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Author: Sophia Picozzi

Blog Post 10/21

I found this chapter of Zinn’s book and the little excerpt about Dr. King one of the most important things we’ve done so far. I have recently been learning about the truth of the Civil Rights Movement in my other leadership class, so I was really excited to learn more and to reinforce what I have been learning. All of this information has shifted my perspective of the movement and also has given me a new perspective on the current civil unrest in the US. In the history books and history classes, we are taught that the Civil Rights Era was an unprecedented time for change and that the whole nation came together to listen to Martin Luther King Jr. and immediately put an end to racism once and for all. However, only now I am realizing that the movement was actually a time of disappointment for many African Americans. It wasn’t an instant and revolutionary change that occurred overnight. We are still facing these problems today because of the lack of success of the Civil Rights Movement. History books want us to believe that one day, all of a sudden, Martin Luther King Jr. said “I have a dream” and that all the racists in America disappeared and changed their ways. Further, history wants to reinforce how peaceful all the protesting was and idolize King’s love instead of Malcolm X’s rage. This view of history is honestly incorrect and it only tells one side of the story. This history doesn’t depict how the Supreme Court rulings were passed but were never enforced or taken seriously.

I honestly think that the idolization of Dr. King and him becoming a martyr and a myth was a deliberate action by white people in power to suppress racial unrest. I think that it was on purpose that his birthday is given a national holiday and not the more radical Malcolm X. Using what I know now, I think historians and people in power chose King to immortalize and turn into a larger than life entity because he enforced nonviolence and love. Nonviolence obviously has its advantages, however when problems escalate to the point where there is no other option than complete upheaval, this course of action loses any efficiency or power. However, I think this may be the point. It is very possible that King was chosen to represent this movement to show future oppressed generations that nonviolence is the way to go because it is easier to suppress and subdue. This is honestly a manipulation tactic, instilling in our national history a lesson of how to approach oppression. If our nation had a national holiday for Malcolm X, then his wishes and views would be spoken more and would be more likely to be used by future generations. However, his ideas of radicalism and revolutionism are the last thing people in power want to instill in the public because it would jeopardize their power standing. It would lead to more oppressed groups taking control of their oppression in a way that would make people in power feel uncomfortable. This blatant misconception of the past is why we are still experiencing civil unrest and racism today and is also why the riots were being condemned, even though the riots were the only thing that actually persuaded the government to enforce the rulings they passed in the Civil Rights Era.

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Yellow Wallpaper 10/13

The short story The Yellow Wall-Paper was extremely unsettling and eerie to read, especially as you got closer to the end. It progressed slowly but surely throughout the whole story, and almost left the impression that you ( the reader) is losing your mind as well. It is a really captivating piece and I vaguely remember reading it when I was in high school. However, I think it is striking me more now and making a bit more sense as I have learned more context about women in this time period and how their lives were. It was a really sad story to read, however at the same time it made me feel like the narrator kind of won in a sick, dark way in the end. Obviously, her deterioration of mental illness is tragic, however, the narrator herself perceives it as some sort of self-discovery and an almost victory over her abusive husband. At the beginning of the story, she vocalizes her doubts and her unhappiness regarding John and his dismissive treatment of her mental illness, however she can’t do anything about it. She is afraid of her husband and is quite skeptical about his logical reasoning, but her inferior position in society and in the domestic sphere limits her from acting on these thoughts. The narrator is ahead of her time period and she is aware of the mistreatment against her, not only from her husband but society at large; this results in her rebelling against the gender roles of her time period in many ways and an unfortunate escalation of her mental illness.

First, I thought it was interesting how she had to hide her writing from John and Jennie because it reminded me of the female writers in colonial times and how the Puritan women weren’t supposed to disclose information in the public sphere about their personal lives. The narrator doesn’t even seem to want to write as much as she is, however it is one of the only ways she can rebel against the domestic constraints against her and help ease her mind, especially because she can’t leave the property. She made it clear that she wants to experience “society and stimulus” and go out into the public sphere (p. 648). I also found it relevant when she mentioned going back to work that she put the word in quotation marks, so I am assuming that she is referring to the domestic work in the household and taking care of her baby. The narrator doesn’t want to live the life that she is being forced to live and dreads doing the domestic work because it makes her feel “nervous” (p.652); she feels detached from her baby, which was probably both a result and cause of her depression. She explains the wallpaper as bars on the walls, which signifies that she believes she is being imprisoned in this life of submission and neglect. She feels trapped by her husband and society and this leads to a complete downward spiral of depression. It was devastating to read because it made me think of the women throughout history who felt imprisoned and trapped by men and society due to the negligence of women as smart, capable, and independent members of society. The number of women whose mental illnesses were probably exacerbated by this lifestyle of inferiority and indifference is heartbreaking, and it is sad to think that society isn’t even that advanced today to reach total equality for women.

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Blog Post 9/7

I am becoming less and less shocked as I read more of the Zinn chapters because of the continuation and repetitiveness of numerous dangerous ideals of people in power throughout American history. It is clear to me that the federal government and businessmen in the US blatantly prioritize and force on the American public notions of imperialism, economic and political prosperity, bloodlust and war efforts, American exceptionalism, the American savior attitude, and lastly, the American paradox of democracy and equality. All of these ideas are present in the propaganda surrounding the US’s involvement in World War I and were the key motivators of politicians and businessmen alike to enter the war. The backlash against the war made me feel proud of the American public for standing up for what they believe in even when the consequences were so grave and often deadly. It is even nobler of them to speak up given that throughout history the lower classes have been constantly pushed down by the people in power then unjustly asked to fight for America. The lower classes picked up on the fact that they weren’t fighting for their own rights or freedoms, they were fighting for the upper classes to maintain their power and status.

I was especially impressed with the women of this time period and it was pleasing to have their voices be heard in historical texts. One quote, in particular, stuck out to me from anarchist Emma Goldman who was incarcerated for opposing the draft. She said, “Verily, poor as we are in democracy, how can we give it off to the world?” (Zinn, p. 372). This quote struck me because it reminded me of the current state of our nation and the world in terms of climate change. Climate change is becoming an increasingly severe global issue and the US is doing nothing about it in our own country, let alone extending our money and power to countries in desperate need like Bangladesh. This directly relates to Goldman’s quote that sheds light on the myths behind American exceptionalism and this savior attitude that the majority of the US believes in. If we have so much unrest in our own country that we refuse to acknowledge, how do we expect to have the capability to help other nations? Further, deep down the US doesn’t even want to help these countries in terms of battling climate change because businessmen and politicians firmly believe that it wouldn’t be economically or politically wise and beneficial to them. Several American paradoxes are so overwhelmingly apparent in Goldman’s quote regarding World War I and the current state of Climate Change around the world.

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Blog Post 9/30

I never knew how bloodthirsty and hungry for war America has been throughout history before the Zinn chapter and the Walt article and it is very concerning to me that I am just learning about it now. I also am developing a better understanding of how one of the most embedded ideals in the US is a white savior mentality and how the presence of paternalism is overwhelming. These parallels are constantly coming up in the Zinn book that it is hard to ignore. In this chapter, I was most taken back by the horrors that the US caused in the Philippines strictly because of economic self-interest. It is almost unfathomable to me that Americans and people in power continued to violate the human rights of other countries’ citizens and still had the audacity to claim that we were the civilized ones. In what world is a bloodthirsty and war-driven country civilized? I’m having trouble wrapping my brain about how these nationalistic and hypocritical ideologies even rose when all of the evidence shows otherwise. The U.S’s actions in the Philippines were despicable and the lack of care of human rights simply because they looked different and could serve an economic purpose is extremely concerning. In addition to the racism that underlies the US impact on the Philippines, it is so clear that America was just concerned about their own economic interests in these foreign countries, and disguised that by pretending they were saving these populations out of the good of their own hearts. This has shown me just how economically driven and focused the US was and still is today, and how money and political power obviously reign over human rights and respect for other peoples.

It is time for America to wake up and approach our history through another lense that isn’t so focused on how amazing and genius of a country we are. It isn’t a bad thing to address our history head-on and will lead to progress in the future that is unprecedented and that is currently being stinted by this dangerous neglect of our history. We are going to have to face our history at one point and putting it off will just result in history repeating itself yet again. The injustices that will come will become progressively worse if America can’t learn from past mistakes. We are currently in a progress trap that we desperately need to claw our way out of and it isn’t too late to save the country. In order to understand and control the present, we must understand and deal with the past, and maybe then America can have the opportunity to become the great country that it already thinks it is.

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Sophia Picozzi Blog Post 9/23

While reading chapter 7 of A People’s History of the United States I couldn’t help but recognize the direct parallels or connections between the removal of Native Americans and both slavery and later housing segregation of African Americans throughout American history. Zinn stated that the main forces behind the removal of the Native Americans were not the poor white frontiersmen, but from big businesses and the federal government collectively. In fact, the frontiersmen and the natives bonded over common problems and lived in friendship and peace. This made me recall in earlier chapters how slaves, white servants, poor whites, and freed slaves formed friendships and even marriages in colonial America and how these relationships were only broken up by the racially charged language of the elites and the federal government. This is a blatant repetition in American history and unfortunately, the poor whites didn’t learn from the past and were used yet again as a pawn to advance the selfish economic desires of the rich. I also noticed parallels between the perseverance and fighting spirit of both the slaves and the Native Americans when they were experiencing brutal conditions. The bravery and determination that these two ostracised groups embodied are almost unbelievable given how horribly they were repeatedly treated by the most powerful agents in the nation.

Another parallel that is worth exploring is the role of “de jure” practices throughout American history. In this chapter, it is clear that the government, and most specifically Presidents Andrew Jackson and Thomas Jefferson, led the initiatives to remove the natives from their own land and try to assimilate them into American society. This is an example of “de jure” practices where the government played an instrumental role in ostracising and obliterating the culture and livelihoods of the Native Americans. The government and the minority that was the Southern elites overpowered the North and the beliefs of whites across America to further their own needs through forced legal action. They basically coerced the nation into agreeing with their views and removing the Native Americans. It should be noted, however, that even though there was backlash against these actions, the American people knowingly let these injustices take place because they weren’t the ones who were mostly affected by it. Racially charged de jure practices can also be seen in housing segregation throughout the 19th and 20th centuries where the government implemented public housing that perpetuated ideals of segregation regardless of the views of the American people. Even in racially integrated communities where whites and blacks lived in harmony, the government implemented segregated housing units while claiming that they were simply maintaining the status quo. They used manipulative language, which is also seen in the removal of the Native Americans, to insist that they were doing the right thing and that their actions were motivated by the overall good of the people, especially the racial minorities. This dangerous language is what aided the government to pereptuate racist idealogies and divisions with “de facto” reforms targeted at both Native Americans and African Americans.

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Sophia Picozzi Blog Post 9/16

I was very excited to watch the movie 1776 because I am such a big fan of Hamilton and I have been for quite some time now! I was very excited to compare and contrast the two pieces of work while also relating them to what we are discussing in class. I was very interested to watch the scene in the movie where the Southern delegates object the line in the Declaration of Independence which strongly condemns slavery in the US and calls for its abolition. Even though Thomas Jefferson wrote this line, he had countless slaves until the day he died. Jefferson’s stance on slavery is an interesting paradox that is in fact mentioned in Hamilton. In one of the songs, Cabinet Battle #1, Hamilton and Jefferson are debating the establishment of a national bank, and Hamilton rebuttals Jefferson’s points about the agricultural success of the South by claiming, “We know who’s really doing the planting.” This shows the trade-off between agricultural success and the ethical injustices regarding slavery that Jefferson couldn’t overcome even though he may have understood how wrong it truly was. In 1776, Jefferson ultimately was the one who scratched out the line, upon his and John Adams’ dismay, in order to persuade the South to sign the Declaration. Benjamin Franklin objected to the sentence about slavery and exclaimed that “The issue here is independence!” This line in the movie directly relates to what we were discussing in class which is that the elites of society have figured out, whether it is conscious or not, that war and external conflict helps appease internal struggles or tensions. These wealthy, white, property wielding men intricately used language in the Declaration that aired the grievances against King George III while not exposing the injustices that were occurring in the colonies. Benjamin Franklin’s statement shows the intentional deflection of the civil unrest in the colonies to anger and independence from England.

The exaggerated statement in the Declaration where Jefferson stated that all men are created equal and the conflicting stance on slavery that many colonists may have held during Revolutionary times, one of them being Jefferson himself, is also depicted in the lyrics of several Hamilton songs. One line that sticks out to me in particular and relates to this belief the most is in the song “My Shot” where John Laurens says, “But we’ll never be truly free, unit those in bondage have the same rights as you and me. Wait till I sally in on a stallion in the first black battalion.” John Laurens criticized slavery and wanted slaves to fight in the Revolutionary War and then be rewarded their freedom for their service. However, similar to Jefferson, he had several hundred slaves on his plantation and co-owned one of the largest slave-trading houses in the colonies. It is the unfortunate truth that although people in power may want the best for the public good, their own self-interests historically get in the way and they choose the more selfish, easy, and least controversial option.

This scene in 1776 was also interesting because of how many of the delegates condemned the parts of the Declaration when they insult Parliament or when they call King George III a tyrant. This shocked me and showed how not everyone was on the same page regarding the revolution and England in general. The American Revolution is always depicted as a unanimous and collective movement against the big bad English empire, however, that isn’t really historically accurate. In class, we discussed how merely 1/5 of the colonists fully approved of and supported the Revolution, which clearly relates to this scene. This scene showed how several colonists were still connected and related to their strong British roots and were hesitant to fully break away. This revelation starts to chip away at the commonly held myth surrounding the Revolution that all the colonies had enough and wanted to break free and start their own united country.

 

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Sophia Picozzi 9/9 Blog Post

There were a lot of significant takeaways, in my opinion, from Chapters 3 and 4 of Zinn’s book that definitely needs to be discussed more often and made a part of public knowledge or education. When I first read about the horrible injustices like rape, domestic violence, and other crimes that were committed by rich white males that were ultimately swept under the rug and ignored by the governing bodies (which were also made up of rich white males) I was disgusted but not shocked. It, unfortunately, reminded me of the current justice system and the rapes by white men like Brock Turner which aren’t rightfully punished. It was disheartening to see that this trend is embedded in our history and that it is still being repeated today.

Secondly, I am a very big fan of the Broadway production Hamilton and I used to take away from it, and US history in general, a story about the classic American dream and the victorious and honorable American Revolution. However, now I honestly see the American dream as a façade and a ploy by rich white males to maintain their power. Europeans were fleeing their home countries for a better life the American way, and from the beginning of time, that was all a lie. It makes me wonder why the American dream even became something that was strived for when in reality the US was always a place of division. Another key component of the American dream is that there is a chance for class mobility and that anyone can succeed and improve their living situations. However, I honestly don’t know how this came to be because the wealth disparity was so fixed that the wealthiest people didn’t want anyone else to rise to power and the middle class didn’t even bother trying to fight back; they were just happy that they weren’t the lower class. There was no unity before, during, or after the American revolution. There were no “us” or “our people” or common “man” that was equal as stated in the Constitution; these were all fake linguistic tools that were deployed by the wealthy out of fear of rebellion.

Further, the persistence of the top 1% of people to enforce racism in the lower classes was so intensive it makes me question why people ever thought that African Americans were naturally and innately inferior. The interracial relations were everywhere throughout history, yet the narrative of the minority, which was the white men with property, somehow prevailed and created consequences that are still unfolding today. It’s honestly perplexing to me how racism developed, yet I do understand the manipulation by leaders to end the phenomenon between white and black servants (and Native Americans as well) that can be described by the phrase “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

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“Drawing the Color Line” Sophia Picozzi

I found this chapter very upsetting and honestly hard to get through, however, I am fortunate that I have had the privilege of reading such diverse literature and opening my eyes to the horrific realities of slavery. In this chapter, Zinn describes both the horrors of the treatment of slaves and the astounding resilience and resistance the slaves embodied. It was shocking, impressive, and inspiring that they persevered through the worst of hardships, like the intentional separation of families, the eradication of their culture, and the brutal physical and psychological torture. The article also touched on the incredible perseverance of the slaves and focused on celebrating how African Americans have reinvented themselves and survived the most unimaginable treatment. Commemorating and honoring the slaves is probably the newest and most positive outlook I have read or learned in regard to slavery and it really struck me.

Another main takeaway I took from the reading was the conclusion about how racism and slavery was not a “natural” or inherent inclination for all white Americans and how it was learned, engrained, and practically forced on them. This made me think and connect to a reading I recently read for my leadership 210 class where the author detailed Aristotle’s defense of slavery. Aristotle believed that in order for slavery to be just, it needed to be a “natural fit” and that the slave had to suit the role of being a subordinate to a master. He stated that anyone who flourishes in their position as a slave is meant, by nature, to be a slave and anyone who fights and rebels against their role is not by any means meant to be a slave. Aristotle believed that the need for force and coercion in slavery is a direct indication of injustice and therefore should be eradicated immediately; it suggests a completely unnatural fit. It is fair to say that Aristotle would think of slavery in America as completely unjust and cruel, given the constant fear of rebellion and revolt by the white slave owners. This position aligns with the points Zinn was making about the alliance and mutual respect between enslaved blacks and whites, and how racism, slavery, and the idea of black inferiority in America was never a natural process or inclination; it was learned and instilled by legal and social customs.

 

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8/24 Blog Post Sophia Picozzi

I really enjoyed the reading by Corfield which explained how the great importance of History is, in large part, due to the fact that all ordinary and common people are “living histories.” I never truly thought about History through that lens before and was surprised and saddened that I hadn’t before. To hold the mindset that every ordinary person’s actions or behaviors are both results and causes of historical events and patterns is very eye-opening and introduces new self-importance or meaning. It certainly made me rethink my actions and overall life in a way that gave more value to my seemingly small blip of existence. This new outlook an attitude toward History can definitely tackle some of the objections to the subject which Corfield mentions. Instead of focusing on the winners or the most influential people throughout history (which is, in fact, biased), emphasizing the importance of the common people can instill a newfound responsibility in the public to their nation or to the world as a whole. It can make people really rethink their actions and consider the long term or short term consequences of them.

I also found it interesting how, on the other hand, Bass focused on the other side of History and leadership by mentioning kings, dukes, Machiavelli, and countless other examples of people, mostly men, in important, great positions of power. He aimed to define and further understand leadership by focusing on how leaders were depicted throughout historical texts like the Bible. He consistently and solely mentioned the actions of the leaders and why or how they may have come to those decisions, while also focusing on the success or failure of their reign. Bass also emphasized the more negative, “hortatory” side of leadership where the leader dominates and exploits the “subordinates”. He places less emphasis on the “subordinates” or followers by even using negative tones towards them and focusing on the “heroes” or heroines”. In terms of history, it is very important to give those who didn’t have a voice or power in the past another chance by telling their story and learning valuable lessons pertaining to leadership and followership. I believe that Corfield’s outlook is more challenging than Bass’s and is a more efficient and overall better way to study History and leadership.

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