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Author: Kathrine Yeaw

Kathrine Yeaw Blog for 10/21

I found this chapter in Zinn’s reading to be one of the most interesting so far. I was surprised by the things Zinn focused on in the Civil Rights Movement, as well as the amount of similarities between the things happening in the 60s and right now during the BLM movement. The first sentence of the chapter describing how the black revolt came as a surprise to many is something interesting to think about. The idea that people, specifically whites, at this time were not focused on the racism that was so apparent, and many just lived in a bubble believing things were okay is something that I think is important to think about today as well. While many people after WWII were not focused on anti-racism movements, now, many people are simply ignorant of the fact that there are still many problems with racism in the world. While it’s obvious the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s was very different from the BLM movement, I realized there are a lot more parallels between the two than I was expecting. Zinn mentions how “there was rioting in the streets, looting and firebombing of stores” (459), which we saw a lot earlier this year. Like this Civil Rights movement in the 60s, this movement seemed to be a wake up call for many, especially whites who were perhaps unaware of the reality of things in the country. 

The other thing I found interesting about this chapter was the way it highlighted Martin Luther King Jr. It’s nearly impossible to talk about the Civil Rights movement without talking about MLK, but Zinn’s focus on him was brief compared to other historical readings I’ve encountered, or been taught. It made me realize that I’ve always associated the Civil Rights movement with MLK, as though one didn’t exist without the other, but in reality the movement was in no way about MLK. In reality, MLK was definitely a major part of the movement, and many could argue made it what it was in the end, but the movement didn’t happen because of him, and there were other people that stepped up as much as he did during the time. 

This chapter definitely highlights things I had never thought about in the Civil War movement. The reality about what the government did and the effects it actually had, compared to what I have always learned, doesn’t come as much of a surprise now. I’ve noticed that after reading Zinns chapters I have become a lot more hesitant about believing everything I’ve learned in school about US history, and this chapter just makes it more clear.

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Kathrine Yeaw Blog Post 10/14

While reading The Yellow Wallpaper, I felt a little disturbed. We are inside the narrator’s journal/diary she keeps hidden from her husband. She is described as having a sort of nervous depression, which her husband, John, who is a doctor, has pretty much diagnosed her with. John controls nearly everything in her life and by the end she said she began to feel scared of him. The extent to which he held power over her, because he was a “superior” because he was a physician and her husband, and simply a man, was just creepy, for lack of a better word. By the end, she became almost completely insane, having imaginations about the wallpaper. 

I found this idea about this control that men have over women in this time period to be interesting. This piece seems to be ahead of its time in this idea which it highlights so clearly. The narrator becomes almost insane because she is forced to assume she is like a child, she is patronized and misjudged by her husband, who in this time period was considered to be superior. This separation of roles in the household and society at the time creates a society where men have so much control over women, and the only thing they can control is their mind, as the narrator does. It’s disturbing to think about the extent to which the subordination of women and gender roles in society back then could affect women. It also makes me wonder how much better things really are today, not necessarily with gender, but in any sense of control. People need to be allowed to express themselves, and not be told they are wrong or don’t know, which happens often now, if not more.

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Blog Post for 10/7

The ideas in this chapter of The People’s History of the United States, one again talk about the class conflicts. The involvement of the US in the WWI was something that divided the nation more than united it. The efforts of the government, with newspapers and advertisements to unite the people created an even worse sense of community because of their extreme punishments for any opposition to the opinion of the government and the upper class. WWI was just another example of how much power the wealthy held, and how the lower classes suffered from it. The lower classes were the ones that were actually going to battle, when they didn’t even want to be in the war in the first place. The interesting part to me is how this percentage of people, these wealthy individuals, have such an effect on the country and the economic and political state of things, when the lower classes, the majority of the country hold no power.

In the opening paragraph of the chapter, Zinn mentions how in Europe, with the war “governments flourished, patriotism bloomed, class struggles was stilled” (359). So then, why did it enhance almost all these problems in the United States? Class struggles got even worse, and socialism grew in an effort to stop the war. Only the economy seemed to get better, helping those wealthy. What surprised me even more is how the government handled this class conflict. The Espionage Act seems outrageous to me, for punishing someone so cruelly for voicing their opinion. There must have been a reason the government was so worried about people opposing the war. Zinn also mentions how even before we were involved in the war we were sending ships full of supplies and weapons to German enemies, which in itself makes us involved. Then how we lied about the Lusitania cargo adds to the idea that the government had an ulterior motive for their involvement in the war than the rest of the nation. 

This constant divide between the wealthy upper classes and the middle and lower classes has been evident all throughout history, although it seems to get worse and worse. During WWI it seemed to be much more political than it had been in the past, when most of the problems were race related. This recurring theme is still present today, although it seems that more and more people are gaining a voice and being heard, not just the wealthy class and government.

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Blog Post for 9/30

When reading Zinn’s chapter The Empire and the People, I was surprised by the amount of influence the wealthy and business men had on the government and America’s overseas expansion. The first sentence of the chapter, which quotes Theodore Roosevelt, that he “should welcome almost any war, for [he] thinks this country needs one” (297), already gives this idea that war and expansion is something powerful people wanted. I was shocked by this sentiment because I have always known war to be horrible and no one ever wants it, but I guess that wasn’t the case. The most influential and wealthy people in the nation were the ones supporting the Spanish-American war, even though they weren’t even going to be the ones fighting. 

The high opinion of the US, from Americans, that I have always been aware of is something, that I think, stems from the idea that we are the most powerful nation and have the most freedom. But, reading this chapter, makes me wonder why so many people have this high opinion of us, because even if we are very powerful and take control of these places, we are in no way giving people freedom, and we don’t help these nations, instead we were violent and brutal towards these places. The way we were so violent in the Philippines and massively racist not only there but in our own nation, does not call for anyone to have a high opinion of the US. There seems to have been many people who were against the war and what we were doing in Cuba and the Philippines, yet it seems our desire for power didn’t stop us. 

This chapter once again highlights what schools in the US don’t always teach us. They don’t teach the detailed parts that highlight the horrible things this nation did. We focus a lot on our own country and the things we did here with slavery, and racism, it seems more than our influence in other countries. It’s important to understand the impact America has had on the rest of the world and not become stuck in a bubble of how “great” we are.

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Kathrine Yeaw Blog Post 9/23

The reading in A People’s History of the United States, I was less surprised as I have been in past chapters. The reason for this could be because I’ve learned a lot about Indian Removal and the horrible things that happened on both sides. While I say I’ve learned about it, one of the most important parts (if not the most important) of the Indian removal is the role of Andrew Jackson, which I didn’t really know about until senior year of high school. Before that, I only knew him as the president who passed the Indian Removal Act, which in itself is already horrible. But, learning about the truly inhuman things he did or thought was normal for these Indians was shocking. The main reason for this shock was because, as Zinn says, he was “a national hero”. He was someone that was respected, and he was someone people looked up to, yet he did some really horrible things. I know now most people disagree with Jackson’s actions and do not like him, but was it the same when he was living? Although, Zinn mentions how Northerners were opposed to Indian Removal, so clearly some realized the horrible things Jackson wanted. What surprised me was how the Northerners eventually stopped caring, preoccupied with their own issues. 

Just like most other chapters in this book, it does not put the US in a very positive light, or at least who were supposed to be the leaders and representatives of the country. This chapter made me realize once again that there are so many things to not be very proud of in our history. Although, it also reminds me of how important it is to stand up for what we believe in and fight back when we need to. It makes me think back to the last chapter about women, because my life is different today because of a few women who spoke up, when they knew something was wrong. For the Indians, there seems as though there was no right thing to do, except try to speak up. If they signed the treaties and agreed to leave, the treaties were broken or they died while leaving, and if they tried to fight back, they lost their land and once again died. In this story, the oppressed didn’t gain anything back, the same way women and slaves eventually did. Like Zinn says in the first sentence “Indians were the most foreign, the most exterior”, which was in part the reason for being pushed out, because as history shows, we fear and push out things/people that are different from us.

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Kathrine Yeaw Post for 9/16

Both musicals, 1776 and Hamilton, present historical information in a very different, yet interesting way. It’s told in a story form that is supposed to be entertaining, with singing, and jokes, and personal stories to go along. Although, I found both to be just that, entertaining, the whole time I was questioning what was real and what was added on to make the story more interesting. In 1776, John Adams is shown to be very disliked, except by Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, and had to fight to get the Declaration of Independence accepted by everyone. They show the character of each states’ delegate and even some of their wives. Was there really that big of a divide between the founding fathers? I had always believed they were always on the same page and worked together harmoniously, but this film shows otherwise. 

I also found it interesting the way many of the delegates were portrayed in 1776. Rhode Island drank the whole time, some just followed what others said, New York always abstain, and the others either stayed quiet or were bullies. They seemed childish. They were not the image that I always had in mind of the founding fathers. But again, it makes me question whether many were actually like that, or if it was exaggerated, or if they were even like that at all? Clearly there is some truth in the film though, and there must not have been a totally unanimous opinion on independence in the beginning. Something I didn’t know was that there was a whole passage about the cruelness of slavery that was eventually cut out. It’s interesting to see how this was the biggest divide in the nation for the longest time, even before we were actually a nation. 

Seeing these more comical and entertaining perspectives of history not only make history more interesting, but in some ways creates false ideas about what really happened. In this film, 1776, it’s clear the founding fathers are portrayed less united and divine as they were thought to be, and in reality that is probably more true.  There is bias in everything that is told, and the struggle is figuring out where the most truth is.

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Kathrine Yeaw Blog Post for 9/9

While reading this chapter, I kept thinking about the world today, and the similarities between completely different ages. The divide between the colonists, and the blacks, and the Indians was great, and although most of it may be for different reasons, the United States today is often very divided. In the 1600s and 1700s there was a major gap between the rich and poor whites and “by 1770, the top 1 percent of property owners owned 44% of the wealth”, now it’s around 38%. The difference is close to nothing. Zinn mentions how there was this wealth disparity, which created a lot of violent conflicts, riots, and rebellions. 

 

Along with this wealth gap, there was a major gap between races, and although today the gap is shown in a different way, it is still there. The divide between people in the Americas in the early 1700s came from the system of servant/slave and master relationships, and it was kept that way because of the wealthy classes’ fear of the servant/slave revolts. Today, a lot of the divide in the nation is not only the wealth gap, but political, and we still see riots, for example in the BLM movement. While the way things are handled and the extent to which the divide shows are very different than they were 300 years ago, the basic roots of this division within the country remains in some ways the same. 

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Drawing the Color Line – Kathrine Yeaw

Each reading from Zinn, I am not only reminded of how cruel many of our so-called “heroes” or leaders were, but am made aware of the actual extent of how harsh they really were. Reading the horrible things the settlers and whites did to the African slaves was honestly astonishing. Zinn even mentions how Catholic priests found the sickening ways in which they captured, transported, and enslaved these people to be okay and they even “[bought] these slaves for [their] service without any scruple”. Throughout the years, this unfair treatment of slaves became even more acceptable and in some instances encouraged. Laws were passed in Maryland allowing for “cutting off the ears of blacks who struck whites, and that for certain serious crimes, [they could] be hanged and the body quartered and exposed”. It’s hard for me to understand how that is how they handled things. Their first option was always violence, which now we are taught from the moment we are born is the last option. 

The second thing this reading made me realize is that a lot of the reason for this “color line” that was created was out of fear and need for wealth and superiority; settlers’ fears of starvation, fear of being poor, and fear of rebellion. The main reason settlers began shipping in African slaves was because they were afraid of the Indians, and they knew they couldn’t get them to do what they wanted. Once they realized they could make money off of slaves, they began shipping in more, and using them for profit. The beginnings of the modern Western civilization, that is known to be because of whites, is really based on the foundation of the slaves’ work. One thing that really surprised me is how the separation between black and white became much more apparent when there was this “class fear” that the poor whites would rebel with the slaves, which was even more threatening than the slaves rebelling. Because of this fear they simply proclaimed that “all white men were superior to black” and went on to give them food and land when they were freed. This chapter really opened my eye as to how un-“natural” this divide was and how it was created through the ambitions of the whites at the time.

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Kathrine Yeaw – Blog Post 8/24

Before reading “Why History Matters” I was already aware of the fact that it is, and needed no convincing. I knew history is important, but I knew it for mainly one reason; learning about our history helps us to learn from our mistakes/successes in order to go forward into the future. While reading this article I realized not only that there are people who still believe History doesn’t matter, or simply wonder why it does matter at all. 

Cornfield brings up the idea that History allows us to explore new topics without having to learn everything new again. She says about how “the human mind can and does explore much wider terrain than does the human body”. Not only does History allow people to have so much more information then what is put right in front of them, but it gives them a framework to understand and make sense of the information. I found this interesting because Cornfield highlights how it is the job of educationalists to have students analyze a subject fully by understanding the history of a topic and the ways it may have changed or been challenged. The idea that History is much more than past events that helps us learn, but how we can learn from how we are living in it now is important to realize moving forward. 

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