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Author: Olivia Cranshaw

Blogpost 10/21/20 Martin Luther and Malcolm X

Through reading Zinn and the article by Clayborne Carson, I was enlightened and challenged to approach history through a more holistic, humanistic, and complex lens which added a lot more meaning to this time period’s impact on more modern history. History typically presents Martin Luther King Jr. as a peaceful, and almost passive, and crucial leader in the “peaceful” Civil Rights movement, and especially influential with the March on Washington. Although he had a carefully cultivated image, this was purposeful to gain as many followers as possible (which mainly meant appealing to white Americans). Though this image made it hard to see Martin Luther King Jr. as controversial, especially as we are examining history retrospectively, it is important to remember how controversial and difficult the fight was towards any positive measures, especially as the government was actively or passively fighting against most aspects of their protest. Although it is typical of history to oversimplify and define history through its leaders, I thought it was interesting to hear about the team of mostly black women organizing the grassroots movement. 

Similarly to Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X has been severely oversimplified and overshadowed in history. Before this reading and podcast, I knew Malcolm X solely because of his more violent reputation but knew nothing of his personal or familial past. Now that I know this information about the probable hate crime that killed his father, his parents’ civil rights work, and his conversion to Islam, I have been able to decipher a lot of his quotes that have been taken out of context. One of the most interesting aspects of Malcolm X, besides how much he contributed to the Civil Rights movement without accreditation, is his influence after his death on the movement. Many of his more violent and passionate speeches were considered too much and too radical to contain in the NAACP movement and in historical records while he was alive, and I think this was because of the threat of a large-scale, full-blown uprising, as he was calling for, was too much for people to support or to “market” to supporters. Therefore, people had more control over his rhetoric and legacy once he was dead, and manipulated his popularity and influence for their own agenda, which overall did still help progress the Civil Rights movement. As a white person, it is upsetting and uncomfortable to see a lot of this movement’s history changed in order to make it suitable or more palatable for future white audiences, which really takes away from the Civil Rights movement.


The Yellow Wallpaper and War Strategies for the Vote Blogpost 10/14

     I thought the Yellow Wallpaper reading was one of the most interesting and dynamic stories we have read all year. I thought the stylistic choices of a first-person perspective narrator and a developing character, rather than a stagnant one, were important as it heightened the tension of the story. In the beginning, I thought it was disturbing to “hear” what she thinks of herself since it was completely based on what her husband thought, and saw the wallpaper as irrelevant. As the story progresses, I thought the metaphor of the wallpaper was ingenious and creative as it was a direct representation of our narrator who was still and quiet in the light of examination by characters John and Jennie, but mentally active and alive at night, in the shadows of her “caretakers”. Although she is characterized as having “hysteria”, the powerful metaphor and the symbolic ripping of the wallpaper stands for the feminist idea that men (represented by John), and other social/political forces (represented by Jennie), force her to act a particular way. This means her “hysteria” is not created or caused by herself but instead created and imposed by others. Our main character has to “crawl” and “creep” over, around, and between these other forces in her life at night in order to live her more true and active self, which is not defined by those viewing and monitoring her “hysteria”. This piece was published in 1892, which makes me wonder just how popular it was at the time. To me, this message seems especially unique for its time period and reminds women that they are also their own person, regardless of what others define them as. 

     The Yellow Wallpaper’s message reminds me clearly of the “second generation” of the Women’s Suffrage Movement who, as stated in the video, were not afraid of occupying space as their predecessors already broke those social barriers. Although the second-generation women had a completely different way of working towards liberation through activism and constant interaction with politicians and media compared to the woman in The Yellow Wallpaper, who secretly worked towards her unknown liberation, their messages are the same: women are made to feel less by external pressures/forces, they are not inherently less than their counterparts parts, and once women recognize their intrinsic equal worth action must be taken to break those bars or barriers. My biggest critique of The Yellow Wallpaper would when John faints at the end. Although it would have been too progressive for the time period, I wish that John and the women could have had some type of conversation after she rips down her tinged wallpaper because it could have inspired more dialogue between men and women in real life. A conversation between the two in The Yellow Wallpaper would have also been historically similar to the recognition that men had to do after World War One once they realized that many of their old jobs could easily be done by women, which I think led to a lot of internal conversation during that time period which pushed the women’s movement. 

     Although not connected to the Yellow Wallpaper, I cannot forget to mention the overlap between the Abolitionist Movement and the Women’s Suffrage Movement as I think it is an interesting dynamic not explored enough in American history textbooks. Although I knew of Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony, I did not realize the interesting plays each leader had to make in order to successfully pass their primary objectives (slavery and the vote respectively). Susan B. Anthony’s decision to join forces with southern and racist (but also powerful) women was similar to a tough call made in war. Her political and social moves only searched for increased power and numbers for the Movement, which she knew would be the only way for her to advance the cause. This follows direct war strategies and reminds me of how intense and important the Women’s Suffrage Movement is and was in the trajectory of American history.


Propaganda and Stories 10/7/20 Blogpost

The immense amount of propaganda used to begin, and continue, the United States’ involvement in the war for mainly economic and political reasons sounds almost unprecedented in the modern era. Although I previously knew both the “real” reason for the beginning of America’s involvement, trade and allyship with England and its counterparts and the “fake” reason, the Lusitania, I was still shocked by the amount of government pressure placed onto Americans. My favorite part of how Zinn tells this piece of history is by mixing in the smaller stories of rebellion, that people would have been talking about and passing around, in with the more major and recorded parts of history, therefore making me feel involved and connected to the past. The most compelling anti-war stories to me were that of Kate Richards O’Hare of the socialist movement and Eugene Debs. 

Kate Richards’s small act of rebellion in the Missouri state penitentiary added to the humanistic aspect of the war that the Socialist Party was trying to represent. The United States tried painting the war as a war for the soul of the nation, but what many would consider the “soul” of our nation today, rural Americans, and farmers did not see a good reason to join. The United States government attacked this issue from every angle like legislation, songs, publications, gatherings, speeches, ads, businesses/unions, and more, just as their opposition was doing. This reminds me a lot of modern politics and government tactics, but obviously with a different context. Today we interpret hundreds of different things that could, and probably should be considered propaganda but we just see regular publications. How crucial is propaganda for running a country during a time of emergency? Is having a “unified country”, through intimidation and indoctrination, or is it more important to support American allies in terms of enacting war? Would/could the same type of propaganda be used even with social media today?


Influence and Extension of Power BlogPost 9/30

When reading Zinn’s the Empire and the People chapter of A People’s History of the United States, I was particularly surprised by the amount of involvement and influence that unions and other home groups had on international affairs in Cuba. Although I knew about these “two concepts” of union fighting during the end of the nineteenth century/beginning of the twentieth century and of the United States conquest of Cuba (and other areas), I never thought about them in relation to each other. I honestly never even recognized that these two extremely important aspects of American history were happening at the same time! Understandably, a lot of public support or opposition from the working class was influenced by unions like United Mine Workers, Knights of Labor, and the American Federation of Labor (to name a few) which then had an influence on the media. This influence then would have had an even larger impact on policy if it weren’t for the intersecting influence companies and the rich had in the government. After reading the Myth of American Exceptionalism and listening to the podcast I think it is easy to see how embedded American business goals are into the policies of the United States, with Cuba being a defining example of many. 

The United States not only manipulated their power over Cuba, but they imposed their own business ideals onto the country, people, and government for their own gain. I was both surprised to read about the hypocrisy that the United States government participated in, and continues to participate in, to gain the market and resources that Cuba offered, but I also have learned to expect the United States to always take an angle of personal advantage in international situations. What I did not know was that there was a history of international manipulation of power before Cuba and the Panama Canal starting in the mid-1800s. Even though most policy decisions do have some intersection of economic, social, and political motives, I questioned throughout the Zinn reading how many American policies/acts have left long-lasting social or economic impacts on the country? Should countries always be trying to work for their best interests, or do policies that work with only self-interest in mind hurt everyone else in the longer run? I can only hope that there will be more of a balance between government and business motives when it comes to the international power of the United States in the future as there definitely could be future conflicts if one type of policy is overreaching.

On a separate note, this podcast explores how dehumanization takes place through imperialism powers and American exceptionalism, but I do not think that American exceptionalism is ingrained into American culture as America has no defined culture and is much more defined by region, religion, state, and honestly … political belief. The idea that American exceptionalism is in American culture seems more like an accurate stereotype created by others based on the fact that Americans always talk about “large concepts” like liberty, freedom, or justice. Even though many other countries also talk about larger values in politics, I think the conversation around these values is more prevalent in American politics and make it seem like an intense superiority complex simply because these values connect to the human experience (don’t get me wrong though America does have a superiority complex, but I just think it is different).


Andrew Jackson v Native American Legacy Blog Post

What would our world look like today without the American Destiny expansion dream of our nation’s early leaders was a perpetual question I asked myself during this reading of Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, As Long as the Grass Grows or Water Runs. Although I know that Indigenous people suffered extensively and incomprehensibly at the hands of the Western immigrants and conquerors, Andrew Jackson’s time period, in particular, seems like an extremely disturbing aspect of American history that is almost unaccounted for in history textbooks nation-wide. 

Although expansion started with Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase, Jackson fueled the idea that the people of the United States have the right to expand into areas like Florida, Canada, and farther west because they are biologically superior and more advanced. Jefferson pushed into Native American culture more subtly by allowing people to move into known Native land with the facade of helping them adjust to the progressing capitalist economy and giving them the option to move elsewhere. This competition lifestyle is completely different from the communal lifestyle typical of most tribes that had worked for the past 15,000 to 20,000 years. Andrew Jackson conquered, stomped, and killed as many Native American lives and connections to cultures as possible, with his highlight being the Battle of Horseshoe Bend and conquest of parts of Florida. Jackson had more overt goals compared to Jefferson and wanted to remove Native Americans completely. In almost every situation, tribes were betrayed by either a promise, a treaty, a company, a leader, or a government in an effort to force simulation of “typical American life” or to make money. Why is this truth of American history not discussed in our textbooks? Does this silence connect to the pro-white, hero bias historians have to further American nationalism, or is there another motive? What can we change about how the legacy of Andrew Jackson is taught in order to include more information about the different native tribes and their struggle/resistance from the 1800s to the present day?

Jackson’s senseless and constant use of force in interactions changed the country’s perception of Native Americans and stained their possible future by instilling many false stereotypes/myths and integrating incorrect judgments. Although there has been some legislation to raise Indigenous people up in society and government, these laws have had minimal effects until the 1990s and early 2000s. Many tribes were not even recognized until two years ago, which means that there is still a distinct separation of human rights applied to Native American people. For blacks in America, the perception of equality (as Blacks at the time were still not legally or socially equal) in America began when aspects of Black culture began becoming popular in “pop-culture”. Even though the idea behind this can be slightly problematic as one culture is definitely not defined by its effect on another and are equally valid and acceptable, integration creates normalization. At what point in our future could parts of Native American culture like music, casual dress (not cultural dress), or ideas, be integrated into mainstream culture? Would more Native American pieces in pop-culture help change federal laws to aid their advancement in society? Personally, I think it would definitely help and would bring more attention to the voices of Indigenous people. At what point could we see an end of Jackson’s enforced ideas about Native Americans in the 19th century in the 21st century?


1776 and Hamilton Blog Post 09/16/20

In middle school, when we began learning about the American Revolution, I would watch 1776 all of the time. Since Hamilton did not exist at that point, it was one of the only and best ways to see those I was reading and making reports about. Just like a bad or cringy movie you cannot help but to like, I couldn’t help but like 1776 as I saw some of my favorite historical people like Benjamin Franklin and John Adams moving and acting how I envisioned they did, which is based partly on history and party on my expectations founded in historical myth. I think these musicals are a good way of understanding the basics of what happened, who did what, and why, but they never fully address the more complex aspects of history simply because there is not enough time and because that is not the director Peter Hunt’s intended purpose.

It wasn’t until the end of middle school, beginning of high school when I learned more about the true colors of Thomas Jefferson. Until then, I saw him as a speaker for Enlightenment ideas and as a dreamy young politician in colonial America. This view of Jefferson was mainly based on this musical, especially with the scenes of him singing about and to his wife. Even though a key part of this movie was trying to show how important the wives were in the creation of American (from a 1972 perspective) through the inclusion of Jefferson’s and Adam’s wives, it romanticized their history. Yes, these women were fairly important in the creation of America, but others who were just as important were not talked about or shown like Jefferson’s slaves or anybody not in the elite, land-owning class. There are few, or maybe no, instances in 1776 where a “regular person” interacts with or helps the Continental Congress “heroes”, which just shows how romanticized the heroes of American history are. 

If you interpret these musicals at face value, you are missing a key part of history because art (musicals are a form of art) does not have the responsibility of telling a “truthful” or accurate history if the creator does not want to. 1776’s description even says that it is a “patriotic musical” that “celebrates the founding fathers”; although there should be a basis in truth as the musical uses historical characters and a real-life time period, Hunt is able to take creative liberty (note that this musical is also dated with what is considered American history). Similar to Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda romanticizes Hamilton and the time period he is in so that you relate with the main character. He will not tell you about Hamilton’s involvement in the slave trade in the Caribbean (he disliked slavery but I don’t think it was central to his political positions), his ingrained elitism and dislike of those from lower social classes, assistance in passing the Alien and Subduction acts, and constant slander of other political opponents. 

From personal experience, without some type of prior knowledge, “patriotic” and dramatized musicals can be misleading, but if you mix in education it allows the musical to be both patriotic and truthful/more historical as you can contextualize and analyze the information. 


Blogpost 9/9: Power Dynamics of the Past and Today

To me, this chapter again highlighted a common theme we have seen throughout Pre-revolutionary America: those with immense power or those with referent power will consistently manipulate those in poverty with the expectation of possible power in attempts to control and distract. There were many different examples of this in this PHUS’s Chapter, Persons of Mean and Vile Condition, but I think the most striking one for me was Bacon’s Rebellion as it was the one I knew most about. Before reading this I honestly had a positive view of Nathaniel Bacon because I saw Bacon’s Rebellion as one of the first movements against over-taxation before revolution. Even though it had a bloody ending, with many killed and 23 hung, I thought it was rooted with a good motive. Realizing that this movement, that was facilitated to both control and kill Native Americans and suppress the poor, was named after someone who had substantial government power (meaning he was not just a regular farmer) and enthusiastically wanted to kill Native Americans again forced me to re-evaluate how I examine history. Those that joined, including real impoverished people, slaves, and indentured servants, were ripped of an opportunity to make real change because they were deceived by someone with power. This reminded me of what is happening currently where many people join or contribute to a movement with an initial positive idea, but then have their contributions manipulated by those in charge for a “larger purpose”, usually unknown to those who participated. This I think speaks volumes about the structure of American society (or about humans themselves) if the same type of behavior can be seen 400 years later. 


I have, and honestly will continue to see, America as the land of the best opportunity to progress and allows for the most social mobility, but a quote from page 50 really stuck with me in terms of the foundation of our current society. “The country therefore was not ‘born free’ but born slave and free, servant and master, tenant and landlord, poor and rich.” These relationships founded in extreme power dynamics and fear are the basis for our country today, which I think transcends the idea that America was founded by those who were free. Those in power feared the intersection of disparity, which I think is something that is still feared in modern politics but obviously with less of a direct and more intertwined connection. No one was free at the time unless they had money, which is a concept that resonates with many today.


Historical Intensions: Blog Post 2

One of the most striking things I read in Zinn’s second chapter, Drawing the Color Line, was a particular combination of statistics. I was shocked that two out of five people captured died on the death marches to the coast, and only two out of three of those who survived the marches survived the travel to the west. Usually, the slave trade is talked about in more general terms like Atlantic slave trade, labor shortages, and the “slave coast”, but this was the first time I have heard concrete numbers associated with the brutality of the slave trade. These statistics highlighted the unspoken horror and severity of what the slave trade really was in a new way I was never taught. It was not only upsetting to realize how large of an impact the West had on an entire region, but how it was “glossed over” or excluded by historians. 


As said in class, all history is written with a specific intention, but how does one go about repairing long-lasting racist intentions, whether calculated or unintentional? In order to answer this, I think what needs to be examined is what was once considered “fact”. When Zinn quoted what was defined as Black in 1600 England, it made me question the foundation upon which people make assumptions. As Black is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as “dirty”, “death”, “sinister”, ect, people perpetuated what they considered “fact”, therefore created one of many causes that maintained and enabled racism and slavery. This definition has a clear historical intention: to dehumanize those who are black in order to elevate white people and justify systematically killing people for personal and regional utilization. Although this definition is just part of the complex web that enabled slavery, it confirms that the root of many issues are historical, and not naturally generated as facts are written by people. Only through questioning what is fact and what is a historical interpretation can one move forward earnestly, and only with time could questioning and holding analysts accountable help change the effects of historical racism.


Concepts of Leadership Blogpost

As stated previously, only the histories of Great Men were written until recent history, which was mainly exaggerated or exemplary stories of kings, rich people, or unusually talented individuals. It was interesting to me to compare leadership stories and values of the modern-day to those of the past, especially those in Ancient Greece. The older stories of Agamemnon, a crucial fighter in the Trojan War, and Nestor, known for his foresight and intelligence, became long-lasting guides for their society’s leaders. Today, we still strive to follow the same leadership principles outlined by these stories, but we associate these values with people living today or in extremely modern history rather than passed down legends. I think this fascinating difference is a result of living in a fast-paced and connected world as well as in a society that values its possible future over its history.

One idea that particularly stood out to me in Concepts of Leadership was the extreme importance of myths to make subordinates. Although the author applied the idea that “the greater the socioeconomic injustice in the society, the more distorted the realities of leadership – its powers, morality and effectiveness” will be to mythology, I attempted to apply this to real life. The first example that came to me was North Kora, a country where they not only see their leaders as faultless but as untouchable gods. Instead of utilizing their position in their government to raise people from poverty (inflicted by their government and history), North Korea uses the facade of their myths to control, manipulate, maintain power. Although most/many governments utilize some form of myth/historical basis to preserve power, North Korea was the most striking example of this practice in combination with socio-economic injustice in real life that I could think of.