarchies were more common, but as times progress and we learn from history, so does leadership. In the same sense, Corfield mentions that humans have the ability to learn from “vanished” cultures, further supporting the claim that history can tell us a lot about successful leaderships.

Bass makes a claim that leadership in itself has many definitions and meanings depending on the institution and environment in which the leadership is discovered. This directly relates to Corfield’s ideas about the distinction between cultures and societies throughout history. Corfield says that one cannot learn from the future but humans must learn from the past. History is always being made and with this, we learn from events that have occurred and people that have lived in the past. What I think Bass really means when he says leadership has many definitions is that leadership is constantly evolving just like history. How we learn from history and the past is also how we evolve our leadership styles and use prior leaders to change what makes a successful leader in the present day.

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