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Author: Olivia Cosco

Blog Post for 10/21/20

In history, we are taught to see Martin Luther King Jr. as a very important figure in the Civil Rights movement. In fact, he played one of the biggest roles, so we are taught. We know that he is a great leader, as he is very charismatic. One of the most important things he was able to do for the Civil Rights movement was communicate negro aspirations to white people. He was a controversial leader who challenged authority, but so were other people. In podcast 16, we learn that because Malcom X had prior connections to crime, MLK was seen as a better face for the movement. We also learn that Claudette Colvin was the first woman to refuse to move from the white section on a bus, not Rosa Parks. Colvin’s mother told her that Parks would be a better face for this movement because Parks was liked by white people; she had more straight hair, lighter skin, and wasn’t a teenager who got pregnant such as Colvin. While I have learned about Malcom X before, I had never heard Colvin’s name before this podcast. I am sure if I did more research on my own, I would have read about her, but I was never taught about her in my years of history. What I left wondering, is why do certain people get more attention than other’s? Maybe Rosa Parks was a better “face” for the movement, but it frustrates me that because Colvin didn’t look a certain way or have a perfect track record, she didn’t get any attention.

In Carson’s reading, it is discussed that if King never lived, eventually movement toward racial equality would have happened. This makes sense because all these other people had a role in the Civil Rights movement, but why then do they not get recognized.  We know King is a charismatic leader, but Carson even tells us that King was very aware of his flaws. No one is perfect, so why does history teach us that King is this hero who had no flaws? Don’t get me wrong, he definitely did a lot for the movement, but we know other people did too.

One final thing that stood out to me in Carsons reading was a quote at the end. He writes, ” The notion that appearances by Great Men (or Great Women) are necessary preconditions for the emergence of major movements for social change reflects not only poor understanding of history, but also a pessimistic view of the possibilities for future social change.” Carson is basically saying that for social change to be possible, we don’t need someone who is “Great.” It can be someone who is ordinary, or has flaws. He also says that this belief that anyone who can lead social change has to be great, is a poor understanding of history. By this, Carson means that if that’s our belief, then we don’t have a full understanding of who leaders actually were. For example, we celebrate Columbus for coming to America, even though he forced Indigenous people off land that was theirs first. He’s not perfect, the same way most leaders in history aren’t perfect. This quote emulates the view that I took from today’s readings; not every leader is perfect, in fact some are far from it, but I am still left wondering why some people gain a heroic view in history, while others don’t.

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The Yellow Wall-Paper – 10/14

I thought this reading was a very interesting way of portraying women’s suffrage. The story portrayed John, a male, who doesn’t allow her to do much or leave. He says she has depression and doesn’t allow her to interact with many people. This relationship and the control John has over her, demonstrates the relationship between men and women during this time. She also keeps her thoughts behind this wall which demonstrates how during this time, women couldn’t be outspoken about their private lives. John keeps telling her that her depression will get better here and she shouldn’t leave, but deep down all she wants and needs is o go out in public and have people around her.

The other thing I found really interesting was the way the wall-paper was described throughout the story. She mentions wanting it being like metal bars in front of the wall. The first thought that came to my mind was that she feels as if she is in prison. She is not able to leave and do what she wants to do, or have the same rights as a man, which in a way is similar to the way prisoners don’t have the same rights as people who aren’t incarcerated. She also mentions the shadows on the wall portraying a woman trying to escape, which reminded me of her situation. At the end, she says “I’ve got out at last, and I’ve pulled off most of the paper so you can’t put me back!” To me this was her way of standing up for herself and other women, as well as her saying she was done being scared of her husband or of speaking out. Reading this perspective showed me why women fought so long for their right to vote.

While 72 years is an extremely long time, women were fed up, but they also had a different perspective toward the end. The second generation of suffrage’s were different. The video explained the reasoning for this as women who were already fighting for their rights who had kids, raised their daughters to feel strong and empowered. Their daughters then took on the role of fighting for women rights as well. One line that stuck out to me in the videos was when Mott said, “not every man is a tyrant, but the law gives every man the right of tyranny.” I thought this portrayed the importance of women fighting for their rights because while not every man treats women with little respect, the law makes it okay for them to. Taking that right away from men was so important, not only because it made women equal, but also because it was inevitable, the same way ending slavery was inevitable.

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Blog Post for 10/7/20

In chapter 14, “War is the health of the state,” Zinn discusses the beginnings of WWI and how America became involved. President Woodrow Wilson had originally satiated that he wanted America to stay neutral in the war. This changed when Germans announced they would be sinking any of American’s submarines that tried to bring supplies to them. Wilson used this as reasoning for why he must “stand by the right of Americans to travel on merchant ships in the war zone” (361). Zinn implies that this was an excuse as he discusses the unrealistic thought that America would be neutral, when they were sending war materials to German enemies. That in and of itself is inserting America into the war. Zinn somewhat implies that Wilson used this as an excuse to join the war, due to other intentions. This also goes along with W.E.B Du Bois theory, that capitalism is insincere because it is protecting class conflict. Zinn writes, “American capitalism needed international rivalry – and periodic war – to create an artificial community of interest between rich and poor, supplanting the genuine community of interest among the poor that showed itself in sporadic movements” (364). Basically, Zinn believes Wilson wanted the war in order to prolong and support a separation of classes, but used the Germans saying they’d sink any of their submarines, as an excuse to insert America. I thought this was an interesting view, but after reading a lot of Zinn’s book by now, I’m not really all that surprised.

The other thing I thought was interesting about this chapter was the Espionage Act. This was used to stop anyone from interfering with the war. Zinn discussed that even if they weren’t presenting danger to anyone or the war, anyone who spoke out or wrote something about the war, could be imprisoned. Zinn brings up an interesting point when he says, “But was not the war itself a ‘clear and present danger,’ indeed, more clear and more present and more dangerous to life than any argument against it?” (366). I thought this was very interesting, because he’s completely right. Arresting people for speaking out against the war, and saying they are presenting danger, is kind of ironic when there is a world war going on. Zinn discusses the country tightening their control over citizens and says that the country has never been so highly policed than it was during this time. And yes, during a world war, you probably need control over citizens, but Zinn also brings up so many points which point to the fact that Americans were somewhat forced to support the war.

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Blog Post for 9/30

In Walt’s article, “The myth of American exceptionalism,” I found it very interesting to see the way we view our country versus the truth based on the idea of American exceptionalism. American exceptionalism is what allows us to believe that our values, political system and history are unique and worthy of universal admiration. Walt tells us that this is in fact, mostly a myth. It is interesting to me that we have such a confident view that we are the greatest and best at everything, which history clearly shows we are not. Not to say we are an awful country – we aren’t, and have definitely accomplished a lot, but we definitely are not as great as we believe. Out of the five myths, the one that stuck out to me most was the fourth: the United States is responsible for most good in the world. Walt says in this section, “Bottom line: Americans take too much credit for global progress and accept too little blame for areas where U.S. policy has in fact been counterproductive.” This quote to me, was the most important line in the article. I feel like it gave the overarching theme of what he was trying to say, because most other myths could fall into this category. For example, myth number 3 says, America’s success is due to its special genius. First of all, Walt explains that it’s not, it sometimes is purely luck. And second, this myth is based on the assumption that they are always successful, which is not true. This then proves Walt’s point about how America doesn’t take credit for anything in history that has been counterproductive.

This plays into Zinn’s chapter, “The empire and the people,” because of how the US went to Cuba only for their own benefit. Zinn discusses that before William McKinley being elected as president, he had said, “we want a foreign marker for our surplus products” (299). Going into Cuba was really only so that America could benefit off of a new market. They didn’t care about their freedom or really helping Cubans rebel at all. Zinn tells us this is what he believes when he says, “American merchants did not need colonies or wars of conquest if they could just have free access to markets” (301). Zinn gives us the name “open door” for the free access to markets. America really only wanted to ensure an open door between them and Cuba, which allowed for better economy. This part of Zinn’s chapter ties back to the myths of American exceptionalism because this is America going in as if they’re doing something helpful for Cuba, when really the intentions were to help themselves.

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Olivia Cosco 9/23 blog post

Chapter 7 of Peoples History of the United States was very interesting to me in the sense that I had never really read about president Andrew Jackson in that light before. While I have learned in history that he passed the Indian Removal Act, the way this was played out was horrifying to read about. Zinn portrayed the cruelty that was used to move out Indians. In fact, it was actually their land that they were being forced to leave. They were marginalized and even killed in order for white people to settle on their land. In the episode 9 podcast, Dr. Bezio discusses the fact that we must accept that we will never know the full truth and every single detail to history. While this may be true, reading Zinn’s chapter made me wonder why history teaches us to characterize Andrew Jackson as a hero, when in fact, the horrifying details of his Indian Removal Act are know. I wish we learned more about these truths rather than being taught the glorified version.

The short story, Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience was also very interesting to me. I felt that this story tied both the podcast and Zinn’s chapter together by giving us a personal experience. In this story, Jesse essentially has everything in his life taken from him by other people. He comes back to work after being sick, only to find out he was replaced by someone better. After finding this out, getting into a fight at the bar, and waking up realizing his wife was probably very angry, Jesse goes home to find out that the “White Wolf” had talked to his wife who decided she wanted Jesse out. Essentially, his wife was also taken from him. To me, this story portrayed the way that white people took Indigenous people’s land from them in the 1830’s. It was their land first, the same way it was Jesse’s job and wife first.

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1776/Hamilton post

In 1776, I found the element of it telling a story and it’s casualness to be very interesting. Not only was the movie upbeat because of the music, but it also made some jokes along the way to keep it lighthearted. At the same time, it also told a deeper story than one I had ever previously learned about the declaration of independence. To me, something I never knew was exactly how hard John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson had to fight to get the Declaration of Independence to be a consideration.

In class today, while looking at the pictures, we learned that stories and structures are built at the same time. We also learned that they are all misleading and none of them are the truth. As an example, professor Bezio talked about the titanic. While watching this movie, there were points that I laughed and even thought what the heck is going on, but I remembered what we talked about in class. This is relevant because while this story was interesting, I had to remember this is most definitely not word for word exactly what happened.

In the podcast #7 that I listened to, professor Bezio also talks about stories and the way we interpret what they mean, whether that be what they meant at the time or now. Professor Bezio also discussed the fact that every story has a lesson, and to figure out this lesson, one must use close reading, which includes Semitic theory. This theory is basically how we get our ideas from words. In 1776, there were certain quotes, which lead me to interpret this story the way I did.

For example, when the delegates were discussing talking to parliament, someone was worried they would offend parliament. Adams blurted out, “This is a revolution damn it! We’re going to have to offend somebody.” My idea from these words is that even if discussing this with parliament “offends” them, he doesn’t care if it means the United States can declare independence. Another quote was at the end when Wilson from Pennsylvania, had the final tie-breaking vote and he said, “I’m different from most of the men here. I don’t want to be remembered. I just don’t want the responsibility… But if I vote for you, I’ll be the man who prevented American independence.” The message I got from these words was that Wilson wanted to make the right decision for America rather than himself.

Stories always have a message or lesson, even if it ins’t a huge life lesson. Throughout the movie 1776, I could see a story being told with a message.

 

 

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9/9/20

In these two chapters of Peoples History of the United States, Zinn discusses a growing gap between the rich and poor as well as a racial division. In 1676, Bacons rebellion occurred. It began over a conflict of how to deal with the Indians on the western frontier and included violence, Indian raids, extreme poverty. The Indians fought white settlers as a way to defend their land. The white settlers were angry with the wealthy land-owners for raising taxes and making them leave. In Zinn’s chapter, persons of mean and vile condition, the quote that stuck out to me most was, “Better to make war on the Indian, gain the support of the white, divert possible class conflict by turning poor whites against Indians for the security of the elite” (54). And this is exactly what Bacon’s rebellion did. The part that really strikes me is when he says “protecting the elite” because it shows that this class divide was wanted and they didn’t care that they were creating violence between the Indians and poor white people. While some servants eventually became free, it was rare and Abbot Smith says this was a system, “dominated by men who had money enough to make others work for them” (46). This created a lasting and stronger divide in classes. 

In Zinn’s next chapter, Tyranny is Tyranny, he discusses the American Revolution and how it was actually “a work of genius.” He talks about how people in the English colonies discovered by uniting themselves as the United States, they could gain land and political power from the British colonies. analyzes the Declaration of Independence and the constitution. Zinn says that the declaration is to secure life, liberty and happiness. By saying this, it lets people be hopeful for the idea that maybe they will work their way up the class system, when in reality Zinn tells us of the majority of servants who never made it up, no matter how hard they worked. We see this in Zinn’s examples as well as today in our current society. Zinn later says, “how could people truly have equal rights, with stark differences in wealth?” (73). Both this question, and the title of the chapter, tyranny is tyranny go hand in hand to me. We talked about this in an earlier class, but people of power and wealth want to keep it, and whether they don’t want this to change. Whether they like being the people in power or don’t realize the harmful patterns created, nothing is as equal as promised.

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8/31/20 – Olivia Cosco

I found Smith’s article, “Point Comfort: Where Slavery Began in America 400 Years Ago” to be very interesting and tie back to to what Howard Zinn says in his chapter, Drawing the Color Line.

Zinn discusses the beginnings of slavery and how it was never really about color until the triangle trade. He tells us that black people were the answer to Virginians needing more labor to be done. They were helpless which made enslavement easier; but besides that, they could not force Indians or white servants. Indians had a reputation of being tough, resourceful, defiant and would fight back. White servants had not yet been brought over in a large enough quantity in order to enslave them. I found this to be very interesting, as it made me wonder what our world and history would look like if things did not happen exactly like this.

Going off of that, Smith discusses exactly where slavery began. It was 1619 when a ship with twenty captives was headed toward Mexico and they were captured by the White Lion, another ship. They ended at point comfort. This is where slavery was born. Now, being that it is 2020, Fort Monroe in Hampton, Southern Virginia will celebrate the 400th year anniversary, in hopes that it will be a pivot point in society.

To me, the most interesting part in Smith’s article, was hearing from Walter Jones, whose mother is the oldest living Tucker. Jones discusses being raised to forgive all people for some things, because he was taught that it was rarely just their fault. He then mentioned that not having any recognition for past events makes him a little bitter. He later poses the question about recognition, “if it hasn’t come by now, when will it? And now that it’s 400 years coming up, how many people truly will recognize that?” When thinking about this, if I’m being honest, I do not think without this article being assigned to me, I would have recognized that it’s been 400 years.

That leads me to the final point that stuck out to me. Congressman, James Clyburn believes America still has not confronted the issue of slavery. He feels as though we have ignored it in an effort to make it go away. I do not necessarily agree with this, because I feel that we have started to converse more about these issues in the past couple years, but I still feel there is more to be done in terms of creating awareness of the past.

 

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8/24/20

Bass’s article, “Concepts of Leadership: the Beginning” stuck out to me most out of the readings. Besides learning a definition for leadership, we read about how leadership’s definition has evolved through history.

One quote that stuck out to me was, “the study of leadership rivals in age the emergence of civilization, which shaped its leaders as much as it was shaped by them.” This reminded me of the podcast, because professor Bezio talked a little bit about people learning from example scenarios in history. I believe leaders learn from previous leaders mistakes, or even their strengths, and then lead a certain way because of that to an extent.

The other thing that stuck out to me was how generalizations of leadership are still being found today. This reminded me of how professor Bezio said in her podcast that the great person theory has been disproven. Many people who have the qualities of a great leader, never lead anything in their life. I found these two points to tie together in the sense that, while some may have certain principals for a what a leader needs, many common people can share these qualities as well.

Along with that, Bass wrote about West Point’s fundamental principal today which is, “by first serving as a follower, a leader subsequently can  best understand his followers.” This was interesting because it goes along with the fact that common people can be leaders and there are untold histories about them that need to be shared. Through the concepts of leadership from an early time that Bass discusses, we can see how there is no set definition or generalization of what a leader must have. With history, we can learn what worked and what didn’t and where to go from there; evidently, leadership’s definition is still changing today.

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