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Month: September 2020

9/30 The Myth of American Exceptionalism

Stephen M. Walt breaks apart American exceptionalism by demonstrating that it is not a concept unique to the United States, that it is often based on false idealizations of history, and that it is often not as morally proper as politicians lead the public to believe. After reading the article, it is quite clear that references to exceptionalism made by politicians are made in an attempt to get reelected. Making the American people feel as though they are apart of something bigger than themselves and inspiring nationalism through these statements is an extremely effective tool to increase one’s popularity. The consequence of this type of dialogue is that the American public has an inflated and egotistical view of the United State’s importance and popularity in terms of international affairs. This form of indoctrination creates a dangerous environment where the United State’s government acts globally under the justification of being upon the moral high ground, when in fact it is for less genuine reasons, for example monetary gain. One of Walt’s five myths about American exceptionalism is that the United States uses god being on its side as a way to justify its actions. This is another way that politicians manipulate the group of people they rule over as it increases the perception that the United States can do no wrong.

It is interesting to examine Walt’s comparison of United States exceptionalism to other nations who have employed exceptionalism to commit horrible actions. The true danger of exceptionalism is that the population being influenced are likely unaware of the unrealistic view they have of their countries actions. It seems that no matter what, world superpowers are bound to use exceptionalism to control their populations and said populations are destined to be influenced  by it. This blind view of one’s country, is often responsible for the downfall of said country. While it appears United States has not yet done anything so destructive as groups such as Stalin era Russia or Mao’s Great Leap Forward, the possibility exists that through the existence of exceptionalism we as a public are blind to the destruction of our countries current actions, or that future actions of our leaders may go morally unchecked. The key to not falling victim to an idealistic view of the United States is to learn, as we do in this class, about mistakes the United States has made in the past without viewing them as a singular moment in history, but instead viewing them as apart of a larger interconnected story.

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Episode 11

Leadership and the Humanities Podcast
Episode 11: Imperialism, Orientalism, and Exceptionalism

Imperialism, as a concept, is defined as “a policy of extending a country’s power and influence through diplomacy or military force.” Like many other things, one’s perspective on imperialism depends entirely if one is a part of the imperial force or the people being colonized and absorbed into the empire…

Visit Blackboard/Podcasts to listen.

Download here for 10.30 class.

Download here for 12.00 class.

The following works were used in this podcast:

Kirka, Danica. “UK Museum Removes Shrunken Heads from Exhibit in an Effort to ‘decolonize’ Its Collections.” USA TODAY. Accessed September 18, 2020.

Said, Edward W. Orientalism. Reprint 1979. New York: Vintage, 1994.


Blog Post for 9/28

Zinn’s chapter “Slavery without Submission, Emancipation without Freedom” does a great job of highlighting one of the most common themes of the whole semester: how the history we are familiar with is not always the most thourough or even the most truthful history. As children in America, we often learn of Abraham Lincoln as the president to end racism and slavery in America, who acted as a progressive leader for racial equality and understood the moral wrong of slavery. This, however, as Zinn brings attention to, is an incomplete story. Lincoln contradicts himself multiple times throughout his election and presidency about his opinions on the institution of slavery, and whether or not he, as the president, even has the right to abolish slavery. Additionally, it was well known that up until the point of allowing black men in the North to fight for the Union army, Lincoln vehemently asserted that the purpose of the Civil War was not to end slavery, but for the “preservation of the Union.” Zinn also cites multiple instancs of Lincoln saying that he does not support equality of blacks and whites, and thinks that if the blacks were ever freed, they should be sent back to Africa. These quotes from Lincoln, and this perspective of the Civil War and fight to end slavery, paint a stark contrast between the narrative we are used to hearing growing up, likely because we want our history to be seen as the least harmful as it possibly can be. However, missing key details such as these gives us an incomplete story of our history, and hinder us from fully grasping the history and hardships faced by our fellow Americans. Although it can often be hard to read, I think Zinn’s chapters explaining the “other” perspectives of history are extremely important in understanding our country’s culture and current tensions, as well as shaping ourselves to become holisitc and effective leaders.


Julia Leonardi // 09.28.2020

As someone who didn’t grow up in the United States, I have always seen Abraham Lincoln as a hero. It is shocking to learn that he actually didn’t do much and that the Emancipation Proclamation wasn’t all that I thought it was. Lincoln was only using the proclamation as a form to appease the Northern businessmen while not changing the power distribution of the Southern landowners. Reading that was so shocking to me because I always saw him as a man of high morality and that stood for such a respectful cause.

While I sat there and watched the part one of the video, I began to reflect on the city that I live in and have come to know. When he was talking about Robert E Lee, I couldn’t help but think about all the monuments dedicated to him, schools named after him, and memorials in his honor. I began to research how those monuments came to be, and I came across the Daughters of the Confederacy. That was honestly disappointing and heartbreaking. These white women raised money to promote the confederacy all over the south just to be racist. The saddest part about it is that just now, this summer did these monuments even begin to get taken down. Monument Avenue has lost most of them, but the Lee one still stands. It is 2020 and people are still holding on to racist ideas and beliefs, and there is nothing sadder than that.


Jeffrey Sprung Blog Post 9/28

Zinn’s chapter, Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Freedom and the video The American Civil War Video Part 1, provided me with a much broader understanding of the American Civil War. Both the chapter and the video presented a more well-rounded, truthful depiction of the Civil War era, which reminded me that history within the United States is often taught with many biases and false narratives. The Civil War is one of my favorite periods within the history of the United States as I am fascinated by the leadership of Abraham Lincoln. It was very interesting to learn about Lincoln’s initial wariness in outright opposing slavery at the beginning of The Civil War to his ultimate decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation towards the end of the Civil War. Originally, Lincoln was cautious about outright opposing slavery as he was aware of the crucial role that slaves played in the operation of South’s plantation-based economy. Lincoln tried to appease the South by making it clear that his goal was to preserve the Union and not free the South’s slaves. However, as the Civil War progressed, Lincoln’s intentions of the Civil War shifted to abolish slavery and completely form a new Union. 

Before reading Zinn’s chapter and watching OverSimplified’s video, I was entirely unaware of many events that occurred during the Civil War. For example, I had no idea of the large role that slaves played in the Union army after Lincoln announced the Emancipation Proclamation. I was surprised to learn that two hundred thousand blacks were enlisted in either the Union army or navy and that 38,000 blacks were killed. Zinn mentions that, “Without [slaves] help, the North could not have won the war as soon as [they] did, and perhaps could not have won it at all” (194). Furthermore, I was frustrated to learn of the wage gap and mistreatment of blacks within the Union army. Even though black soldiers performed the most grueling work during the war, such as digging trenches and loading ammunition, they only received $10 a month, while white soldiers received $13 a month.

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Blog Post 09/28 – Kayla O’Connell

In this week’s reading of PHUS, Zinn outlines the complicated and disgusting past of slavery during the civil war. The United States government supported slavery at the time due to the vast economic benefits derived from plantations. Despite the fact that the slave trade was abolished, 250,000 enslaved individuals were illegally transported into America before the civil war. Although this number is only a statistic, they can only show so much. A statistic can never truly portray the pain of families being torn apart or the violence that an individual experienced. I find it crazy that our own government supported plantations because of the economic benefits. This highlights how transactional our government can really be. 

Zinn also documented Abraham Lincoln and his thoughts on slavery. When running for the election, Lincoln was able to blend the interests of the very rich and the interests of the Blacks at a moment in history where their interests seemed to intersect. History books tend to glamorize Lincoln and his impact on slavery. To my surprise, Zinn described that Lincoln did not denounce the Fugitive Slave Laws. In fact, he wanted to send the enslaved individuals back to Africa because he didn’t see them as equal. The Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation was a military move that Lincoln thought would spur antislavery forces. Even the leaders that were a part of monumental moments of history all seem to have ulterior motives. 

I really enjoyed watching the video that was assigned for class this week. Not only did the video outline the Civil War in great detail, but also added a funny twist to history. I found the use of comics and memes to be beneficial to my learning. The video was able to keep my attention from beginning to end.



Annie Waters Blog Post 9/28

In the video “The American Civil War Oversimplified,” we’re given a broad overview of the beginnings of the Civil War. This video spends quite a bit of time focusing on the motivations behind conflicts between the Union and Confederacy, and I was very intrigued by the simultaneous contrast and cohesion between these motives. States’ rights, regional economic needs, and moral belief in abolition are all given credit for causing the War according to different accounts, but these motives are very often tightly entwined.

It’s interesting to me that the issue of emancipation was not explicitly addressed by the Union until foreign powers began to show interest in allying with the Confederacy in order to regain their cotton imports. Despite continuous lobbying from prominent abolitionists such as Frederick Douglas, the Union had been very hesitant to state that the Civil War was motivated by a moral desire for emancipation. This leaves me to wonder what the true intentions of Union leaders were throughout the war. It’s understandable from a strategic standpoint that the North might refrain from explicitly condoning abolition for the sake of more cooperative diplomacy with the South, but it leaves some suspicion as to how this came to be seen as a moral war when it wasn’t from the start. Afterall, many Northern abolitionists hoped to abolish slavery mostly to gain an economic advantage for the industrial regions that didn’t rely on slave labor like agriculture, not necessarily for moral reasons. The video describes Abraham Lincoln as understanding the immorality of slavery, but he wasn’t known to be a full believer in racial equality, having expressed even after emancipation that though black people may be free, they were still lesser than whites. I’m not quite sure that someone lacking a true ideology of racial equality could be expected to be extremely morally passionate about abolition. Granted, the topic of slavery may have been brought up relatively late in the game because of the high risks it would have presented earlier, but its lack of constancy suggests a certain contingency in the narrative of Civil War motives, one that seems awfully responsive to economic discord.

Considering economic motives, I’d also like to make note of Zinn’s reference to class structure and its influence on the tensions regarding slavery. He reveals that lower-class whites were given slave monitoring positions to fabricate a divisiveness between the two demographics so they’d be unable to collectively mobilize against authority. Meanwhile, the middle class grew to more prominence in the age of industrialization. Had the middle class not emerged so significantly, and a stricter division been maintained between the lower and upper classes, how might motivations for the Civil war, as well as contribution to it, have turned out differently?


Tess Keating Blog for 9/27

Over the course of this class, and reading Zinn’s book, A People’s History Of The United States, I have been shocked time and time again. Coming to University of Richmond and going into this class I thought I was somewhat well educated on American history, having taken it in high school, middle school, and learning about it in elementary school. However, this book and everything we have talked about have continued to make me feel like I have only been learning half the truth. It is becoming more and more clear that the education system is somewhat brainwashing society to believe that history in America is not brutal and that there is some bad, but it outweighed by the good. It is now overwhelmingly clear that this is not that case and that it is even worse that it is being covered up.


From a very young age we learned about slavery and how it was very bad, but I we are not really taught the full extent of it. I feel like I used to just consider it sort of a blip in history and that was so long ago, but it is so much more than that. It is taught as being an equivalent to all other countries and how there was slavery there too. It was unsettling for me to read, “There was no slavery in history, even that of the Israelites in Egypt, worse than the slavery of a black man in America” (Zinn 180). Reading this came as a surprise to me because I never fully understood that slavery here was that much different than everywhere else, however it does make sense because we are still very much dealing with the effects and repercussions of it. Racism spawned from slavery which is still a huge problem in the United States. All of this makes me wonder how much else of the history I have learned has parts left out of it. I hope that these flaws continue to be exposed so that society is able to be educated about the past so we don’t recreate it in the future.


Carly 9/27 Post

After reading chapter 9, Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Freedom and watching the The American Civil War by Oversimplified, I am again overwheled with new facts and ideas about the Civil War and this time period in American history that I was not aware of previously. For starters, slave revolts were not as common as they were in other countries. Rebellion of slaves was also rare. This was very surprising to me because as I learned in the podcast, about 13% of the population in this time were enslaved, and it only takes about 5-10% of a population to create a rebellion. I truly believe things would have been a lot different if the slave population came together as one and revolted. Nonetheless, a war began regardless of the fact it was not initiated by the slaves. 

One quote really stuck out to me from this chapter. Zinn states, “Such a national government would never accept an end to slavery by rebellion. It would end slavery only under conditions controlled by whites, and only when required by the political and economic needs of the business elites of the North,” (Zinn 187). This idea really didn’t sit well with me. The fact that the only way for our country to abolish slavery was solely up to when rich whites felt like making a difference and was not based on the hardships of the enslaved is sad to me. The Civil War was truly the only way to solve this huge division in our country. I was unaware of how deadly the war was. 600,000 soldiers died on each side. This war had a positive effect for African Americans for a short time period. I did not know that there was a time when in the South blacks could vote, be elected into state legislators, and there were racially mixed public schools. As we all know, this time did not last long, but I did not know that this time even existed at all. Overall, these resources introduced to me yet again, there is a lot more in history and during the civil war time period that I was unaware of.



Demaret Blog Post for 9/27

One recurring theme that became blatantly obvious upon reading this chapter of Zinn, as well as the video on the Civil War, is that we should continue to be hyper critical about who we choose to glorify as historical leaders. This is not to say that Lincoln was not one of the most important leaders of our time- he was. However, to ignore his faults and many complexities is a disservice to the study of leadership. Zinn pointed out that Lincoln’s objectives were largely capitalistic, less morally bound to abolition. Moreover, recent scholars have also asserted that many of his moral decisions were guided by his abolitionist contemporaries. If we are to study effective leadership, one might argue that finding true moral leadership can’t necessarily be found when we only study such major figures like Lincoln. I think it would be a more effective practice in studying Lincoln to not only point out his shortcomings, but to fill in the gaps with other lesser-known leaders of the time. There were plenty of free Black abolitionists with grassroots methods of organizing, who I believe we could learn a lot from today. 

An abolitionist leader that I think deserves more critical historical analysis is James Weeks. As Zinn mentioned, some voting rights for free Black Americans required expensive land-ownership. James Weeks is credited with founding a sort of autonomous Black community in what is now downtown Brooklyn. His leadership often goes unnoticed, but the power he amassed by enabling free Black Americans to vote in a system that worked to suppress them is extremely commendable. Weeksville Heritage Sight still stands today, a historical testament to leadership that worked powerfully, in the shadows of men like Lincoln, to make effective grassroot strides towards freedom. We obviously can’t erase the importance of Lincoln, but where he fell short, other leaders were successful (and often less racist). 

On a slightly less specific/unrelated note, I’d like to know more about how we should attempt to sort out historical motives for leaders. Is it unfair or short sighted to say that all of Lincoln’s motives were purely capitalistic? In a world so dominated by capitalism, especially given that our historiography is rooted in it as well, where do we look to find the true motives of our leaders? 

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Sam Hussey Blog Post 9/28

Howard Zinn’s chapter Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Freedom, and OverSimplified’s video of the American Civil War both offered unique and factual accounts of this time period in American History that I had never heard before. Textbooks teach the information differently based on what part of the country you live in. Textbooks in the southern states often teach kids that the Civil War was only about states’ rights. On the other hand, northern states teach kids that it was a war against slavery. As OverSimplified explained it, it was a combination of both of these factors. The issue that was being debated was slavery, but the southern states overused their power and tried to secede from the Union. Growing up in New England, I remember being taught that Abraham Lincoln was an avid abolitionist. In reality, Lincoln solely wanted to halt the expansion of slavery and had no plans of trying to end slavery when he was running for office. Howard Zinn stresses the fact that Lincoln’s personal beliefs were probably more extreme than what he promoted publically so he could sympathize with the centrists. Close reading is required to read between the lines of Lincoln’s personal letters and journals to see what he truly believed versus what he promoted. I believe he knew he would not get elected if he was a full-fledged abolitionist, so it was a strategic move to take on a more moderate stance to gain the support of a wider demographic.

One thing I noticed when comparing the two sources was how important phrasing can be in creating biases and opinions on objective data. When discussing data on whippings from a plantation, Zinn phrased the objective data in different ways that created implicit biases in the reader’s head. For example, one could state that over half of the slaves were not whipped over a two year period. This creates the illusion that the majority of the slaves were treated well. In reality, a whipping is just one punishment of many a slave could receive, and just because they are not getting whipped doesn’t mean they are treated well. Based on the same data, one could also conclude that “every four or five days, some slave was whipped” (173). This creates the image that whippings were a common affair on the plantation and part of the violent way of life in the south. Despite using the same objective data, the author can create different opinions based on what they think the reader should get out of the information.


Zachary Andrews Post 9/28

I learned a lot from both Slavery Without Submission from A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn, and watching The American Civil War Video. The reading addressed slavery within America as well as the Lincoln era of America. Regarding life on the plantations, I was surprised to read that female slaves committed more disorderly acts than male slaves. For some reason, I thought it would have been the opposite. One influence for my incorrect thinking is Hollywood and the movies that they produce. Most frequently, we see males slaves receiving lashes in movies. On another note, the readings also talked about slaves who escaped and gained their freedom in the North. One thing that plantation owners and other wealthy slave owners in the South dealt with were members of the Underground Railroad, especially the white members. See, the problem for the plantation owners was that the poor whites disliked them greatly. Another group who hated the wealthy plantation owners were the slaves. This common enemy helped unite the two groups of people, creating a support ground that eventually guided slaves towards the North, towards freedom, and towards a new life. Another event that I had no idea about was the journey to freedom led by a group of slaves who overthrew the crew of the Creole, a slave transport ship. The slaves ended up sailing to the British Indies. Upon arrival, they were set free and were protected by the English government which abolished slavery a few years prior. After reading, I’m still wondering how hard it was for escaped slaves to start a new life in the North? Were there groups/people who supported them? My last comment regarding the reading is about Horace Greeley and the role he played with Lincoln. Greeley pushed for the Anti-Slavery movement but what I don’t understand is why he did that even though he was a slave owner himself? I actually grew up in the town that he lived in and went to Horace Greeley High School. A few years ago my school was notified about him (Greeley) owning slaves and have been thinking about changing our school name at the request of students.


In addition to the reading, I also learned a great deal from The American Civil War Video. Something that I recently learned was that Jefferson included a paragraph regarding abolishing slavery in the United States; however, it was taken out because it was too controversial. By this I mean, the Founding Fathers were unsure that if they included the piece about slavery, that they would still get the support that they needed to fulfill their plan of creating a nation. The video also talked about Western Expansion and how has we moved west, the Southerns and Northerners wanted to claim each state for their party. The Southern leaders for emerging states to become Slave States whereas the Northern leaders wanted the new state to become a free state. Leaders continuously fought about this for years and years until the Civil War broke out. During the war, the Anaconda Plan set up a much needed blockade against the South, limiting their sea travels, trade, and more. The video also talked about the failed plan led by John Brown. His intention was to start a massive slave uprising starting in Virginia. From there, they would head South, freeing slaves as they traveled. At his first stop, Brown and his men were surrounded by Robert E. Lee and his army. Brown was later hung. The person who greatly aided the Anti-Slavery Movement was President Lincoln. Something that I had not previously learned was that, during the Civil War, he suppressed media that supported the South and the Confederation. In addition to that, Honest Abe also put people in jail without a trial. This is yet another example of students not learning about the entire picture, rather a small piece of that picture.

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Blog Post: Ten Steps Forward, Nine Steps Back (9/28)

The advancement of any marginalized group relies on the willingness of the majority to support this mission. Historically, this relationship in America has been between African Americans and white moderates. That said, this relationship is plagued by the reluctance of white moderates to affect change, creating a stagnant system that activists were forced to operate in. Phillis Wheatley, for example, was forced to hide much of her pro-abolition rhetoric behind the guise of religion in order to be published. When calls for abolition were growing in the 1850s, it became clear that the federal government “would end slavery only under conditions controlled by whites, and only when required by the political and economic needs of the business elite of the North” (Zinn 3926). This expectation was warranted given the short-lived Reconstruction Era, which was soon replaced with voter disenfranchisement, Black Codes, and vagrancy laws, replacing slavery with a new racial caste system.

This relationship continues to abate attempts at civil rights improvements. In Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” he criticizes the performative improvements made by white moderates: “Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue” (King). Even today, white moderates hide behind social media posts about justice and police brutality, refusing to take actionable steps in order to address the systemic racism that has plagued our nation since slavery.


Julia Borger Blog Post 9/28

After reading chapter 9, Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Freedom, I was again overwhelmed with a new perspective on previous history I thought I knew and understood to be the truth. I thought this chapter did a great job on diving deep into the issue of slavery in our nation’s history by giving more context than I had ever before known, especially context from the slaves themselves and their experiences. I felt like in this book they were highlighted for the individual people they were, not grouped together as one single unit- all under the category of “slaves”. For example, when former slave John Little says, “…at night, we would sing and dance, and make others laugh at the rattling of our chains. Happy men we must have been! We did it to keep down trouble, and to keep our hearts from being completely broken”(172). This quote emphasizes their humanity and the idea that they really are just people, a stark contrast from many textbooks who only brush over the concept that they are indeed separate individuals who have feelings and lives too.

Adding to the idea that this chapter really emphasized the compassion of the slaves, the author gives detailed insight on the process of the separation of families at auctions, something I had heard once or twice but was not something my history classes focused on previously. My heart broke reading the letters from the families being torn apart, asking for a piece of their child’s hair, because that was all they would have left of them to cling on to and remember them by.

Finally, I was shocked when I read that “there was no slavery in history, even that of the Israelites of Egypt, worse than the slavery of the black man in America” (180). I think I found this so hard to believe because I had never really thought about the comparison of the slavery in our country to other countries, and how they could possibly be different. I think this is a telling sign that my education was not complete or as thorough as it should have been, because what I was learning was focused only on the United States, with the idea that we are the superior country and everything else not connected to us is irrelevant. I think this is a big flaw of the United States education system, as we need to understand the big picture of history, and not centralize only on us, because there is indeed a whole world out there that we need to learn about.


Christopher Wilson’s Post 9/26

This week’s listening and reading activities helped me to better comprehend how complex the institution of slavery was when analyzing it through the contexts of the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation. When we look at slavery as the underlying cause of the Civil War, Dr. Bezio points out that we also see slavery being directly tied to issues of economic oppression and states’ rights. Northern economies in the 19th century were booming because of industrialization and the North’s increased usage of textile mills and machine shops; whereas, Southern economies were prospering because of the slave plantation system, which grew after Eli Whitney’s cotton gin was made. As a result, both the North and the South were threatened by each other’s successful economy because, at this time, there was a relatively equal balance of power due to there being the same number of northern states as southern states. Over time, as white Americans began their quest to expand westward, this balance of power was upset because newer states would decide which economy they would join. This, of course, came with conditions. Joining the Northern economy meant taking a stance against the institution of slavery, which was the backbone of the Southern economy. Contrarily, joining the Southern economy meant advocating for the institution of slavery and against Northerners’ ideals of taking away states’ individual rights to slavery. Learning this piece of history was not comforting nor was learning that white anti-slavery individuals in the North only opposed slavery because the institution of slavery threatened the North’s economy and their livelihood. While I have been taught to believe that white anti-slavery individuals in the North opposed slavery because they felt that it was unethical, I know the brutal truth and I say that a successful rebellion needs to take place so that people of African descent can stop being viewed and treated as commodities by white Americans in power.

Before reading Zinn’s (1980) chapter on “Slavery without Submission, Emancipation without Freedom,” I knew that Abraham Lincoln intention’s with the Emancipation Proclamation was not to set slaves free- the emancipation of slaves was rather an indirect result of a much larger military tactic at play. On page 191, Zinn (1980) explores the Emancipation Proclamation’s dual function that it had in September 1862 versus the function it played in January 1863. When President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862, he did so with the terms that Confederate states would have four months to stop rebelling against the Union or else the Union would set slaves in those Confederate states free. However, if during this time any Confederate states submitted to the authority of the Union, then the Union would not disrupt that Confederate state’s institution of slavery. In January 1863, though, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation with the declaration that all slaves in Confederate states, that had not yet submitted to the authority of the Union, would be free. The nuance Zinn (1980) applies to the Union’s actual stance on the institution of slavery reinforces what mostly all white Americans cared about, which was a stable and growing economy. Lincoln, and members of the Union, did not want southern states to secede because it would result in a disruption in the economic relationship that the North had with the South- for instance, commerce, manufacturing, and agriculture. The Union knew that by taking away the institution of slavery from the South, they would be angering slaveowners, who may not continue the economic relationships they had developed for decades. Thus, the language regarding the freedom of enslaved people in the Emancipation Proclamation was carefully articulated so that both the North and the South could gain something out of the Civil War.

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Blog Post Chapter 9

Zinn’s chapter, Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Freedom, intorduced me to the harsh truths about Americas history with slavery, the treatment of black people, and the false narrative of the civil war. This chapter yet again provided us with a true depiction of what happened with the emancipation, as well as the civil war, and debunked the narratives stories that we as American learners were taught throughout our time in the education system.


To begin, Lincoln is revered as an American hero as he “ended slavery” with the emancipation. While this is technically true, Lincoln, as portrayed by Zinn, was indifferent towards the idea of racial equality, and wanted to abolsih slavery to preserve the Union, and capitalist ties between the North and the South. The idea that Lincoln isn’t what histroy books portrayed him to be makes me wonder whether or not he too, will have his name tarnished and statue deminished for the untrue depiction of his morals that most Americans view him with.


Secondly, I found it fascinating that the Southern and Northern Elites werent entirely different as their views pertianed to slavery. Zinn alluded to the fact that neither party cared about slaves, they cared about finances. This leads me to beleive that many people at the time didn’t see the true problem with slavery, yet saw it as a beneficail aspect of life that would make White Americans more well off. These types of truth’s, the ones that depict real reactions towards slavery, are the ones that need to be taught in school. The commonly agreed upon purpose of instructing histroy is to prevent bad thigns from repeating themselves… that will not happen unless the truth be told.


To conclude, this chapter introduced me to the truth’s behind slavery, its abolition, and the true American perceptions of the maltreatment of Black’s, and it was heart breaking. The fact that Black people were of such miniscule importance and social standing is cruel and wrong, and luckily that has begun to change today. While there are many modern day problems with the treatment of Black Americans, we as a people and as a coutnry are moving in the right direction towards a society of equality and equal opportunity.






Post for 9/28

At the beginning of this chapter, a very important point is brought up. “Liberation from the top would go only so far as the interests of the dominant groups permitted.” The same group of people that weren’t sure about granting freedom to slaves were also being credited with their emancipation. Not only that but their newly found freedom lied in their hands. This just goes to show how important it is for us to look at the context and the bigger picture. This is tied to another very important point that is brought up later in the chapter; the government will only accept the conditions if they are controlled by the whites. The time this was referring to, it solely meant white people but it is still just as true today. The government will only make a change if it is on their terms, not the peoples’, even if they make it seem like it is the peoples’ choice.

We see a lot of this today. Whatever policy change the people want to see never comes easily or without some type of adjustment by the government. This brings me to my next point. There were a few things that were mentioned in this chapter that are closely related to current issues. The first one would be Frederick Douglass’s opinion about the fourth of July. He brings up a very important point, how is it that we are celebrating freedom for a country when some of its people had yet to be free. There was a lot of talk about this past summer because of the recent spark of the Black Lives Matter movement. Even after recognizing that the fourth of July only freed white America, we still celebrate it even though we definitely shouldn’t. We have already started recognizing the problem with Columbus Day and began addressing that but when will the same happen for the fourth of July? Another parallel I thought about between then and now is the KKK. While they are a group that has never disappeared, it feels as if the recent influx of social justice movements has brought them out. The parallel that I see between then and now is not only how they determine justice from a radical perspective, but also how it goes unpunished. In this chapter, we read about the crimes the KKK started committing and how bad they were but that is about it. It is acknowledged that it is pretty bad and gruesome but at the same time, nothing was done to change or stop it. We are seeing the same thing happening right now, but I would say it is even worse. Now, this blatant racism isn’t hidden under KKK robes how it once was, we see it every day behind police badges, in positions of power, by open radical white supremacists, and all around us, but nothing is being done by the government to change it.

I am genuinely curious, what are racists people actually so mad about? Do they genuinely believe that giving other people basic human rights somehow takes away theirs? Or are they just that ignorantly racist? Somehow this anger towards another race has lasted for hundreds of years and that anger is still very much alive today.



Blog Post 9/28

When I think of Abraham Lincoln, one of the first things that come to mind is the Emancipation Proclamation and the fact that Lincoln played a huge role in abolishing slavery. However, while reading Chapter 9 of Zinn’s PHUS and watching the first part of The American Civil War video, I realized that abolishing slavery wasn’t all that Lincoln was concerned about. Of course, I understood that the Civil War was first started because of disputes between State rights vs. Federal rights, but I always believed Lincoln was all for making the war about slavery.

In the chapter I read and the video I watched, I learned that Lincoln’s motivations weren’t entirely driven by freeing the slaves. On the contrary, his main goal was to keep the Union together. Lincoln knew that if he was blunt about getting rid of slavery, he would lose a lot of support, so he simply played it safe and said that from now on, no more states could have slavery. I also found it interesting that the only reason Lincoln finally decided to drop the Emancipation Proclamation is because of the foreign support the Confederacy was gaining. Although I understand to a degree where Lincoln was coming from, I still find it sad that basic human rights and liberties have to be politicized.


Blog Post 9/28

After reading chapter 9 of “A People’s History of the United States,” I was surprised to feel that I actually was taught in my schooling something very similar to what Zinn discusses. Previous chapters have made me feel as though I have been lied to but some of the facts that were brought about throughout this chapter were quite familiar to me. One thing that particularly stood out to me was the fact that Abraham Lincoln was not as heroic as we think. His intentions were not fully to abolish slavery but instead, he wanted to strengthen the Union. We look at Lincoln as a man who cared so deeply for the African Americans but instead his main source of motivation was to benefit himself. 

Later in the chapter, Zinn discusses the future for the slaves after the Civil War. Right after the Civil War laws were in place to try to allow the African Americans to have somewhat of an equal opportunity and resources in their lives. It was a big adjustment from having the African Americans being treated as property to them being viewed as equal. White plantation owners got their only way of making money taken away from them which created extreme anger. They were not ready to give up their power.

Another thing that stood out to me was Zinn’s question at the end of the chapter. He asked, “In the growth of American capitalism, before and after the Civil War, whites, as well as blacks, were in some sense becoming slaves?” This shows how people in power abuse their power. It is an ongoing cycle of the lower status of people being controlled by rich people who love to control others. 


9/28 Blog Post Alex

Going to a boarding school, which brought in students from all over the country, conversations about the civil war were always very interesting and informative. While I, a student from the north was taught about the war that freed the slaves from southern cruelty, my friends from the south were taught about a war for the state’s rights and resisting an overcontrolling federal government. Thus, in history class, we examined the surface claims of both the north and the south but also the multi-layered reasons for the civil war. The different views of different parts of the country still exist and are part of the reason there was such a debate with the removal of confederate statues.

While the north did generally want to end slavery, part of the reason was the economic prosperity that the cotton industry and slavery gave the south over the north, whose lands permitted industry. They thought too much southern power would mean their oppression. The north wanted to preserve the union as well.  The south also had a stake in the game and felt particularly threatened as the balance of free and slave states shifted giving the North more federal power. Without slavery, the Southern economy would take a big hit, and they feared the northern power that would ensue as a result.

However, I found it very interesting to dive more specifically into Abraham Lincoln, who is usually considered a hero for the emancipation proclamation. Yet, looking at his changing statements regarding slavery it brings a new element of politics that has to be considered. Do you think that it matters what other intentions went into the emancipation proclamation because, at the end of the day, it went into effect and ended slavery? Is the end result all that matters when examining Lincoln, or is that just glorifying a history that needs to be looked at with critique?