“A People’s History” and its Role in Progressive Rage

by James C. Sherlock

A People’s History of the United States

In pursuit of an understanding of the sources of so much nihilistic rage by some of America’s young people in the streets, I recently read Howard Zinn’s book, ‘A People’s History of the United States’, originally published in 1980. It has sold more than 2.5 million copies. At 729 pages it is a heavy lift.  

It’s genre is specified as non-fiction – history. We’ll see.

It is assigned in high school and college classrooms to teach students that American history is an endless rosary of oppression, slavery, and exploitation, hoping to establish truth by early and repeated assertion, after which the case is closed.

Zinn’s book, first published in 1980, is perhaps the most famous American history textbook ever written, and certainly the most pessimistic. His goal was to change the way Americans saw their own history by writing his interpretation of the perspective of those not discussed in most histories.  

Remember that in 1980, the type of proud Marxist that Zinn represented could still see in the Soviet Union and Cuba models they admired and thought most surely would succeed.  

Fair enough. He is entitled to his ideals. And certainly America historically has struggled to achieve the goals so clearly laid out in founding documents. Slavery will always be a stain. But those truths were explored by historians long before 1980.  

Any objective historian when discussing the shortfalls in 500 years of American history must explain why America has lasted so long, accomplished so much, is the freest land on the planet and is still the place where the world’s strivers want to come and stay. 

So what does Mr. Zinn’s book do, how does it do it and why?

Zinn starts with his Marxist world view and, with very selective and heavily edited stories, he carved out the parts that he presented as supportive of his philosophy and painted America as an inherently evil nation. He ferrets out two or three anecdotes in each chapter and claims, with no evidence but his assertion, that they reveal broader, sometimes all-encompassing truths.

He did not hide behind “objectivity.” He disdained footnotes to make the book more “accessible.”  Like Trotsky in his introduction to his History of the Russian Revolution, Zinn considered impartiality “treacherous.”

Zinn wrote in his introduction to People’s History:

“In that inevitable taking of sides which comes from selection and emphasis in history, I prefer to try to tell the story of the discovery of America from the viewpoint of the Arawaks, of the Constitution from the standpoint of the slaves, of Andrew Jackson as seen by the Cherokees, of the Civil War as seen by the New York Irish, of the Mexican war as seen by the deserting soldiers of Scott’s army, of the rise of industrialism as seen by the young women in the Lowell textile mills, of the Spanish-American War as seen by the Cubans, the conquest of the Philippines as seen by black soldiers on Luzon, the Gilded Age as seen by southern farmers, the First World War as seen by socialists, the Second World War as seen by pacifists, the New Deal as seen by peons in Latin America. And so on, to the limited extent that any one person, however he or she strains, can “see” history from the standpoint of others.”

He made no claim to offer context or any unique historical insight into the stories he told. He claimed to be simply illuminating facts that had been lsuppressed.  

He had a higher purpose -turning Americans sour on their own history and leading them to understand that all of it was the result of a never-ending class war that only Marxism can end.

I was not stunned in reading Zinn’s book, because it is 40 years old and quite famous, in many cases infamous.  I am stunned that so many American academics and their have been either gullible or willful enough to suspend disbelief and accept its central theme.

Zinn’s Critics and their Criticisms

Among supporters, even the website marxist.com, whose banner states: “In Defense of Marxism,” in 2010 upon Zinn’s death published an article with the descriptor “Class Struggle in the USA” that after 14 paragraphs got around to this: 

“Nonetheless, Zinn’s approach was not without its weaknesses, and we would be doing no service, either to Zinn’s memory or to the working class, which he wrote so passionately of and for, if we ignored what we consider to be an occasional one-sidedness in his method. Zinn’s “bottom-up” analysis is both his work’s greatest virtue and its greatest weakness. This method seeks to combat what is known as the “great man” theory of history, which in short, is the notion that what we call history is little more than the product of great minds and/or great individuals, who shape history through their independent actions or wills. … This is an extremely one-sided view of history, which Zinn and others have clearly shown to be riddled with problems. However, in combating this “great man” theory, Zinn, at times, presents a version of history that can be just as one-sided, albeit from a different angle.”

That piece’s editors at marxist.com must have cashed in after 10 or 12 paragraphs. Perhaps they have been cancelled.

Mary Grabar’s 2019 book, Debunking Howard Zinn: Exposing the Fake History That Turned a Generation against America, demolishes Zinn’s Marxist talking points.  

You will see those claims painted on signs or serving as guides to the demolishing of statues of Columbus, the Founders and even abolitionists at a demonstration near you.  

I found Ms. Grabar’s book a very effective refutation of Zinn by a historian that offered facts and context that Zinn purposely omitted. Problem is, Zinn’s book has sold 2.6 million copies.  Grabar’s has not.

The scholar Krystina Skurk, in a February 2020 review of Graber’s book in thefederalist.com, opened with the following observations:

“In light of the latest dubious attempts to rewrite American history, such as The New York Times’ 1619 Project, Grabar’s book is an important read. It is a blueprint for how to study history honestly and for how to spot those who are using history in the service of a political ideology.”

Zinn’s book has affected the way an entire generation sees their country. Most of the debates in the public square today have been influenced one way or another by Zinn’s ideology hidden in the guise of history.

“Zinn’s propaganda has been spectacularly effective. His dishonest American history is not the only factor in Americans’ turn away from their heritage of freedom toward communist fantasies… but he has been instrumental in this destructive transformation,” Grabar writes.

Howard Zinn’s American History
America’s Founding

“Around 1776, certain important people in the English colonies made a discovery that would prove enormously useful for the next two hundred years. They found that by creating a nation, a symbol, a legal unity called the United States, they could take over land, profits, and political power from favorites for the British Empire. In the process, they could hold back a number of potential rebellions and create a consensus of popular support for the rule of a new, privileged leadership.”

The Founders, wealthy and powerful white men, were to Zinn incapable of virtue, of seeking freedom for all rather than simply protecting their privileges.  The fact that they established a representative government, not a hereditary aristocracy, escaped notice in his work.

Krystina Skurk offered this observation:

“Zinn’s chapter about the American Revolution is titled “A Kind of Revolution” because a republic founded on the principle that “all men are created equal” is not revolutionary enough for Zinn, Grabar explains. Zinn’s utopian vision for America included toppling the budding capitalistic system and those men who ran it. Zinn believed the American Revolution helped the ruling class keep their power. Grabar writes that Zinn’s focus in this chapter was more on the conflict between the rich and poor than between the Americans and British.

However, Grabar points out that from the very beginning America offered opportunities for rich and poor alike. Grabar details how Zinn gives misinformation to his readers about how much land changed hands as a result of the Revolution and in whose hands that land ended up. Grabar points out that three-fourths of all colonists owned property and it was primarily the Loyalists, not the Patriots, who came from the upper-levels of society. Further, the Founders risked much by rebelling against the British. Victory was not an inevitability for the patriots, and if they lost they would have lost everything.”

The Civil War

Grabar’s view of the civil war was of a piece with his view of the founding.  Ms. Skurk wrote:

“Zinn attempted to prove that capitalism was at the root of racism. Zinn argues that the Civil War was a missed opportunity. It would have been better for the North to overthrow the capitalistic system that breeds racism, he argued. Further, Zinn attempts to discolor every action Lincoln took to free slaves.

He paints the Emancipation Proclamation as nothing more than an act of military expediency and claims that Lincoln only advocated abolition as a war measure. Grabar disagrees, arguing that Lincoln fought for the new territories to be free and argued for gradual emancipation prior to the war. Further, Lincoln was elected on an anti-slavery ticket, something Zinn ignores, she writes.

“For Zinn, the very real horrors of slavery are simply more fodder for his war against America and Western civilization,” Grabar writes. “The fact is, Zinn will do anything to make America look bad; he simply cannot allow his reader to give the first Republican elected president credit for freeing the slaves – and for going about it in a principled and prudent manner. That would mean giving the American people credit for abolishing slavery, and it would undermine Zinn’s picture of America as a uniquely racist country,” argues Grabar.”

Zinn’s leftist biographer Martin Duberman concluded in Howard Zinn : A Life on the Left that Zinn’s 

“disparagement of Lincoln is part of a general problem with the way he assigns motivation to individuals. With few exceptions, only members of the working class or minorities (or their champions) are allowed to represent human nobility and selflessness.”


Stanford University professor Sam Wineburg is the most famous critic of Zinn’s book and thus the most attacked. Zinn argued that the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan was unnecessary — that the Japanese were on the brink of surrender — but rather “a flexing of American muscle.” Wineberg’s assessment offered much evidence to the contrary.  

He then wrote:

“The counterfactuals’ qualifiers and second-guesses convey the modesty one is obliged to adopt when conjuring up a past that did not occur. But when Zinn plies the counterfactual, he seems to know something no one else knows — including historians who’ve given their professional lives to the topic: “If only the Americans had not insisted on unconditional surrender — that is, if they were willing to accept one condition to the surrender, that the Emperor, a holy figure to the Japanese, remain in place — the Japanese would have agreed to stop the war.” Not might have, not may have, not could have. But “would have agreed to stop the war.” Not only is Zinn certain about the history that’s happened. He’s certain about the history that didn’t.”  

The Cold War

Grabar writes, 

“No amount of proven treason, agitation for violent revolution, or for that matter, mass murder and the immiseration of millions by socialist governments across the globe would ever persuade Zinn to dial down his indignation at what he characterized as ‘hysteria’ about Communism.”

The Civil Rights Movement

Grabar points out that Zinn had no interest in highlighting moderate, non-communist black civil rights leaders. 

“In A People’s History, Zinn did everything he could to foment bitterness and anger about that historical injustice – not for the sake of civil rights for blacks, but to further his socialist cause.


Of Zinn’s praise for communism, Grabar writes:

“Those who know history know what this Marxist siren song leads to. The only way to disguise it is to ignore the more than one hundred million corpses that it produced in the twentieth century and to present the United States, the freest nation in world history, as a tyrannical, murderous, and imperialistic regime – which is exactly what Zinn has done in his History. He has done this by lying, distorting, and misusing evidence, hijacking other historians’ work, and falsifying the facts…”

Ms. Skurk observes: 

“Most of Zinn’s bad history comes from the fact that he was willing to falsify American history to promote communism. “Zinn wanted to abandon ‘disinterested scholarship’ to effect ‘a revolution in the academy,’ and ultimately in the larger world,” writes Grabar. Zinn constantly chose ideology and propaganda over a true telling of history.” 

Grabar summed up Zinn’s book in one sentence: 

“The stories he put into A People’s History of the United States weren’t balanced factual history, but crude morality tales designed to destroy Americans’ patriotism and turn them into radical leftists.”

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102 responses to ““A People’s History” and its Role in Progressive Rage

  1. You can find teaching materials here in support of teaching Zinn’s People’s History. https://www.zinnedproject.org/

  2. I haven’t slogged through Zinn’s book and never heard of Mary Grabar. But, here is her Twitter link. You can judge for yourself how objective she is:


    • I did read Zinn’s garbage. It is what I said it is. Read it and let us know what you think.

    • Thanks for this link, Rowinguy. Would not have looked it up on my own but it certainly speaks volumes. As for Zinn, the consensus here is that it isn’t worth the effort to take him seriously enough to read his ‘history’ — which begs the question posed implicitly by Jim, why do some educators evidently take him seriously anyway? I don’t have to accept Grabar’s refutation to think ill of Zinn’s work.

  3. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    Zinn is garbage. I saw the nonsense in Zinn as a required reading for a US History class at VPI in 1989. I knew better. I had a summer job at Manassas National Battlefield Park. I worked with established historians such as John Hennessey, Ed Raus, Bob Krick, Bob Krick Jr., Keith Snyder, Ed Rauss, Ed Bearras and Mike Andruss. Having worked under real historical scholarship it was so easy to see right thru Zinn’s lies and revisionist history. Real scholarship in history is hard work. Zinn was lazy and unwilling to interpret the conflicts in American history that coexist. This is the failing of every modern history scholar including my favorite bastard of US History James B. McPherson. If you have a copy of Battle Cry of Freedom. Burn it. It is total horse hockey.

  4. Nah, explaining nihilism is easier than that. One party runs on legislating social equality; the other on leglislating morality. Neither does, and both screw up the economy in the attempt. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    The one issue in WWII that really deserves a deep historical review is the use of WMD.

    If we didn’t have the bomb, we would have still done a massive bombing campaign before attempting any invasion. We almost broke Germany with the fire-bombing campaign, and probably would have broken Japan with one. Japanese cities were ripe for the tactic; dense packed wooden structures. And, by that time in the war, we had the skies and close-in property for air strips. It might have taken awhile. It still would have cost a ton of Japanese civilian death, which may have been comparable, but it could have been done conventionally without an invasion.

    To think that the Japanese would have surrendered on that one condition was stupid. Nope, the military command was preparing for a homeland defense, they had the resources, and the defensive advantage. It’s an island.

    My personal position is that compared to a prolonged air campaign, ONE bomb would have done it with less loss of life and destruction. One bomb could easily be justified. The use of the second most certainly came too soon after the first.

    And, there is some consensus that part of the reason was to impress Stalin too.

    • Thoughtful summary. Conventional Wisdom is that Japan would have defended their homeland and many more lives – both theirs and American would have been lost and the first bomb did not result in surrender.

      At least, that’s what I’ve read and heard and perhaps there’s more to the story.

      • I don’t know if others have ever highlighted one aspect that delayed the bomb development, but Feynman indicates that security was a big part.

        Essentially, in his book he tells that the two labs, Oak Ridge and Los Alamos had each complete one of two parts to getting the material, which because of security, without the other knowing it.

        OR had developed train cars of extremely refined yellow cake, but hadn’t taken the next step, and LA had taken refined yellow cake to the weapon, but couldn’t get the refined yellow cake.

        According to Feynman, OR was just piling the stuff, and yes, he says it could have gone critical. No bang, maybe. But the bang may not be the worst thing.

        Given 3 successful laboratory designs, they could have gone into a low rate production pretty quick.

      • “Conventional Wisdom”. Define your term.

  5. It’s pretty obvious that Zinn is far left – and that Mary Grabar is far right.

    If I read something that someone like Zinn claims is history and it’s not at all what I had been taught/learned – I try to find other writings to verify what was and what was not.

    Virtually no author truly writes the truth from on high about history and I do think there is a lot of “kindly-written” history of the US and tougher accounts of it are questioned and attacked sometimes.

    I never thought much about how land was treated after England was defeated and a new government took over. Did it stay in the hands of the folks the King of England had given it to who had aligned with the revolutionaries? How DID land get allocated and did ordinary folks who were not already landowners get land?

    I do know this. From time to time when land issues arise in some places in Virginia, ownership is sometimes established by saying that the land title goes all the way back to a “Kings Grant”.

    I’m totally ignorant on the subject but that sounds like some land that was “given” by the King to some people – maybe kept that land after the Revolutionary War.

    So I’ll ask James W for a recommendation on what books to read that might shed more light on how land was treated in the early life of this country.

    I DO know how land was handled beyond the 13 colonies… It’s actually covered quite a bit in history and I’ve actually visited the Homestead National Monument of America in Beatrice, Nebraska.

    Yep, we did take the land from the Native Americans (and so did the
    British) and yep they took umbrage to it and attacked settlers and yep we ran them down, killed them, and put the survivors on reservations and yep, Thomas Jefferson espoused the ideas behind Manifest Destiny.

    We did “grow up” to be a place the rest of the world respects and looks up to but we are a long ways from perfect and have quite a bit of history is that is not so good and a lot of it has been glossed over in good part so that we are troubled by history that conflicts with some of our glossed-over history.

    What has made American great (and not in the Donald Trump sense) is it’s continuing efforts to achieve the ideals laid out in the Constitution especially with regard to equality and justice for all.

    THe big thing is our own tendency to want to confirm our own biases especially when we have an idealized view of our Country and it’s history.

    • “If I read something that someone like Zinn claims is history and it’s not at all what I had been taught/learned – I try to find other writings to verify what was and what was not.”

      But what if you are a high school student or a freshman in college and this book is being used as the textbook for the class. What if it was the first (or only) American history you were ever taught. When you were 17, 18 or 19 years old would you have tried to “find other writings to verify what was and what was not” if a history teacher was presenting nothing but Zinn’s work to you?

      I do not have a problem with this book being used as a text in advanced history classes. I do object to it being used as the sole text book in introductory U.S. history classes.

      • I would oppose it being used as the sole textbook for any class.

        It’s obviously an alternate history and actually was not written nor intended to use as a textbook.

        He obviously wrote it as a counter to sanitized history that often has been taught that ignores some of the less wonderful things about our history.

        I don’t understand why some folks feel it’s “indoctrination”, the implication that students are not able to think for themselves and to challenge things they doubt.

        A lot of the stuff in his book is bound to result in some thinking “this is not true”… and in my mind that ought to send the student off to learn more… a good thing… since the bland type history that is typically taught sometimes sounds like PR for the country and the Founding Fathers…

        but no, it should not ever be represented as a textbook – not that some of the sanitized history books ought not also…

  6. I love reading history, and look for contesting viewpoints. Unfamiliar w Zinn but I didn’t take any survey courses after laughing my way through high school “history.”

    And the USAAF had intentionally spared Nagasaki so they could destroy it with a nuke. The science guys wanted to use both Fat Man and Little Boy to compare the effects. Bomber Harris was a saint compared to LeMay. If they’d had a 3rd it would have been dropped. Hatred of the Japanese at that point was deep. Forty years later I caught holy hell from the old man for buying a Nissan, and he wouldn’t have batted an eye if I’d bought a Volkswagen or Mercedes.

    • ” I caught holy hell from the old man for buying a Nissan, and he wouldn’t have batted an eye if I’d bought a Volkswagen or Mercedes.”

      Ha! Common ground. Toyota in my case. He bought a VW. Of course, Dad spent the duration in the Pacific. Where they were may have had something to do with it.

      My fisrt job, I worked with an old Navy Chief. This is 1976. He was a destroyer man from the Atlantic campaign.

      A bunch of us are at Wash National waiting for a flight home, and the old Chief strikes up a conversation with some stranger.

      Turns out the guy was a U-boat captain. After a brief conversation, they had to be restrained.

  7. Jim,
    This is a provocative and interesting post. Thanks.
    Naturally I disagree with you and see absolutely no problem with students being shown contrarian versions of history. I also abhor the idea of censoring school books for political reasons. Hanover County, for instance, tried to keep “To Kill a Mocking Bird,” out of its schools in the 1960s and more recently has had issues with attempted censorship. I was in high school at the time in another state (Maryland), the book was required reading.
    I have not read the Howard Zinn history that you write about (after my time) but am familiar with him. One reason he is so anti-war was that he served as an Air Corps bombardier in WWII and felt awful when he learned that in 1945 his group had napalmed a French resort, killing at least hundreds of civilians. He has always been a leftist and was investigated by Joe McCarthy. He was big into civil rights and opposed the war in Vietnam. He also opposed the Iraq war (weapons of mass destruction?). What’s wrong with that? Lots of people followed that route.
    He is linked to people like linguist and historian Noam Chomsky, who was a bigger deal when I was in college, and a host of others, including Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.
    Anyway, I have a couple of points to make:
    First, you write:
    “Zinn’s book, first published in 1980, is perhaps the most famous American history textbook ever written, and certainly the most pessimistic.” Really? Do you have any sources for this? I looked around the Web and found a Library of Congress list of the most consequential books of history or literature and Zinn didn’t make the cut.
    See: :https://www.loc.gov/item/prn-13-005/
    Secondly, you write:
    “Zinn starts with his Marxist world view and, with very selective and heavily edited stories, he carved out the parts that he presented as supportive of his philosophy and painted America as an inherently evil nation.”

    Is he really a Marxist? Never seen any clear evidence of that. He leans socialist, sure, but what are Marxism and socialism? In my days in the USSR, I used to deal with real Communists all the time and actually covered Party conferences. That always led to the question, what is Marxism and what is Leninism? Rather complex, actually. The Russian communists felt that socialists were impure and undeveloped communists.
    Take that back to the U.S. in the early part of the 20th century. “Socialists,” included people like Clarence Darrow, Emma Goldman and Mother Jones. Were these people just concerned about inequality or were they Moscow’s agents?
    Teaching students a wide variety of historical views is essential for them to become good citizens. As you know I grew up in part in West Virginia in the 1960s and had to study state history. Years later, I found it did not mention huge parts of the state’s history, such as the 100-year-old Battle of Blair Mountain in which the Army used biplanes to attack thousands of striking miners. Mother Jones went on trial in the town where I lived. Not far away, hundreds of coal miners were killed in mine explosions and fires. None of this was mentioned.
    I included this in my 2012 book on coal. It is also in “Blood on the Mountain,” I documentary in which I participated in 2016. The film is available on Amazon Prime.
    Anyway, thanks for your efforts reading the book and writing about it.

    • If ever there were a complete and honest history of the country, we would all hang our heads in shame, each faction for a different reason, but shame nonetheless.

      We are 250 years a country with nearly 300 major military campaigns. God, we’re hard to get along with.

    • It is “perhaps the most famous American history textbook ever written, and certainly the most pessimistic.”
      – The first part of that goes to its unprecedented sales and references in the popular culture of “Good Will Hunting”, the Sopranos’ and others.
      – Pessimism is defined as “A tendency to see the worst aspect of things or believe that the worst will happen”. Pessimism about America and its history is found in every chapter. It is not possible to be more unrelentingly pessimistic that Mr. Zinn, who wrote that the worst always happened.
      – Marxism is a philosophy. Socialism and Communism are implementations of the philosophy. It is not uncommon for adherents of competing implementations of a philosophy to treat one another as apostate.

      I wrote up front:

      “Fair enough. He is entitled to his ideals. And certainly America historically has struggled to achieve the goals so clearly laid out in founding documents. Slavery will always be a stain. But those truths were explored by historians long before 1980.”

      “Any objective historian when discussing the shortfalls in 500 years of American history must explain why America has lasted so long, accomplished so much, is the freest land on the planet and is still the place where the world’s strivers want to come and stay. “

      Zinn in my reading rejected objectivity. The author of “A Peoples History” had no use for the term “on the other hand”.

      If his book is offered to adults who have fully formed ability to sort out his insistence on the unbroken evil of the United States by comparing his work with what they know of the United States and its accomplishments and demonstrated ability to change over time, that is one thing. Presenting it along side a more optimistic text by way of comparison would be a way to teach.

      But assigning this work to high school and in some cases middle school students as a required text is in my opinion wrong.

  8. Part of our problem has been an almost institutionalized “milk and honey” rendition of our history in our schools especially K-12 and when someone encounters a differing history that is not milk and honey, their first instinct is to label it false.

    This “challenge” often happens to those who attend College where, yes, there are those who will present that other history and for some it besmirches their deeply-held history and they see such professors as running down our history – and so they must be socialists or Marxists.

    It’s very hard for some to reconcile the idea that we have become the greatest country on earth – BUT – we ALSO have some terrible history.

    It’s very hard for some to hold both ideas/concepts as truth especially if it violates almost everything you’ve been taught for a decade as a youngster.

    And many people actually do not want the “hard” history taught in K-12. There are often strident arguments about it, sometimes calling it “indoctrination” because it focuses on bad history and not good history.

    That’s especially true when looking at our Founding Fathers and their flaws and misdeeds.

    We are stronger when we know the truth. We are weaker when we deny it. The US has to be about the truth. We cannot succeed if we insist on sugar-coat history.

    • “We are stronger when we know the truth. ”

      I agree with that, but the complete truth isn’t alway possible through one lens. A single “truth” may still result in a perception that does not necessarily equal reality. A partial narrative of facts can be very deceptive.

      “Mother lion appears to swallow her cub up to its neck in optical illusion”


      Gaining a complete understanding of the facts regarding a police shooting is a prime example.

      “Excited Delirium Strikes without Warning”


      • I agree.

        Hit pieces, cherry picking facts, half truths, myths and rumors, are easy to write. Such hit pieces are also easy to read. So they’re an effective tool easily used to misinform, mislead, and inflame uneducated and anxious readers, especially our inexperienced youth in search of meaning in their lives during troubled times. They are perfect victims. This also includes Eric Hoffer type true believers of all ages: those looking, often desperately, for something to grab onto in an otherwise frightening world, a false anchor or idol in stormy weather, a simplistic scapegoat, axe to grind, cult, or reason for their own being.

        As a result, hit pieces are the favorite tool of the ideologue, the power tripper, the celebrity hunter, and the cheap buck artist, including bogus historians looking for quick celebrity and bucks. Howard Zinn was wildly successful at this sort of bogus pop history.

        It’s no wonder that he has many imitators of all sorts and kinds in this squalid and rapidly changing age of uncertainty and anxiety we live in.

    • “Part of our problem”. What is “our problem”, and what are the other parts of it from your perspective?

  9. And that’s why you read different sources – including Zinn in my view.

    The truth is not the wonderful history most of us were taught in k-12.

    It’s much more complicated than that and there is history that is not so good about us.

    If we want the truth – we need to know the good, bad and ugly of it not the patriotic version.

    • What? Washington didn’t throw a silver dollar across the Potomac?

      “We’re stronger when we know the truth,”. More important, we are stronger than the truth. Clinton was right, “Nothing that can’t be fixed with what’s right with America.” For which he was mocked.

      • We’re stronger and more in tune with the realities when we know both the good and the bad about America and don’t live in a world where we only believe what is good about America and deny what we don’t like.

        What we should be “patriotic” about is the fact that we do want to know and acknowledge our shortfalls and failings and address them.

        We do that, and we have done that for our entire history – and not without some awful disagreements like we are having now.

        • Lots of comments about reading widely and getting multiple perspectives, but are we doing that? Did you read the article I linked to from the Journal of Emergency Medical Services? (JEMS)

          Any hints in there as to what might have caused Marcus-David Peters to be naked and agitated?

          And in return I’ll read one from you if you wish. (preferably from a journal)

          • I skimmed the article but decided it was not really related to the issue – it was more a dissertation on EMS handling of certain incidents.

            I really did not understand the point of the reference.

            When someone recommends something to read here:

            1. – I put it in context with the rest of their comments on the discussion – try to understand if it actually is directly related.

            2. – I check the source to see if it is authentic and objective and not biased ….

            3. – I check other objective sources to see if what is being said is a consensus view or one that is being debated.

          • It relates directly to how history can be written and potentially distorted. We are watching that play out now in the news each day.

            Certain facts regarding the deaths of Floyd, Peters and now Daniel Prude in Rochester, N.Y. may be correct, but without understanding the medical condition that may have brought about the circumstances of these tragedies one does not have the complete picture. The picture one gets is like the mother lion eating its cub. That picture may not be doctored, but it does not represent the totality of the situation.

            From the article I linked to:

            Excited Delirium Mnemonic
            N: Patient is naked and sweating from hyperthermia
            O: Patient exhibits violence against objects, especially glass
            T: Patient is tough and unstoppable, with superhuman strength and insensitivity to pain
            A: Onset is acute (e.g., witness say the patient “just snapped!”)
            C: Patient is confused regarding time, place, purpose and perception
            R: Patient is resistant and won’t follow commands to desist
            I: Patient’s speech is incoherent, often with loud shouting and bizarre content
            M: Patient exhibits mental health conditions or makes you feel uncomfortable
            E: EMS should request early backup and rapid transport to the ED

          • sorry Nathan. Not buying your premise. The actions of the police stand – and in most cases seem to have little to do with the things you’re referencing.

            Police misconduct cannot be explained away by talking about EMS procedures.

          • So you are saying that the police should be trained by medical professionals, but when they follow the protocols given to them they are guilty of murder? And that seems fair to you?


            Any history of these incidents must include the medical understanding of the time regarding Excited Delirium and the protocols taught at the time for dealing with it.

          • No I’, NOT at all.

            But I’m also not buying the excuse that they killed someone because they did not know about medical conditions.

            That’s total foolishness by apologists.

            We have medical conditions – around the world – and we do not have police killings in most of those countries.

            We can do better with training for medical conditions but that won’t fix the problem that we have – and most other countries do not have.

            It’s a false premise by folks who want to blindly defend the police actions IMHO.

          • I’m not blindly defending anything. I’m trying to put all the relevant facts on the table. The protocols these officers were taught to follow in situations like this is relevant. Throughout this discussion that’s what you have been advocating – all the facts. Is it not?

            There are facts that are difficult for patriotic americans who want to feel good about their country, its founders and history to accept. I agree. Accepting the genetic evidence regarding Thomas Jefferson was difficult for me, but I’ve done that.

            I seems there are also relevant facts that others don’t want to even grapple with. To arrive at the truth, all the facts must be put forward and dealt with. We may come to different conclusions, but we should all draw from the same complete understanding of the facts.

            You have either not read the material or didn’t comprehend the implications. Sometimes it’s possible to follow medically accepted protocols, but still have a bad outcome. Intent matters.

          • I’ve read the materials.

            I do not buy the premise.

            We have an overall patterns that extends beyond medical condition incidents.

            this is our problem:

            If you can convince me that all of our police, all these killings, are because of grossly under trained compared to other countries show that data.

            If our default position is that because police do not know how to handle people with mental issues, so they end up dead… that’s piss poor rationale in my mind.

            The premise is we kill those with mental problems because we do not know how to properly handle them?


          • LarrytheG – “If you can convince me that all of our police, all these killings, are because of grossly under trained compared to other countries show that data.”

            I’ve said nothing about “all of our police” or “all these killings.” Each case must be decided on the facts of that case.

            From your comments, however, you are the one who seems to have reached a conclusion on recent cases, and there hasn’t even been published reports from the investigations, much less trials.

            The graphic you have displayed appears to show that something is different in the U.S. Going beyond that to a definitive conclusion about what that difference may be, is a leap.

          • No leaps. I’m just not going to go along with the idea that all of our police killings are tied up with mental issues that are mishandled by police.

            The evidence is clear. A lot of people are being killed – more than other countries and not necessarily due to mental issues.

            Our problem is that the police kill too many people.

            Some of them do have mental conditions but geeze that’s an excuse for killing them?

            The guy in the street was obviously mentally ill. You did not need a mental health professional to figure that out or, more important, to protect him from being killed by the police.

            We are not being honest here about the problem IMHO.

            the problem is we kill too many people – and it’s both those that are mentally ill and those that are not.

            The premise that the problem is we don’t know how to handle mentally ill people flies in the face of the bigger problem of way more than that getting killed AND way more than other countries kill..

            We just simply refuse to face the truth on this. We keep looking for excuses.

            One of our issues is that our police are run like the military, we get many of our police from the military, and we train them as if subjects are a threat to them and need to be “neutralized” if they do not “comply”.

            You don’t put a bag over a mentally ill person and stand by and watch him die and then claim you were not “trained” – and you don’t do that and say nothing about it for 4 months until the video gets out.

            Our problem is that we refuse to deal with the realities.

          • “Our problem is that we refuse to deal with the realities.”

            That is indeed the problem. You continually mischaracterize what I’ve said and won’t even consider any potential evidence that might lead to a conclusion you are unwilling to accept.

          • I don’t think you are providing “evidence to consider” as much as it feels like you want to shift the focus from police killings in general to how many of the killings are involved with mentally ill (or some such, not totally clear to me).

            I just do not buy the premise that the killings, in general, have to do with police training in dealing with the mentally ill.

            There may be some of that nature but the bigger core issue is policing killing people – both the mentally ill and those that are not – either way -they end up dead.

            Talking about EMS procedures in that context is not really staying with the issue IMHO. Training police to do EMS or dispatching EMS instead of or in concert with police won’t fix the problem of non-mentally ill who get killed by police.

            Perhaps I misunderstand your meaning and intent and you can narrow the focus?

          • LarrytheG – The focus was narrow. The article about Excited Delirium from the Journal of Emergency Medical Services relates to only a small subset of deaths involving police officers. Here’s the context which I stated in the thread above.

            “Certain facts regarding the deaths of Floyd, Peters and now Daniel Prude in Rochester, N.Y. may be correct, but without understanding the medical condition that may have brought about the circumstances of these tragedies one does not have the complete picture.”

            I’ve made no blanket statements about police in general, or deaths related to policing. Here’s what I did say:

            “I’ve said nothing about ‘all of our police’ or ‘all these killings.’ Each case must be decided on the facts of that case.”

            If you believe police in the U.S. are committing murder on a wide scale, the burden of proof is on you, not me.

          • Yep, thanks.

            I just seriously doubt there is much of a connection between the deaths we’ve seen at the hands of the police and medical conditions of those killed.

            My view is this is about police behavior and culture primarily much more so than the medical conditions of those they kill.

            If someone wants to make an argument about medical – I’d certainly read it but providing a list of EMS protocols is not it.

            This all started in the root of this thread about Sherlocks angst about Zinn’s views and how they “influence” the young and dumb…. … geeze…

        • Recording history has made it possible to repeat it with greater precision.

    • Nathan has it right, Larry. How many high schools kids assigned Zinn’s 729 page tome as their American History text are going to “read different sources”?

      That is my problem with this book, its design as a school textbook by a man who hated America and all its works.

      • And all sources are not equal. My favorite was when it was reported that Hillary Clinton adopted a baby alien. That’s an extreme, but much of today news reporting has turned to advocacy, which then finds its way into history books.

        • They’re not – but you can find out about “sources” by looking at what else they’ve been saying and if others sources agree and what references are being used.

          Talk about Clinton. Talk about Jefferson and Sally Hemmings…how long did it take for that to come out and how many did not believe it – and still do not?

          that’s history. Do they teach that in K12 prior? How about now?

      • I would speculate that the purpose of assigning a book like Zinns is to expand the students viewpoints beyond the pretty-much sanitized history they have been taught prior.

        I’m not advocating teaching outright lies that are demonstrably false but instead the good, bad and ugly of our history that is typically not taught in the earlier grades of K-12.

        I also think – and this is important – kids and all need to learn how to find factual information and be able to discern what is not and that’s a tall order these days.

      • sherlockj – Thanks for reading that tome. It’s an important work because of it’s impact on today’s events, but I’m not sure I could make it through.

      • “How many high schools kids assigned Zinn’s 729 page tome as their American History text are going to “read different sources”?”

        How many will read that one?

  10. FWIW, this country has been in strong partisan divisions since it was founded. North/South, rural/urban, abolitionist/plantationist, cattle/sheep, miner/Pinkerton, Democrat/Republican, yada, yada, yada.

    About the only thing on which nearly all facets of Americans agree is the glowing collection of myths we tell our children that we call K-12 American History.

    Challenges to the existence of Santa Claus is a Commie plot.

  11. So I had a question. Did Zenn actually tell lies? Did he represent falsehoods as facts?

    Wiki cites reviews of his book – which I found interesting:

    ” Zinn portrays a side of American history that can largely be seen as the exploitation and manipulation of the majority by rigged systems that hugely favor a small aggregate of elite rulers from across the orthodox political parties.”

    that sounds a lot like some of the political rhetoric from the right today, no?


    • “Zinn attempts to discolor every action Lincoln took to free slaves.”

      Abraham Lincoln’s views about slavery prior to election are well documented, as is the character of the man himself.

      • what does “discolor” mean? Is that in the eyes of the beholder?

        Did Zinn tell a lie? did he misrepresent facts? That’s the start. If he did not do that – then he giving his viewpoint of the facts , really not much different in some respects that “history” has been “sanitized” in K-12 history books that gloss over or ignore significant facts that are unpleasant.

        This is funny in a way. That book is hold old? geeze…

        • It is the Bible on which Antifa thugs and other rioters were raised. That is why this subject is crucial – and not “funny in a way”.

          It presents Lincoln as an opportunist concerning the abolition of slavery. I’d call that a lie, wouldn’t you?

          • sherlockj – If you have accomplished nothing else with your article, you have convinced me to get a copy of Zinn’s book so I can see for myself. That’s not intended to be a slight to you in any way. It’s just that it’s a very important work, and I need to have firsthand knowledge about what’s in it Thanks for your contribution.

          • Good Lord Jim. Characterizing a politician as an opportunist?


            Do you REALLY believe all of K-12 schools are Antifa thugs?

            some of you guys might need some meds… 😉

            I’m not one who believes K-12 and Colleges have been taken over by Antifa sympathizers… I know, I know… that’s blasphemy…

            I’m just not sure where folks who do think that – are headed…

          • LarrytheG – To understand the character of Abraham Lincoln, I recommend looking up Lincoln’s Spot Resolutions. It will highlight one of the darker parts of our history which you advocate we recon with. Where was Lincoln in this?

            You can also read his private communications with friends where he discusses slavery. I don’t think he realized at the time those would one day be public. It’s his honest thoughts which he shared with a friend (with whom he disagreed as I recall).

        • there’s a multitude of perspectives about Lincoln.

          here’s one: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/lincolns-contested-legacy-44978351/#:~:text=Old%20arguments%20surfaced%20that%20he,his%20aggrandizing%20of%20federal%20government.

          I acknowledge that the range of them do exist.

          I don’t have a basic belief in what the truth is other than it’s not so clear cut.

          I think it is a mistake to hold up any historical figure was heroic if it ends up dissuading you in listening to other material.

          you have to want to seek the facts.. not dispute them when they undermine your own beliefs.

        • James Wyatt Whitehead V

          This is all an 11th grader has to know about WW2 for the VA SOLS. Item D gets most of the attention on the actual test. In truth you can teach WW2 in a day by simply focusing on minorities and women in the war and a teacher is totally covered for what will actually be asked on test.
          VUS.11 The student will apply social science skills to understand World War II by
          a) analyzing the causes and events that led to American involvement in the war, including the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the American response;
          d) evaluating and explaining how the United States mobilized its economic and military resources, including the role of all-minority military units (the Tuskegee Airmen and Nisei regiments) and the contributions of media, minorities, and women to the war effort;
          e) analyzing the Holocaust (Hitler’s “final solution”), its impact on Jews and other groups, and the postwar trials of war criminals; and
          f) evaluating and explaining the treatment of prisoners of war and civilians by the Allied and Axis powers.

        • LarrytheG – You have asked what “discolor” means with regard to Zinn’s book. I hope to get the book and may be better able to respond after that.

  12. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    I remember back in the late 1980s John Hennessey, a Manassas Battlefield historian, secured a small grant to research a detailed map study of 2nd Manassas. This battle had long been overshadowed by First Bull Run yet was far more important to the story of the war. John went over the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, thousands of letters from soldiers/officers, sourced every known primary document, and surfaced many documents that were lost to time. John then put together hour by hour account of every regiment and battery on both sides over 3 days. He enlisted the support of a skilled map maker David Bradshaw. So what was created was the best blow by blow account of the battle based purely on sourced information. You have to buy the book and the 22 page map set. So worth it. Brilliant scholarship.

    • I know John down our way. He is highly respected for his historical abilities!

      He has also met with local black citizens of late to try to get the oral and written history of blacks during the war at Spotsylvania CH and the Bloody Angle battlefield (which I walk often).

      still has a blog… but not frequent:

      Exploring the Civil War-era landscape in the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania region.


  13. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    Next John Hennessy takes the map study to create a narrative style history book, “Return to Bull Run”. Here John gives the story of the campaign and battle of 2nd Manassas. This time he inserts his interpretation of the events and why they are important. And John deserves that right since he did an insane map study to earn his spurs. Return To Bull Run, is the best book on a Civil War battle that has been made and the conclusions are sound. This is they way to do a history book. The reason why it is not done like this anymore is name the scholar who is willing to set aside 5 years of life, never make a buck, and never get a full thanks for real scholarship?
    Return to Bull Run and the 2nd Manassas Map Study are terrific and I find myself reading it over and over even after 30 years.

    • Some Civil War trivia:

      Who was the last Confederate General to surrender?

      “the last Confederate general surrendered his arms at Doaksville, Oklahoma, near Fort Towson. Confederate Brigadier General Chief Stand Watie (his Cherokee name was De-ga-ta-ga) was a Cherokee. He commanded the First Indian Brigade of the Army of the Trans-Mississippi Confederate cavalry, a regiment consisting of Cherokee, Seminole, Creek, Choctaw, and Chickasaw men”


      • James Wyatt Whitehead V

        Stand Watie and is men ran like sheep at the battle of Pea Ridge collapsing the Confederate left and giving Lincoln an important victory. Van Dorn’s rebel forces were slated to participate in the Shiloh operation. 15,000 more rebels at Shiloh might have been more than Grant could stand at Shiloh.
        The rebel defeat at Pea Ridge prevented this. The Oklahoma braves had never faced artillery before.

  14. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    They have a B 17 bomber parked at the Warrenton Airport from today until Labor Day. 10 bucks for a tour that lets you climb inside the plane. I saw it land and take off this morning. Very cool. Good clean family fun if you are looking for something to do this weekend.

  15. Larry, there are 56 comments here, 18 or 25% of which are yours. Somewhere in there is the question for me: “Do you REALLY believe all of K-12 schools are Antifa thugs?”. Take a break. You’ve been at it too long.

  16. Years before all the current racism vilification, I am pretty sure some younger female millennials I know would have said all the men of American history should be assumed to be misogynists and womanizers. I feel like we are forgetting to add in those previous assumed crimes against humanity too. So on the whole, it can be a bad past history from the younger perspective. Perhaps they had read Zinn in school, not sure.

  17. For anyone curious enough to take a dip into the People’s History of the US:


    • I believe this is a different book. Appears to be the one for youth that came out about 2009 or so. Still Zinn, however, so thanks for link.

      Doesn’t even read like history. It’s a commentary.

  18. Wow! THANKS Rowinguy! Now, Sherlock can show us his favorite passages!

  19. Odd that when I was growing up, I read voraciously of Herbert Zim (not Howard Zin). He wrote tons of great little books about nature – stars, geology, flowers and stuff like that.



    is actually about Bacon’s Rebellion….

    • Bacon’s Rebellion, eh? Hmm, title could lead one to think Zinn was prescient. Oh, wait. It’s the real one.

    • Love the description of Bacon:

      “Bacon was described in a Royal Commission report:

      He was said to be about four or five and thirty years of age, indifferent tall but slender, black-hair’d and of an ominous, pensive, melancholly Aspect, of a pestilent and prevalent Logical discourse tending to atheisme… . He seduced the Vulgar and most ignorant people to believe (two thirds of each county being of that Sort) Soe that their whole hearts and hopes were set now upon Bacon. Next he charges the Governour as negligent and wicked, treacherous and incapable, the Lawes and Taxes as unjust and oppressive and cryes up absolute necessity of redress….”

      Sorry, Jim, just couldn’t resist!

  21. FWIW,

    It was tough to tell, but judging from the rate he was fading in the stretch, Attachment Rate took the highly honored lettered position of DFL.

  22. I have both a BA and MA in history. My job involves a Virginia and early American history. I’m also a Democrat.

    Zinn’s book is unscholarly, it doesn’t use proper historical methods, it doesn’t even have any footnotes in it so there’s no way to check his sources. It’s not a history book, it’s a polemic disguised as a history book. Teaching it in a high school is inexcusable under all circumstances.

    In college? It can only be done if given the caveat I gave above, and as a something for students to critique, criticize, and put in the context of a 1970s polemic, not as a general survey textbook. For a general survey text? GIVE ME LIBERTY by Eric Foner is so far and away superior for this purpose, and both written purposely as a textbook and actually scholarly. I can’t believe Zinn is still assigned by these aging hippies (some are in fact, some are in spirit).

    • James Wyatt Whitehead V

      Foner is completely Phoney. His book Give Me Liberty is the AP US History text book in Loudoun County. Nobody uses it. The old text Enduring Vision had at least some sense of balance and honesty. Foner is just too far left. He is practically a “red diaper baby” if you read up on his past and politics. I have never understood how this man became one of the father’s of modern revisionist history.

      • Are you familiar with “American Pageant”? That was the AP History text way back when I was in high school. I think it’s now in its 17th edition.

        • James Wyatt Whitehead V

          American Pageant is still widely used. Similar to Enduring Vision in the interpretation. Leans left but some sense of honesty about history. Both texts avoid military history which is a shame.

    • James Wyatt Whitehead V – Your comments about history and works of history are very interesting, but how might someone like myself ferret out inaccuracies in popular works of history? I don’t have the time to read dozens of books on a given topic, nor will I go back to school for a history degree at this stage in life. (And where would I even go?)

      For example, I thoroughly enjoyed Empire of the Summer Moon and The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend but have read reviews saying that they were inaccurate.

      • James Wyatt Whitehead V

        Mr. Nathan I believe the key to genuine insights into history involves gaining multiple perspectives on a subject matter, comparing those perspectives, and then drawing your own conclusions. If you have reasoned it out you can defend your arguments and parley any critics of your reasoning. I’ll give you an example. I love the four volume set on the Civil War, “Battles and Leaders”. Originally published by the Century Magazine. The series has contributions from the men/officers from both sides of the war. You do have to remember that the articles were written in hindsight some 20 years after Appomattox. Still it is valuable because these guys were there and they are trying to explain and defend what they did. Volume Four gives an account of the Atlanta Campaign from the perspective, of Joe Johnston, his replacement John Bell Hood, Sherman, and Jefferson Davis. When you read the articles in succession it is easy to conclude why Atlanta fell. Joe Johnston was unable to coordinate counterattacks among his junior officers and relied on a defensive posture. Johnston was relieved by Davis. John Bell Hood attempted to emulate Robert E. Lee and instead smashed his forces into prepared Federal positions. Jefferson Davis failed to deliver timely reinforcements, supplies, and perhaps let his feud with Joe Johnston interfere with his strategic judgement. Sherman correctly used manuever/flank marches to avoid head on bloody encounters. Sherman secured his 120 mile long supply from the rebel cavalry of Forrest and Wheeler. Sherman had the full support of his chiefs Grant and Lincoln. Sherman wisely pivoted to the defense once John Hood revealed his aggressive tendencies. This all secures Atlanta and the reelection of Abraham Lincoln. Historians like Foner and James B. McPherson do a really lousy job of explaining the truth that is in plain sight. About 3 to 4 hours of reading time could lead you to these conclusions.

        • Thanks for that.

          I doubt I could arrive at resolution to a question like that as quickly, but I don’t have the background you do in that area.

          I have some limited study and experience in Biblical archeology and history of that area, but for other areas of history I’m just a guy who likes to read. Most of the time I’m not trying to solve puzzles, I just want to use my time and money wisely.

          In matters relating to the Civil War, I will definitely defer to you.

  23. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    Carter Woodson is certainly one of the most important historians born in Virginia. I had a chance to go back and read “The Negro In Our History” last year. It would not pass the modern sniff test but it is loaded with history that is simply ignored and untold now. Woodson’s writing voice is robust and dignified.

    • And of course there is the great historian Bernard Bailyn. This from the Wall Street Journal:

      “A Fox News poll last month found a remarkable share of Americans under age 30 think the country’s founders are better described as “villains” (31%) than “heroes” (39%). This erosion of a unifying national narrative makes more poignant the death Friday of Bernard Bailyn, the most accomplished historian of early America’s dazzling world of ideas.

      At 97, Bailyn was a veteran of World War II, a professor emeritus at Harvard, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner and laureate of the National Humanities Medal. He is most famous for “The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution” (1967), a close reading of hundreds of pamphlets from the 18th century. The book overthrew the early-20th century Progressive view of the revolution, which argued that elite Americans rebelled more out of economic self-interest than to vindicate political ideals.

      Bailyn zeroed in on the intellectual back-and-forth among the revolutionaries and the influence of the British “Radical Whig” tradition of the early 1700s. He showed how Americans applied these potent ideas to questions of power and representation, and he highlighted “the contagion of liberty” in other spheres of American life. The book has been cited as an authority by Supreme Court Justices including conservatives John Roberts and Clarence Thomas and liberals Stephen Breyer and David Souter.

      Bailyn’s less well-known “The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson” (1974) showed the revolutionary period from the perspective of the Loyalist Governor of Massachusetts. Americans today could learn from Bailyn’s determination to see conflict from both sides. Critics speculated that the book was a cryptic defense of the then-embattled Richard Nixon, but Bailyn’s scholarship—unlike that of activist historians today—was not in service of any political agenda.

      Refining and implementing the ideas of the revolution, Bailyn wrote in the 50th-anniversary edition of “Origins” in 2017, is “a struggle that we now know would have no end.” The struggle will become less lively as scholars like Bailyn pass from the scene and the media and academy promote rote denunciations of America’s past. It may be impossible in the current environment, but one day scholars like Bailyn may emerge again to reclaim America’s inheritance as a republic of liberty.” End Quote.

      See: https://www.wsj.com/articles/can-there-be-another-bernard-bailyn-11597188579

  24. It seems to me that the biggest problem that some have with this book is that there are probably some professors who are more of an activist than a teacher, and they might use this text to indoctrinate their students. I don’t doubt a bit that this has happened, and if so, it is not the fault of the book. The purpose for a liberal arts education is to be exposed to all kinds of different ideas. Then, it is up to the individual to sort through them. In my mind, a great history professor is one who presents differing viewpoints on history, and requires students to sort it out for themselves, and justify where they end up.

    Most if not all historical work, news articles, etc are not objective. How can they be? They are written by imperfect humans who enter into the fray with their own biases. The best way to try to figure out the truth is to get several works on the same topic from varying viewpoints and highlight all of the words that they all have in common. Those highlighted words are as close to the truth as we’ll get.

    • Just because history is written by imperfect humans does not mean that all works of history are equal. Schools would do well to avoid partisan hacks for general classes.

      As was mentioned earlier by another commenter, Zinn’s book may serve as foil to demonstrate what to avoid doing.

  25. It’s been said by many that history belongs to (or is written by) the victors. But it’s also undeniable that history is not static, as new interpretations are written by each subsequent generation. Howard Zinn was someone who sought to highlight and give voice to those who had been obscured by previous history. During his career at BU, his classes were enormously popular, and students often had to be waitlisted in order to enroll. I was fortunate enough to take two of his classes, though this was before his People’s History was published in 1980. Looking back, he was no doubt writing that book during the period when I attended.

    Like many of my classmates, I found him to be refreshing, inspiring and charismatic, which accounted for his undeniable likeability. The name-calling and disparaging comments made by those earlier in this thread don’t bear any resemblance to the man that I remember and knew. Those of us who took his classes were given an opportunity to understand an aspect of American history we’d never been exposed to and indeed made up our own minds. We learned from him directly about his service during WW2, which resonated as many of us were the children of (or had relatives) that had served during that horrific period. That we were exposed to different ways of thinking about history is to his enormous credit and for that we will always be grateful.

    ps It should always be remembered that history should be taken in the context of when it was written.

  26. The Book is not perfect,

    And it isnt a work for academics. But it does something important, namely it tangles the kite string of a very pernicious myth that says that America’s selective benevolence is rightfully (and even God-blessedly) purchased at the unfortunate but understandable suffering of uncountable millions of people. It does well to show the false equivalency between material prosperity/capitalism and liberty, and it properly calls into question the mythology of western euro-American cultural and moral superiority. Ironically, in many ways it is quite Jeffersonian in its spirit of iconoclasm (not to say, though, Jefferson-approved!)

    Here’s why: today in 2020, for no justifiable reason on this earth would/could I venture into the American countryside, or any foreign land for that matter, and kill another innocent man in his home, take his land, his belongings, deprive him of his self or by extension his national sovereignty,send his children into poverty and homelessness, and then dare to call such a crime “a just price to pay for spreading the material and moral goodness and promise of western amer-euro civilization.” That would be as absurd as it is evil. But the hard fact remains that precisely that view underlay 200 years of brutal American expansion, decimation of native peoples, slavey, anti-labor persecution, and foreign military intervention (that continues to this day.) That is part and parcel or America. It is a sometimes beneveloent, fascinating nation with many accomplishments, but also bathed AND BAKED in the blood of innocent. Ironically, conservatives who attempt to justify this past end up invoking post modern focouldian moral relativism to absolve the slavers as “products of the systems and cultures of their times.” So here’s the crux…where almost all other conventional textbooks focus on the policy exploits of white marcantilist politicians, at least Zinn’s book dares to touch upon the former theme. Kudos to him. It IS important history to know…and if knowing it makes you like America less…so be it. At least you know more of the truth.

    • I appreciate Zan Tarr’s view and think it’s a very legitimate viewpoint.

      For all the years that Kids (and College kids) have been taught a largely sanitized version of US History that focused on the “good” and obscured and even hid the bad and ugly – we stood by and said little about it.

      Then when Zenn comes along and figuratively pulls the covers back all heck breaks loose!

      The protestors today, by the way, were not even born when Zenn wrote that horrible book!

      And young folks – from the time of the 60’s , decades before Zenns book had issues with America’s roots and soul as well as capitalism.

      His book is not in the curriculum as a standard that kids get tested on.

      It’s an alternative point of view and the idea that it might “pollute” young folks minds is ludicrous in a day and time when conspiracy theories are thick and believed by quite a few so-called “adults”.

      • Zinn…. sorry… 😉

      • Two small points:

        1. “The protestors today, by the way, were not even born when Zinn wrote that horrible book!” You are as bad at math as you are at history. The first edition was published in 1980. That was almost 41 years ago.

        2. “His book is not in the curriculum as a standard that kids get tested on.” That statement has the distinct disadvantage of being utterly incorrect. The US History SAT requires such reading. See https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat-subject-tests/subjects/history/us-history/sample-questions/1

        • Jim – are you not forgetting competition from places like Liberty and other Conservative colleges?

          and the link to the SAT? what?

          you’re saying that the SAT – REQUIRES reading of something? how so? The SAT is testing knowledge, right, not dictating reading … and that knowledge has to be factual not opinion.


          cheese and crackers guy.

          All this fretting over “indoctrination” – have you seen the conspiracy theories floating around these days – AND BELIEVED by not a small number of supposedly “educated” folks?

          We actually have some College-educated folks – “smart people” spouting conspiracy theories about subjects they have no academic knowledge in – and others believing them because they are “smart people”.

      • thanks.

  27. The comments engendered by my essay are in general probably the most literate and well considered responses to any I have posted. I only agree with about a third of them, but that’s fine. Thanks for the work.

    If we could have discussions like this in public places, especially on college campuses, what a better world it would be.

    Unfortunately, in many universities, students and non-tenured faculty who participated publicly on the conservative side of conversations debating the Zinn/Foner view of American history would be driven away.

    In many, academic freedom is a thing of the past.

    • “In many, academic freedom is a thing of the past.”

      I agree, and wonder how to fix that. What happens to a country once freedom of speech and academic freedom are gone from its most prestigious institutions of higher learning?

      • James Wyatt Whitehead V

        I place very little value on my VPI history degree. I did have some talented professors such a James I . Robertson and Ed Weisband. But in the setting of large lectures halls it was impossible to build a working relationship with the professors. I do give them credit for spending some office hours time with me. My 5 summers working at Manassas Battlefield National Park was where I gained my true historical skills. The very first lesson was so important. I already thought I knew a great deal about the Civil War and was instantly humbled. I barely knew about the tip of the iceberg. Working side by side with career historians such as Ed Bearrss, John Hennessy, Bob Krick, and a long list of other talented people showed me the way. In particular the key skill was knowing how to find primary source material in the pre internet days. Involved endless hours of driving to libraries, colleges, museums, even a trailer park in Pittsylvania County. All in the quest to find that one additional insight into an event that nobody had found before. I had a good nose for finding things and the big shots noticed this. It was fun. It was like the movie National Treasure without the action scenes and the gorgeous heroine.

      • Unfortunately, given the eternal fierceness of campus politics and the self-perpetuating nature of college hiring and tenure policies, this will prove very hard to weed out.

        At least two things could affect it – an alumni revolt or a decline in applications traceable to distaste for academic indoctrination. I don’t think either is likely to change the course of events.

        The woke professoriates themselves will go down with the ship rather than boarding a safer vessel. And they are winning.

        Only a full blown (free everything for all, equal outcomes rather than equal opportunities, public confessions of sins, reeducation camps blaring critical theory messages 24/7) and failed attempt at socialism in America will discredit the woke within their own ranks.

        For required public confessions of sins and mandatory re-education camps, see the Courageous Conversations teacher training kit at http://www.polkdecat.com/Toolkit%20for%20Courageous%20Conversations.pdf . For free everything and equal outcomes rather that equal opportunities,

        And changing back from state managed socialism to a system of government based on the Bill of Rights will assume that such a powerful state will permit its own dismantlement.

    • JS, I for one appreciate the time and effort you put into this post, even if also disagreeing with many things said about it here. What comes through to me is that Zinn wrote a polemic, not a scholarly piece worthy of imparting an appreciation for our history to public school students, and that Grabar wrote a polemic also, albeit a hell of a lot better researched and supported.

      One may conclude, so what, it takes one polemic to destroy another. I’m too much a centrist to rest easy with that conclusion — but what also comes through here is that, but for Grabar’s refutation, even if motivated by her extreme loathing for his thesis, nobody else would have taken the time to do him in, and but for that refutation his “textbook” would still receive the adulation of unknowing (and uncaring?) school administrators trying to do the “woke” thing for their respective boards. And I daresay many still promote Zinn’s as a respectable and balanced work for secondary students until confronted by those armed to show otherwise.

      So, thank you Jim for bringing this miserable excuse for a “textbook” to our attention and suggesting the scope of the damage to our Nation already done by it. Now, I have to get back to work on remediating another source of such damage through the upcoming elections.

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