1. According to Zinn, what is his main purpose for writing A People’s History of the United States?
Zinn’s purpose for writing A People’s History of the Americas is so that he can show the view of the people who have rarely been represented throughout history. The tradition of the historical textbooks is to tell it from one point of view, mainly the side of Europeans. For example, we celebrate the day that Columbus “discovered” America, however it was actually a tragic story from the point of view of the Native Americans, who have had genocide and atrocities committed on them due to the desire for Columbus to pay back his investors and to become rich by exploiting the wealth of resources that America had to offer.
2. What is Zinn’s thesis for pages 1-11?
Zinn’s thesis for pages 1-11 is that history is extremely biased. Although we view bias as an obvious favor of one side, his argument is that historians subtly have a favor of one side and manage to conceal it. An example that Zinn gave was that a respected Harvard historian Samuel Eliot Morison biased his book on Columbus in favor of Columbus. He did this not by withholding information as is common in many children textbooks but by disproportionately revealing the darker side of Columbus. A majority of Morison’s book was dedicated to promoting Columbus but a single page was dedicated to revealing the genocide that Columbus committed during his exploration of the Americas.
3. According to Zinn, how is Columbus portrayed in traditional history books? Zinn says that Columbus is portrayed traditionally as a hero and that traditional textbooks have little to no evidence that Columbus committed genocide and caused epidemics. As further evidence that traditionally Columbus is viewed as a role model, he mentions that an entire day is dedicated to his initial discovery.
4. Why does Zinn dispute Henry Kissinger’s statement: "History is the memory of states?"
Zinn disputes Henry Kissinger’s statement because the statement is under an incorrect assumption that the state is one whole rather than many classes struggling for power. He gives the example that the peace that Europe had before the French revolution was peaceful for only one group and the minorities’ situation got even worse therefore it would historically inaccurate to qualify a history of the world by nation over classes within nations.
5. Identify one early and one subsequent motive that drove Columbus to oppress indigenous peoples.
One early motive that drove Columbus to oppress indigenous peoples (in the form of taking some of the natives captive) is that he needed information about the area; the information that Columbus primarily desired was where a large supply of gold was located. Columbus knew that gold was nearby because the Arawaks wore tiny gold earrings. Long term, Columbus’ motivation for oppressing the natives was that he had investors to pay back for financing his expeditions and that he promised that there were an indigenous people that was easy to oppress and so he needed slaves in order to verify his statement. Consequently, Columbus took many natives captives or as slaves and used them in his hunt for gold and wealth.
7. Discuss the significance of Powhatan’s statement, "Why will you take by force what you may have quietly by love?"
Powhatan’s statement is significant because it shows the difference in cultures between the Natives and the European explorers. The native’s culture, according to Zinn, was through sharing of property and working as a community for survival. As such they were friendly towards the strange European people, trading to them what they considered valuable in exchange for strange items. The story of the kindness shown by Native Americans is commonly told on thanksgiving, when the “Indians” showed the Europeans how to plant crops and to survive in the rough winter. Meanwhile the Europeans, used to a