Skip to content

Persons of Mean and Vile Condition

“It was a complex chain of oppression in Virginia,” (Zinn, 42). Zinn makes this declaration while explaining Bacon’s Rebellion, which is often considered to be the first armed insurgence led by American colonists against the British. Nathaniel Bacon (who is not related to Kevin Bacon) and his followers were angered by the government’s lackluster response to skirmishes with Native Americans. The “chain” that Zinn speaks of refers to how the Native Americans were oppressed by the settlers moving westward (ie. Bacon and his followers), who were being oppressed by the government of Virginia. Everyone, however, was being oppressed by England and its love of tobacco and trade-control. 


This idea of a chain of oppression is not new. We see it with the story of Christoper Columbus (the Native Americans were oppressed by Columbus’ sailors/colonizers and everyone was oppressed by Columbus), slavery (slaves were oppressed by just about everyone, and there were probably workers in between the slaves and the plantation owners that were oppressed), etc. You see it today, of course, all around the world. It’s a similar concept to that of a bully. The bully picks on the weak kid that can’t stand up for themself, but, outside of school, the bully could be picked on by another bully. However, just because you don’t always know what the aggressor is going through does not excuse mean or violent behavior. This apparently hasn’t entirely clicked for the human race.


Oppression has historically proved to be a bad idea. You bully your colonies? They start a war to get away from you. You force people into slavery and later regulate them based on their skin color? You get a Civil Rights Act passed and a lot of protesting for more change in the decades that follow. You invade other countries even though you were told not to? You lose two world wars. 


Oppression will never go away. There will always be a Bacon who oppresses because they themselves are oppressed. One can hope, however, that it can evolve into something a little more humane, and a lot less harmful.

Published inUncategorized


  1. Samuel Hussey Samuel Hussey

    Maggie, I really liked how you connected different instances of oppression throughout history. This clearly demonstrates how common power struggles are because of the greed of humans to always want more. We see the oppressor vs. the oppressed chain go back for as long as our history dates back, so will there every be an end to this destructive chain? Also, thank you for clarifying that Nathaniel Bacon is in fact not related to Kevin Bacon.

  2. Charley Blount Charley Blount

    You’re right that our history is bleak and filled with oppression. However, I’m more optimistic about future prevention of oppression. If you look at quality of life and equality measurements across developed and underdeveloped nations in the 1800 vs 1900 vs 2000, there is significant improvement. While general themes of oppression persist, societies do seem to learn from their mistakes to an extent.

  3. Kayla O'Connell Kayla O'Connell

    I really liked your comparison of oppression to that of a bully. As you mentioned, oppression was proven to be a bad idea throughout history. Recently, oppressed individuals have found a voice through social media and a series of movements. Do you think that social media could help us evolve into something more humane in regards to oppression? Or do you think it might have the opposite effect?

  4. Morgan Crocker Morgan Crocker

    I agree with the fact that a chain of oppression is not new, and is seen all throughout history. I also like the bully example you used, with not knowing what the aggressor is going through but still not letting that be an excuse for their behavior. I also agree with oppression never going away.

  5. Carly Cohen Carly Cohen

    I 100% agree that oppression will never go away. People have been exploiting others for generations and there is no way that is going to change. In all the readings we have learned that the wealthier and upper class people scam the lower class out of so many things. It is crazy that people still believe they are so much above others to be able to get away with this type of behavior.

Leave a Reply