A People’s History Of The United States

by Howard Zinn

Troy Shu
Troy Shu
Updated at: March 12, 2024
A People’s History Of The United States
A People’s History Of The United States

What are the big ideas? 1. The Importance of Understanding Class Interests in Historical Events: This book emphasizes the role of class interests in shaping histori

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What are the big ideas?

  1. The Importance of Understanding Class Interests in Historical Events: This book emphasizes the role of class interests in shaping historical events and policies, including the formation of governments and foreign policy decisions. It encourages readers to look beyond the glib statements made by political leaders and the media and question universal terms used to describe the state of the nation.
  2. The Veil of "National Interest" or "National Security": The book challenges readers to recognize the impact of nationalist fervor on educational systems and foreign policies, and urges them to examine the role of these concepts in justifying military interventions. It encourages critical thinking about the motivations behind these interventions and the consequences for marginalized communities.
  3. The Ineradicable Issue of Race: The book acknowledges the ongoing impact of race on history, recognizing that nonwhite people have often been twisted or erased from mainstream teachings and writings. It encourages readers to study alternative perspectives and remember that history is not transformed dramatically as calendars change.
  4. The Role of Nationalism in Education Systems: The book highlights the role of nationalist fervor in educational systems, urging readers to question the dominant narratives presented in textbooks and other educational materials. It encourages critical thinking about the motivations behind these narratives and their impact on our understanding of history.
  5. The Importance of Studying Alternative Perspectives: The book emphasizes the importance of studying alternative perspectives in history, recognizing that many stories have been neglected or minimally treated in mainstream accounts. It encourages readers to consider the experiences of marginalized communities and to recognize the impact of ongoing struggles for change on historical events.


Chapter 1 – Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progress


  • Columbus did not discover America, nor were the Indians savages. They were a complex, diverse people who had developed a variety of cultures and technologies.
  • The first European settlers in America were not fleeing religious or political persecution, but seeking economic opportunity.
  • European explorers, settlers, and traders brought diseases that killed millions of Native Americans and caused devastating social disruptions.
  • Europeans sought to acquire land from Indians by force, deception, and trickery. They did not recognize the Indian concept of communal ownership of land, and they did not respect Indian sovereignty over their territory.
  • Europeans used violence to take land from Indians, including massacres, forced removal, and enslavement. They also used treaties to gain Indian land, but often violated these treaties when it suited them.
  • European governments and businesses exploited Indian labor and resources, often brutally. They forced Indians to work in mines, plantations, and factories under terrible conditions, with little pay or protection from injury or death.
  • European settlers and traders introduced alcohol to Indians, which caused widespread addiction and social disruption. They also brought guns and other weapons that increased the power of some Indian groups over others, leading to wars and other conflicts.
  • European explorers, settlers, and traders brought new religions to America, including Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. These religions often clashed with traditional Indian beliefs and practices, and they were used as tools of conquest and control by European authorities.
  • Europeans imposed their legal systems on Indians, which often failed to protect Indian rights and interests. European laws favored European settlers and traders over Indians, and they often ignored or violated Indian customs and traditions.
  • Europeans brought new forms of government to America, including feudalism, colonialism, and imperialism. These forms of government were based on the principles of conquest, domination, and exploitation, and they had profound effects on the lives of Indians and other non-European peoples in America.


“Columbus, desperate to pay back dividends to those who had invested, had to make good his promise to fill the ships with gold. In the province of Cicao on Haiti, where he and his men imagined huge gold fields to exist, they ordered all persons fourteen years or older to collect a certain quantity of gold every three months. When they brought it, they were given copper tokens to hang around their necks. Indians found without a copper token had their hands cut off and bled to death. The Indians had been given an impossible task. The only gold around was bits of dust garnered from the streams. So they fled, were hunted down with dogs, and were killed.”

“It is not that the historian can avoid emphasis of some facts and not of others. This is as natural to him as to the mapmaker, who, in order to produce a usable drawing for practical purposes, must first flatten and distort the shape of the earth, then choose out of the bewildering mass of geographic information those things needed for the purpose of this or that particular map.

My argument cannot be against selection, simplification, emphasis, which are inevitable for both cartographers and historians. But the map-maker's distortion is a technical necessity for a common purpose shared by all people who need maps. The historian's distortion is more than technical, it is ideological; it is released into a world of contending interests, where any chosen emphasis supports (whether the historian means to or not) some kind of interest, whether economic or political or racial or national or sexual.

Furthermore, this ideological interest is not openly expressed in the way a mapmaker's technical interest is obvious ("This is a Mercator projection for long-range navigation-for short-range, you'd better use a different projection"). No, it is presented as if all readers of history had a common interest which historians serve to the best of their ability. This is not intentional deception; the historian has been trained in a society in which education and knowledge are put forward as technical problems of excellence and not as tools for contending social classes, races, nations.

To emphasize the heroism of Columbus and his successors as navigators and discoverers, and to de-emphasize their genocide, is not a technical necessity but an ideological choice. It serves- unwittingly-to justify what was done. My point is not that we must, in telling history, accuse, judge, condemn Columbus in absentia. It is too late for that; it would be a useless scholarly exercise in morality. But the easy acceptance of atrocities as a deplorable but necessary price to pay for progress (Hiroshima and Vietnam, to save Western civilization; Kronstadt and Hungary, to save socialism; nuclear proliferation, to save us all)-that is still with us. One reason these atrocities are still with us is that we have learned to bury them in a mass of other facts, as radioactive wastes are buried in containers in the earth. We have learned to give them exactly the same proportion of attention that teachers and writers often give them in the most respectable of classrooms and textbooks. This learned sense of moral proportion, coming from the apparent objectivity of the scholar, is accepted more easily than when it comes from politicians at press conferences. It is therefore more deadly.

The treatment of heroes (Columbus) and their victims (the Arawaks)-the quiet acceptance of conquest and murder in the name of progress-is only one aspect of a certain approach to history, in which the past is told from the point of view of governments, conquerors, diplomats, leaders. It is as if they, like Columbus, deserve universal acceptance, as if they-the Founding Fathers, Jackson, Lincoln, Wilson, Roosevelt, Kennedy, the leading members of Congress, the famous Justices of the Supreme Court-represent the nation as a whole. The pretense is that there really is such a thing as "the United States," subject to occasional conflicts and quarrels, but fundamentally a community of people with common interests. It is as if there really is a "national interest" represented in the Constitution, in territorial expansion, in the laws passed by Congress, the decisions of the courts, the development of capitalism, the culture of education and the mass media.”

“My viewpoint, in telling the history of the United States, is different: that we must not accept the memory of states as our own. Nations are not communities and never have been. The history of any country, presented as the history of a family, conceals fierce conflicts of interest (sometimes exploding, most often repressed) between conquerors and conquered, masters and slaves, capitalists and workers, dominators and dominated in race and sex. And in such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, as Albert Camus suggested, not to be on the side of the executioners.”

“Thus, 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 blacks in Harlem, the postwar American empire 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.”

“In the long run, the oppressor is also a victim. In the short run (and so far, human history has consisted only of short runs), the victims, themselves desperate and tainted with the culture that oppresses them, turn on other victims.”

“I will try not to overlook the cruelties that victims inflict on one another as they are jammed together in the boxcars of the system. I don’t want to romanticize them. But I do remember (in rough paraphrase) a statement I once read: “The cry of the poor is not always just, but if you don’t listen to it, you will never know what justice is.”

“Since the Indians were better woodsmen than the English and virtually impossible to track down, the method was to feign peaceful intentions, let them settle down and plant their corn wherever they chose, and then, just before harvest, fall upon them, killing as many as possible and burning the corn. . . . Within two or three years of the massacre the English had avenged the deaths of that day many times over.”

“Why will you take by force what you may have quietly by love? Why will you destroy us who supply you with food? What can you get by war?”

Chapter 2 – Drawing the Color Line


  • Slavery was not a natural phenomenon, but an economic system built over time that grew out of the plantation system and the colonial labor shortage.
  • Slaves were not naturally submissive, but resisted slavery in many ways, including running away, sabotage, and organized rebellion.
  • Slaveholders used physical violence and psychological control to keep slaves in line and prevent rebellion.
  • Fear of slave rebellion was a constant concern among white planters and slaveholders, who took measures to prevent it, such as passing laws against gatherings of slaves and arming slaves against other slaves.
  • Slaves were often separated from their families and communities by sale or punishment, making it difficult for them to organize resistance.
  • White indentured servants were initially treated similarly to black slaves, but were eventually granted greater rights and privileges as they became more integrated into white society and saw their interests as aligned with those of slaveholders.
  • The slave system was maintained through a complex web of laws, customs, and social norms that reinforced racial hierarchy and prevented unity between slaves and poor whites.
  • The end of slavery did not bring an end to racial discrimination or inequality, which continue to affect American society today.


“There is not a country in world history in which racism has been more important, for so long a time, as the United States.”

“Slavery existed in the African states, and it was sometimes used by Europeans to justify their own slave trade. But, as Davidson points out, the “slaves” of Africa were more like the serfs of Europe—in other words, like most of the population of Europe.”

“If racism can’t be shown to be natural, then it is the result of certain conditions, and we are impelled to eliminate those conditions.”

Chapter 3 – Persons of Mean and Vile Condition


  • The United States began with a ruling elite of wealthy men who controlled land and resources, and with the help of Indians, slaves, poor whites, and poor Indians kept control over the majority.
  • The elite used the threat of Indian wars to push poor whites westward into lands inhabited by Indians, which helped to keep both groups in check.
  • The elite made slaves an integral part of the southern economy, but they feared slave revolts.
  • The elite feared that poor whites and blacks would join together against them, and so they tried to keep the two groups apart and in competition for resources.
  • The elite used racism to maintain the loyalty of poor whites by portraying blacks as inferior and dangerous.
  • The elite used religion to justify their rule, claiming that God had given them their power and position.
  • The elite used the language of liberty and equality to unite white Americans against England while keeping the real issues of slavery and inequality off the table.


“The colonies, it seems, were societies of contending classes—a fact obscured by the emphasis, in traditional histories, on the external struggle against England, the unity of colonists in the Revolution. The country therefore was not “born free” but born slave and free, servant and master, tenant and landlord, poor and rich.”

“Those upper classes, to rule, needed to make concessions to the middle class, without damage to their own wealth or power, at the expense of slaves, Indians, and poor whites. This bought loyalty. And to bind that loyalty with something more powerful even than material advantage, the ruling group found, in the 1760s and 1770s, a wonderfully useful device. That device was the language of liberty and equality, which could unite just enough whites to fight a Revolution against England, without ending either slavery or inequality.”

Chapter 4 – Tyranny Is Tyranny


  • The Declaration of Independence is a document that, in order to unite the colonists against England, had to ignore or cover up some serious conflicts and contradictions within American society.
  • The Declaration is not a document of social equality; it was written by and for a privileged elite, who wanted to protect their own interests.
  • The Declaration does not address the issues of women, slaves, Indians, or poor white people.
  • The language of the Declaration was used as a rhetorical tool to create unity among the colonists, and to create a powerful myth about the Revolution.
  • This myth has been used ever since to cover up class conflict and to deny rights and opportunities to those left out of the original consensus: women, minorities, immigrants, and the poor.
  • This myth has also been used to justify imperialism and militarism abroad by creating an image of America as a beacon of freedom and democracy for oppressed peoples around the world.


“Society in every state is a blessing, but Government even in its best state is but a necessary evil. . . .”

“Tyranny is Tyranny, let it come from whom it may.”

Chapter 5 – A Kind of Revolution


  • The Constitution was a compromise between slaveholding interests of the South and moneyed interests of the North.
  • The Constitution was not an attempt to create a democracy, but rather an attempt to limit democracy in order to protect the interests of the wealthy and powerful.
  • The Constitution was designed to prevent change, to maintain order, and to preserve the status quo.
  • The Constitution is not a neutral document, but rather reflects the interests of the people who wrote it.
  • The Constitution has been used by those with wealth and power to further their interests, often at the expense of others in society.
  • The Constitution is not inherently fair or just, but must be interpreted and enforced in a way that protects the rights and liberties of all members of society.


“Ruling elites seem to have learned through the generations—consciously or not—that war makes them more secure against internal trouble.”

“Carl Degler says (Out of Our Past): “No new social class came to power through the door of the American revolution. The men who engineered the revolt were largely members of the colonial ruling class.” George Washington was the richest man in America. John Hancock was a prosperous Boston merchant. Benjamin Franklin was a wealthy printer. And so on. On the other hand, town mechanics, laborers, and seamen, as well as small farmers, were swept into “the people” by the rhetoric of the Revolution, by the camaraderie of military service, by the distribution of some land. Thus was created a substantial body of support, a national consensus, something that, even with the exclusion of ignored and oppressed people, could be called “America.”

“A black man, Benjamin Banneker, who taught himself mathematics and astronomy, predicted accurately a solar eclipse, and was appointed to plan the new city of Washington, wrote to Thomas Jefferson: I suppose it is a truth too well attested to you, to need a proof here, that we are a race of beings, who have long labored under the abuse and censure of the world; that we have long been looked upon with an eye of contempt; and that we have long been considered rather as brutish than human, and scarcely capable of mental endowments. . . . I apprehend you will embrace every opportunity to eradicate that train of absurd and false ideas and opinions, which so generally prevails with respect to us; and that your sentiments are concurrent with mine, which are, that one universal Father hath given being to us all; and that he hath not only made us all of one flesh, but that he hath also, without partiality, afforded us all the same sensations and endowed us all with the same facilities. . . . Banneker asked Jefferson “to wean yourselves from those narrow prejudices which you have imbibed.”

“The inferior position of blacks, the exclusion of Indians from the new society, the establishment of supremacy for the rich and powerful in the new nation--all this was already settled in the colonies by the time of the Revolution. With the English out of the way, it could now be put on paper, solidified, regularized, made legitimate by the Constitution of the United States.”

“Another view of the Constitution was put forward early in the twentieth century by the historian Charles Beard (arousing anger and indignation, including a denunciatory editorial in the New York Times). He wrote in his book An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution: Inasmuch as the primary object of a government, beyond the mere repression of physical violence, is the making of the rules which determine the property relations of members of society, the dominant classes whose rights are thus to be determined must perforce obtain from the government such rules as are consonant with the larger interests necessary to the continuance of their economic processes, or they must themselves control the organs of government. In short, Beard said, the rich must, in their own interest, either control the government directly or control the laws by which government operates. Beard applied this general idea to the Constitution, by studying the economic backgrounds and political ideas of the fifty-five men who gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 to draw up the Constitution. He found that a majority of them were lawyers by profession, that most of them were men of wealth, in land, slaves, manufacturing, or shipping, that half of them had money loaned out at interest, and that forty of the fifty-five held government bonds, according to the records of the Treasury Department. Thus, Beard found that most of the makers of the Constitution had some direct economic interest in establishing a strong federal government: the manufacturers needed protective tariffs; the moneylenders wanted to stop the use of paper money to pay off debts; the land speculators wanted protection as they invaded Indian lands; slaveowners needed federal security against slave revolts and runaways; bondholders wanted a government able to raise money by nationwide taxation, to pay off those bonds. Four groups, Beard noted, were not represented in the Constitutional Convention: slaves, indentured servants, women, men without property. And so the Constitution did not reflect the interests of those groups. He wanted to make it clear that he did not think the Constitution was written merely to benefit the Founding Fathers personally, although one could not ignore the $150,000 fortune of Benjamin Franklin, the connections of Alexander Hamilton to wealthy interests through his father-in-law and brother-in-law, the great slave plantations of James Madison, the enormous landholdings of George Washington. Rather, it was to benefit the groups the Founders represented, the “economic interests they understood and felt in concrete, definite form through their own personal experience.”

“When economic interest is seen behind the political clauses of the Constitution, then the document becomes not simply the work of wise men trying to establish a decent and orderly society, but the work of certain groups trying to maintain their privileges, while giving just enough rights and liberties to enough of the people to ensure popular support.”

“The Constitution. . . illustrates the complexity of the American system: that it serves the interests of a wealthy elite, but also does enough for small property owners, for middle-income mechanics and farmers, to build a broad base of support. The slightly prosperous people who make up this base of support are buffers against the blacks, the Indians, the very poor whites. They enable the elite to keep control with a minimum of coercion, a maximum of law--all made palatable by the fanfare of patriotism and unity.”

“They were not mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, they were absent in the Constitution and they were invisible in the new political democracy. They were the women of early America.”

Chapter 6 – The Intimately Oppressed


  • The Indian Removal Act of 1830 was the culmination of decades of racism and fear that white settlers had toward Native Americans.
  • The Trail of Tears, the forced relocation of thousands of Cherokee, was one of the most devastating events in American history.
  • The Mexican-American War was a war fought over land and resources, one that was largely provoked by white settlers in the West.
  • The discovery of gold in California in 1848 sparked a wave of greed and violence against Native Americans that resulted in a mass extermination.
  • The Homestead Act of 1862 is a symbol of America's history of land grabs, including the taking of land from Native Americans and Mexicans.
  • The Dawes Act of 1887, which divided up communal Native American lands into individual plots, was an attempt to assimilate Native Americans into white culture and destroy their communal culture.
  • The Gadsden Purchase of 1854 was a result of the U.S.'s aggressive expansionism, as it was acquired through military threats and intimidation.
  • The Sand Creek Massacre was an act of genocide committed by U.S. soldiers against a peaceful Cheyenne village in Colorado in 1864.
  • The Wounded Knee Massacre was an act of violence by U.S. soldiers against Native American activists who were protesting for their rights in South Dakota in 1890.
  • America's westward expansion brought violence and suffering to many people, particularly to Native Americans who had lived on that land for centuries before European settlers arrived.


“in 1851, an aged black woman, who had been born a slave in New York, tall, thin, wearing a gray dress and white turban, listened to some male ministers who had been dominating the discussion. This was Sojourner Truth. She rose to her feet and joined the indignation of her race to the indignation of her sex: That man over there says that woman needs to be helped into carriages and lifted over ditches. . . . Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles or gives me any best place. And a’nt I a woman? Look at my arm! I have ploughed, and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And a’nt I a woman? I would work as much and eat as much as a man, when I could get it, and bear the lash as well. And a’nt I a woman? I have borne thirteen children and seen em most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And a’nt I a woman? Thus were women beginning to resist, in the 1830s and 1840s and 1850s, the attempt to keep them in their “woman’s sphere.” They were taking part in all sorts of movements, for prisoners, for the insane, for black slaves, and also for all women.”

Chapter 7 – As Long as Grass Grows or Water Runs


  • The American government, beginning with George Washington, broke treaty after treaty with the Indian nations, allowing settlers to move onto Indian land and then moving the Indians west when the settlers wanted more land.
  • The Indian Removal Act of 1830 allowed the president to negotiate treaties with Indian tribes that would move them west, and provided for military action against any tribe that resisted.
  • The Trail of Tears refers to the forced migration of thousands of Cherokees from their ancestral lands in Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Alabama in 1838-1839.
  • The Seminole Wars were a series of wars fought between the United States and Native Americans in Florida from 1835 to 1842.
  • The Indian Removal Act was a law passed by the United States Congress in 1830 that authorized President Andrew Jackson to negotiate with southern Native American tribes for their removal to federal territory west of the Mississippi River in exchange for money, goods, or land.
  • The Indian Removal Act is often called the Trail of Tears because of its devastating impact on Native American communities, including forced relocations and death marches resulting in thousands of deaths from disease and starvation.
  • The forced relocation of Native Americans from their ancestral lands in the eastern part of what is now the United States to lands west of the Mississippi River during the late 18th century and early 19th century is known as the Indian Removal Act or "Trail of Tears."
  • The removal act was signed into law by President Andrew Jackson on May 28, 1830, and resulted in the deaths of thousands of Native Americans due to disease, starvation, and exposure during their long journey westward.
  • The removal act also allowed white settlers to take over Native American lands in the East, leading to widespread violence and displacement among Native American communities.
  • The removal act is considered one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history because it led to widespread suffering and death among Native American communities and exemplified the U.S. government's disregard for their rights as sovereign nations.


“Tecumseh, a Shawnee chief and noted orator, tried to unite the Indians against the white invasion: The way, and the only way, to check and to stop this evil, is for all the Redmen to unite in claiming a common and equal right in the land, as it was at first and should be yet; for it was never divided, but belongs to all for the use of each. That no part has a right to sell, even to each other, much less to strangers—those who want all and will not do with less. Angered when fellow Indians were induced to cede a great tract of land to the United States government, Tecumseh organized in 1811 an Indian gathering of five thousand, on the bank of the Tallapoosa River in Alabama, and told them: “Let the white race perish. They seize your land; they corrupt your women, they trample on the ashes of your dead! Back whence they came, upon a trail of blood, they must be driven.”

“Jackson began raids into Florida, arguing it was a sanctuary for escaped slaves and for marauding Indians. Florida, he said, was essential to the defense of the United States. It was that classic modern preface to a war of conquest. Thus began the Seminole War of 1818, leading to the American acquisition of Florida. It appears on classroom maps politely as “Florida Purchase, 1819”—but it came from Andrew Jackson’s military campaign across the Florida border, burning Seminole villages, seizing Spanish forts, until Spain was “persuaded” to sell. He acted, he said, by the “immutable laws of self-defense.”

Chapter 8 – We Take Nothing by Conquest, Thank God


  • The Mexican-American War was the result of a long series of territorial disputes, which led to war between two neighboring countries.
  • The war was fought between Anglo-American forces, which sought to take over Mexican territory, and Mexican forces, which sought to defend their country.
  • The war was fought on both land and sea, with battles taking place in Mexico and California.
  • The war was brutal and costly, with thousands of soldiers and civilians killed or wounded.
  • The war ended with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ceded half of Mexico to the United States.
  • The war had a lasting impact on both countries, shaping their identities and relations for generations to come.
  • The war also had a significant impact on the development of the United States, helping to define its borders and its role as a global power.

Chapter 9 – Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Freedom


  • The post–Civil War South was a devastated region, its economy shattered by the loss of slaves and the end of slavery.
  • The Republican Congresses of 1865–1877 enacted legislation to begin the long process of rebuilding the South, but they were not able to enforce these laws in the face of white violence and resistance.
  • In the 1870s, northern and southern elites began to cooperate in a new capitalist order that would bring wealth and power to both regions, with whites at the top and blacks at the bottom.
  • This new capitalist order was built on exploitation and racial segregation, which affected both black and white workers.
  • While it is true that white workers often resented black workers for their supposed “unfair” competition for jobs, in fact both groups suffered from this new system of economic inequality.
  • Black leaders like Booker T. Washington urged caution and moderation on blacks, but others like W. E. B. Du Bois saw this as a betrayal of their struggle for full citizenship rights, which had been promised by the end of slavery.


“Before God and high heaven, is there a law for one man which is not a law for every other man?”

“There is an underside to every age about which history does not often speak, because history is written from records left by the privileged”.”

Chapter 10 – The Other Civil War


  • The United States experienced an unprecedented wave of labor strikes in the 1870s.
  • The strikes were largely spontaneous, not organized by labor unions.
  • In St. Louis, the Workingmen’s party led the strike, and the city was effectively run by a workers’ soviet for several days.
  • The strikes were suppressed by militias and federal troops, often with great brutality and loss of life.
  • The strikes demonstrated the power of collective action by workers but also their vulnerability to government repression.
  • The strikes highlighted the need for labor solidarity across industries and regions and for political organization to achieve lasting change.
  • The strikes foreshadowed the more successful and sustained strikes of the late nineteenth century, including the Pullman Strike of 1894 and the Seattle General Strike of 1919.
  • The strikes were part of a larger wave of working-class protest and resistance in the late nineteenth century, including movements for women’s suffrage, civil rights, and labor reform.
  • The strikes revealed deep social divisions and tensions in American society, particularly between capital and labor, but also between native-born Americans and immigrants, whites and people of color, and urban and rural communities.
  • The strikes underscored the importance of class as a fundamental aspect of American society and history, alongside race, gender, ethnicity, and region.


“If you permit unprincipled and ambitious men to monopolize the soil, they will become masters of the country in the certain order of cause and effect. . . .”

Chapter 11 – Robber Barons and Rebels


  • The Populist movement was a response to the vast economic, political, and social changes of the late nineteenth century.
  • The Populists believed that the government had been captured by powerful economic interests, which were subverting democracy and exploiting ordinary citizens.
  • The Populists sought to restore democracy by limiting the power of corporations, expanding the role of government in regulating the economy, and empowering ordinary citizens through cooperative efforts.
  • The Populists developed a vibrant culture of lectures, journals, songs, and meetings that helped spread their message and unite diverse groups around a common cause.
  • The Populist movement ultimately failed to achieve its goals because it could not overcome deep-seated racial and regional divisions among its supporters, nor could it resist the pull of electoral politics.
  • The Populist experience demonstrated both the potential and the limitations of grassroots movements for change in American history.


“Control in modern times requires more than force, more than law. It requires that a population dangerously concentrated in cities and factories, whose lives are filled with cause for rebellion, be taught that all is right as it is. And so, the schools, the churches, the popular literature taught that to be rich was a sign of superiority, to be poor a sign of personal failure, and that the only way upward for a poor person was to climb into the ranks of the rich by extraordinary effort and extraordinary luck.”

Chapter 12 – The Empire and The People


  • The Progressive Era, the period from the 1890s to the 1920s, saw the United States become a major world power, with growing economic and political influence.
  • This expansion was accompanied by growing labor unrest, with strikes, boycotts, and the rise of labor unions.
  • The era also saw a rise in social protest movements, including women’s suffrage, civil rights, and anti-imperialism.
  • The Progressive Era was marked by both economic growth and increasing economic inequality, with a widening gap between the rich and the poor.
  • During this time, America’s imperial expansion brought new resources to American businesses, but also created new conflicts with indigenous peoples and other colonial subjects.
  • The era saw the rise of big business and corporate power, as well as growing government intervention in the economy through regulation and reform.
  • The Progressive Era was marked by a series of political reforms aimed at making government more accountable and democratic, including the direct election of senators, the introduction of referendums and initiatives, and the establishment of presidential primaries.
  • The era was also marked by a growing recognition of the need for environmental protection, leading to the creation of national parks and forests and the passage of landmark conservation laws such as the Antiquities Act and National Park Service Act.
  • The Progressive Era saw significant advances in civil rights for African Americans, including the end of legal segregation in public accommodations and transportation in many states, as well as increased access to education and job opportunities.
  • However, these gains were limited by ongoing discrimination and violence against blacks in both the North and South, including lynchings, race riots, and segregation in housing and education.
  • The Progressive Era also saw significant advances in women’s rights, including the right to vote with the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. However, women continued to face discrimination in many areas of life, including education, employment, and social status.
  • The Progressive Era was marked by a growing awareness of the need for social welfare programs to address poverty and inequality, leading to the creation of mothers’ pensions, unemployment insurance, and other forms of social assistance.
  • The era also saw a rise in immigration from Europe and Asia, which sparked

Chapter 13 – The Socialist Challenge


  • The Progressive movement was a period of reform in the early 20th century, spurred by the belief that government should regulate business and protect consumers, workers, and the environment.
  • Reformers sought to address issues such as corruption, labor rights, and environmental degradation through legislation and the creation of regulatory bodies.
  • The Progressive movement was also a response to the growth of industrial capitalism and the rise of socialism, which threatened to disrupt the existing economic and political order.
  • Many of the reforms enacted during this period were aimed at heading off more radical challenges to the status quo by addressing some of the worst abuses of capitalism.
  • The Progressive movement ultimately succeeded in creating a more stable capitalist system by incorporating some of the demands of working people and socialists, while preserving the overall structure of capitalism.
  • The Progressive movement also laid the groundwork for future reform efforts, establishing a precedent for government intervention in the economy and society.
  • The Progressive movement was not without its critics, who argued that it did not go far enough in addressing the underlying problems of capitalism and only served to legitimize a fundamentally exploitative system.
  • Despite its limitations, the Progressive movement remains an important chapter in the history of American democracy and social reform, demonstrating the potential for collective action to bring about meaningful change.


“IWW organizer Joseph Ettor said: If the workers of the world want to win, all they have to do is recognize their own solidarity. They have nothing to do but fold their arms and the world will stop. The workers are more powerful with their hands in their pockets than all the property of the capitalists. . . .”

“To hell with your courts, I know what justice is.”

“There was an idea in the air, becoming clearer and stronger, an idea not just in the theories of Karl Marx but in the dreams of writers and artists through the ages: that people might cooperatively use the treasures of the earth to make life better for everyone, not just a few.”

“Our democracy is but a name. We vote? What does that mean? It means that we choose between two bodies of real, though not avowed, autocrats. We choose between Tweedledum and Tweedledee. . . .”

Chapter 14 – War is the Health of the State


  • The United States has a history of socialism. The country’s working class has struggled for better wages, better working conditions, and fairer treatment under the law since the late nineteenth century.
  • Socialist parties and labor unions have been active in the United States since the early twentieth century. The Socialist Party of America (SPA) was formed in 1901; the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), or Wobblies, were organized in 1905; and the American Communist Party (CPUSA) was founded in 1919.
  • The United States has experienced several waves of repression against socialists, communists, anarchists, and other leftists. These waves have been accompanied by periods of reform, such as the New Deal era of the 1930s and 1960s liberalism.
  • Repression in the United States has often taken the form of arrests, imprisonment, and deportation of foreign-born radicals, including Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, Nicola Sacco, Bartolomeo Vanzetti, and hundreds of IWW members in 1917-1918.
  • Repression has also taken the form of violence, including assassinations and bombings directed at socialists and communists by private citizens and groups like the Ku Klux Klan or right-wing extremist groups like the Order of the Phoenix or The Minutemen.
  • The United States has a history of anti-immigrant violence and policy that is rooted in racism and white supremacy.
  • Repression against socialists and radicals is not limited to government actions or policies; it also includes social stigma, marginalization, discrimination, harassment, surveillance, and violence against activists by private citizens and groups acting with or without state support or sanction.
  • Repression against socialists and radicals is not a thing of the past: it continues today through legislation like the USA PATRIOT Act and government surveillance of activists such as Black Lives Matter activists.

Chapter 15 – Self-Help in Hard Times


  • The New Deal was a response to the Great Depression, the worst economic crisis in U.S. history. It brought about important reforms in the areas of banking, labor, housing, and social welfare.
  • The New Deal helped millions of Americans, but it did not solve all problems. Many people continued to live in poverty and discrimination, especially African Americans.
  • The New Deal was also a response to labor unrest and the threat of radicalism. The CIO’s organizing efforts were influenced by Communists, who were able to bring blacks and whites together in their fight against the corporations.
  • Labor unrest continued into the forties, with workers fighting for higher wages and better working conditions during World War II. The CIO tried to channel this energy into negotiations with employers, but wildcat strikes persisted.
  • The New Deal helped stabilize American capitalism by giving workers legal rights and a voice in the workplace, but it also created new mechanisms of control—internal control by their own organizations as well as outside control by law and force.
  • The New Deal did not change the fundamental nature of American society or its underlying power structure; it left capitalism intact, with the rich still controlling the nation’s wealth and political institutions.
  • For many Americans, however, the New Deal restored faith in the system by bringing about improvements in their lives: more jobs, more money, better living conditions, better schools and hospitals, a sense of progress and hope for the future.
  • The New Deal was part of a larger international movement for reform that included the rise of fascism in Europe and communism in Russia and China. In this context, World War II would serve as a crucible for new ideas about how society should be organized and governed—and how it should not be.

Chapter 16 – A People’s War?


  • From 1945 to 1970, the United States engaged in a massive military buildup, eventually creating a permanent war economy.
  • The military budget grew from $12 billion in 1950 to $80 billion in 1962.
  • The Korean War (1950-53) and the Vietnam War (1964-75) were major catalysts for this military buildup, which was justified as necessary to stop Communist expansionism.
  • The Marshall Plan (1948) and other foreign aid programs were used to build markets for American exports and to prevent Communist influence in Western Europe and Latin America.
  • In the name of anti-Communism, the United States overthrew democratic governments in Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), and Cuba (1961).
  • The United States also intervened militarily in Lebanon (1958), Dominican Republic (1965), and Grenada (1983).
  • The CIA was heavily involved in most of these interventions, often with the support of the military and the State Department.
  • Despite its claims of fighting Communism, U.S. foreign policy often served corporate interests, particularly those of oil companies such as United Fruit and Standard Oil, which controlled much of the world's oil reserves.
  • The foreign policies of Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I and II all reflected this mixture of anti-Communism and corporate self-interest.
  • The Vietnam War was a turning point in American history that would result in widespread questioning of American foreign policy and ultimately lead to a decline in U.S. global power and influence.


“It was an old lesson learned by governments: that war solves problems of control.”

Chapter 17 – “Or Does it Explode?”


  • The black population in the United States has been subjected to slavery, segregation, and discrimination for centuries.
  • The civil rights movement of the 1960s brought about significant changes in legislation, but did not eradicate racism or poverty.
  • The 1970s saw the emergence of a new black consciousness and militancy that expressed itself in urban riots and the rise of groups like the Black Panthers and the League of Revolutionary Black Workers.
  • The 1980s and 1990s saw the destruction of the black lower class, with high levels of unemployment, poverty, and crime.
  • Despite these conditions, a small but growing black middle class was created through affirmative action and government-backed loans for business start-ups.
  • A new black consciousness has emerged in recent years, as blacks have begun to organize for economic empowerment and against police violence.
  • While some black leaders have called for a new civil rights movement, others have advocated for a more radical approach that would unite blacks and whites in a class struggle against capitalism.


“The memory of oppressed people is one thing that cannot be taken away, and for such people, with such memories, revolt is always an inch below the surface.”

Chapter 18 – The Impossible Victory: Vietnam


  • The Vietnam War was not a civil war; it was a war of aggression by the United States and its allies against a revolutionary movement.
  • The antiwar movement in the United States, which started with small groups of students and women’s groups, grew into a mass movement that mobilized millions of Americans.
  • The antiwar movement included veterans of the war, who had experienced its brutality firsthand.
  • The antiwar movement played a significant role in ending the war by keeping pressure on political leaders and forcing them to change their policies.
  • The antiwar movement also exposed the deep-seated racism and classism in American society and helped galvanize other social movements, including the Civil Rights Movement and the feminist movement.
  • The Vietnam War and the antiwar movement changed American foreign policy, leading to an end to direct U.S. military intervention in Southeast Asia and a greater emphasis on diplomacy and economic aid in U.S. foreign policy.
  • The antiwar movement also had a lasting impact on American culture, influencing music, literature, and film, and inspiring future generations to question authority and demand change.

Chapter 19 – Surprises


  • The antiwar movement was a broad coalition of people from all walks of life and all ages, from the mainstream to the radical fringes. It was not only a movement against the Vietnam War, but a movement for social change.
  • The civil rights movement was the most powerful force for social change in American history. It was more than a demand for equal rights for African Americans, it was a demand for equality and justice for all.
  • The women’s movement and the feminist movement were not only about the demand for equal rights for women, but were also about personal liberation, freedom, and self-expression.
  • The Native American movement was an important part of the larger struggle against racism and colonialism in American society.
  • The cultural revolution of the 1960s and 1970s affected every aspect of personal life—dress, music, sex, marriage, language, food, housing, religion, death—and it challenged traditional authority.
  • The revolt against war, racism, sexism, inequality led to new ways of thinking and living that continue to be part of American culture today.


“Some of the New York Radical Women shortly afterward formed WITCH (Women's International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell) and its members, dressed as witches, appeared suddenly on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. A leaflet put out by WITCH in New York said:

WITCH lives and smiles in every woman. She is the free part of each of us, beneath the shy smiles, the acquiescence to absurd male domination, the make-up or flesh-suffocating clothes our sick society demands. There is no "joining" WITCH. If you are a woman and dare to look within yourself, you are a WITCH. You make your own rules.”

“In the problem of women was the germ of a solution, not only for their oppression, but for everybody's. The control of women in society was ingeniously effective. It was not done directly by the state. Instead the family was used- men to control women, women to control children, all to be preoccupied with one another , to turn to one another for help, to blame one another for trouble, to do violence to one another when things weren't going right. Why could this not be turned around? Could women liberating themselves, children freeing themselves, men and women beginning to understand one another, find the source of their common oppression outside rather than in one another? Perhaps then they could create nuggets of strength in their own relationships, millions of pockets of insurrection. They could revolutionize thought and behavior in exactly that seclusion of family privacy which the system had counted on to do its work of control and indoctrination. And together, instead of at odds- male, female, parents, children- they could undertake the changing of society itself.”

“The prisons in the United States had long been an extreme reflection of the American system itself: the stark life differences between rich and poor, the racism, the use of victims against one another, the lack of resources of the underclass to speak out, the endless "reforms" that changed little. Dostoevski once said: "The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons."

It had long been true, and prisoners knew this better than anyone, that the poorer you were the more likely you were to end up in jail. This was not just because the poor committed more crimes. In fact, they did. The rich did not have to commit crimes to get what they wanted; the laws were on their side. But when the rich did commit crimes, they often were not prosecuted, and if they were they could get out on bail, hire clever lawyers, get better treatment from judges. Somehow, the jails ended up full of poor black people.”

Chapter 20 – The Seventies: Under Control?


  • The American economy was in trouble in the mid-1970s, with inflation and unemployment rising.
  • The public’s faith in government was low, and the Vietnam War and Watergate had shaken confidence in the American system.
  • There was growing awareness that the world was changing and that the United States was no longer a hegemonic power.
  • Business leaders, especially, were worried about the future of capitalism and wanted to restore confidence in the system.
  • The Trilateral Commission was formed by David Rockefeller and Zbigniew Brzezinski to strengthen ties between Japan, Western Europe, and the United States in the face of a more complicated world situation than a monolithic Communism.
  • The Trilateral Commission saw itself as helping to create the necessary international links for the new multinational economy.
  • The bicentennial celebration was an attempt to restore American patriotism and unity at a time when confidence in government was low and there was much dissatisfaction among people.

Chapter 21 – Carter-Reagan-Bush: The Bipartisan Consensus


  • The United States, having been defeated in Vietnam, is determined to maintain its power and influence over Middle East oil resources.
  • The United States is prepared to use military force to accomplish this, as shown by the invasions of Grenada, Panama, and Iraq.
  • The United States is not concerned about the killing of civilians in foreign countries or the damage to their infrastructure.
  • The major media are complicit in the deception of the American public about the real reasons for U.S. military intervention abroad.
  • The Democratic Party is not an opposition party when it comes to military intervention abroad; it supports such interventions as much as the Republicans do.

Chapter 22 – The Unreported Resistance


  • The United States is a country of great wealth and great poverty.
  • The political system is dominated by those with great wealth.
  • The instruments of information are also dominated by corporate wealth.
  • The country is divided into classes of extreme wealth and extreme poverty, separated by an insecure and jeopardized middle class.
  • There is, however, a permanent adversarial culture in the United States that refuses to surrender the possibility of a more equal, more humane society.
  • That culture is sustained by the refusal of many Americans to accept the present order as inevitable, and to continue working for change, despite overwhelming odds.
  • It is sustained by the belief that America’s promise of equality and justice can be realized only if we never give up that struggle for change.

Chapter 23 – The Coming Revolt of the Guards


  • The U.S. government and the corporations it serves have committed crimes against humanity, including slavery, genocide, and wars of aggression.
  • The U.S. government has repeatedly shown that it is willing to kill its own citizens if they threaten the interests of the elite.
  • The U.S. government has repeatedly lied to its citizens and engaged in cover-ups to protect the powerful from accountability.
  • The U.S. government has used propaganda and censorship to control public opinion and suppress dissent.
  • The U.S. government has used its military and intelligence agencies to interfere in the elections of other countries and overthrow foreign governments that threatened U.S. interests.
  • The U.S. government has used its economic power to exploit the resources and labor of other countries, impoverishing their people and undermining their sovereignty.
  • The U.S. government has used its diplomatic power to impose its will on other countries, often in violation of international law and human rights norms.
  • The U.S. government has used its cultural power to impose its values and ways of life on other countries, often leading to cultural conflict and resistance.
  • The U.S. government has used its technological power to monitor, manipulate, and control individuals and groups within its own society, often in violation of privacy rights and civil liberties.
  • The U.S. government has used its legal system to protect the interests of the elite, often at the expense of the rights and welfare of ordinary citizens.
  • The U.S. government has used its police and military forces to suppress peaceful protests and dissent, often using excessive force and violating human rights norms.
  • The U.S. government has used its economic power to enrich the wealthy and impoverish the poor, both domestically and internationally, creating vast inequalities of wealth and power that undermine democracy and human rights norms.
  • The U.S. government has used its political power to manipulate the political process, often through corruption, intimidation, or violence, undermining democratic institutions and processes both domestically and internationally.
  • The U.S. government has used its media power to control public opinion, often through propaganda, censorship, or manipulation of


“All those histories of this country centered on the Founding Fathers and the Presidents weigh oppressively on the capacity of the ordinary citizen to act. They suggest that in times of crisis we must look to someone to save us: in the Revolutionary crisis, the Founding Fathers; in the slavery crisis, Lincoln; in the Depression, Roosevelt; in the Vietnam-Watergate crisis, Carter. And that between occasional crises everything is all right, and it is sufficient for us to be restored to that normal state. They teach us that the supreme act of citizenship is to choose among saviors, by going into a voting booth every four years to choose between two white and well-off Anglo-Saxon males of inoffensive personality and orthodox opinions.”

“The American system is the most ingenious system of control in world history. With a country so rich in natural resources, talent, and labor power the system can afford to distribute just enough wealth to just enough people to limit discontent to a troublesome minority. It is a country so powerful, so big, so pleasing to so many of its citizens that it can afford to give freedom of dissent to the small number who are not pleased. There is no system of control with more openings, apertures, leeways, flexibilities, rewards for the chosen, winning tickets in lotteries. There is none that disperses its controls more complexly through the voting system, the work situation, the church, the family, the school, the mass media--none more successful in mollifying opposition with reforms, isolating people from one another, creating patriotic loyalty.”

“The pretense continued over the generations, helped by all-embracing symbols, physical or verbal: the flag, patriotism, democracy, national interest, national defense, national security. The slogans were dug into the earth of American culture like a circle of covered wagons on the western plain, from inside of which the white, slightly privileged American could shoot to kill the enemy outside—Indians or blacks or foreigners or other whites too wretched to be allowed inside the circle. The managers of the caravan watched at a safe distance, and when the battle was over and the field strewn with dead on both sides, they would take over the land, and prepare another expedition, for another territory.”

“How skillful to tax the middle class to pay for the relief of the poor, building resentment on top of humiliation! How adroit to bus poor black youngsters into poor white neighborhoods, in a violent exchange of impoverished schools, while the schools of the rich remain untouched and the wealth of the nation, doled out carefully where children need free milk, is drained for billion-dollar aircraft carriers. How ingenious to meet the demands of blacks and women for equality by giving them small special benefits, and setting them in competition with everyone else for jobs made scares by an irrational, wasteful system. How wise to turn the fear and anger of the majority toward a class of criminals bred - by economic inequity - faster than they can be put away, deflecting attention from the huge thefts of national resources carried out within the law by men in executive offices.”

Chapter 24 – The Clinton Presidency


  • The United States, from the beginning, was a country of contradictions. It was founded on the principles of liberty, equality, and democracy but was built on the backs of slaves and the expropriation of land and resources from Native Americans.
  • In the nineteenth century, reformers worked to make the nation live up to its founding ideals. Abolitionists fought against slavery; suffragettes fought for women’s right to vote; labor activists struggled to end child labor and improve working conditions; and progressives pushed for a wide range of social reforms.
  • In the twentieth century, the civil rights movement won federal legislation that ended segregation in schools and public facilities, extended voting rights, and strengthened fair housing laws. The feminist movement helped bring about the Equal Rights Amendment, which was passed by Congress in 1972 but not ratified by enough states to become law.
  • In the late twentieth century, people in the United States continued to fight for equality. Movements for LGBTQ rights, disability rights, and economic justice gained momentum in the late twentieth century and into the twenty-first century.
  • The United States is still far from achieving its founding ideals of liberty and equality for all people. The gap between rich and poor continues to grow; racism continues to affect many aspects of American life; and women still earn less than men on average.
  • However, there are reasons for hope: young people are mobilizing in movements like Black Lives Matter and gun control activism; workers are fighting for better wages and working conditions; women are running for office in record numbers; and new organizations are forming to address climate change and other pressing issues facing the nation and world today.
  • The struggle for democracy is ongoing, but if citizens continue to stand up for their rights, they can create a more just society that lives up to the ideals upon which this country was founded.

Chapter 25 – The 2000 Election and the “War on Terrorism”


• The 2000 Presidential Election was the most bizarre in the nation’s history. Al Gore received hundreds of thousands of votes more than George W. Bush, but the Constitution required that the victor be determined by the electors of each state. The electoral vote was so close that the outcome was going to be determined by the electors of the state of Florida. This difference between popular vote and electoral vote had happened twice before, in 1876 and 1888.
• The voting process in Florida was riddled with controversy. There were reports that many votes had not been counted, especially in districts where many black people lived; that ballots had been disqualified on technical grounds; that the marks made on the ballots by the voting machines were not clear. Bush had this advantage: his brother Jeb Bush was governor of Florida, and the secretary of state in Florida, Katherine Harris, a Republican, had the power to certify who had more votes and had won the election.
• The Supreme Court split along ideological lines. The five conservative judges (Rehnquist, Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy, O’Connor), despite their usual conservative position of noninterference with state powers, overruled the Florida Supreme Court and prohibited any more counting of ballots. They said recounting violated the constitutional requirement for “equal protection of the laws” because there were different standards in different counties of Florida for counting ballots.
• The four liberal judges (Stevens, Ginsburg, Breyer, Souter) argued that the Court did not have the right to interfere with the Florida Supreme Court’s interpretation of state law. Breyer and Souter argued even if there was a failure to have a uniform standard in counting, the remedy was to let there be a new election in Florida with a uniform standard.
• The fact that the Supreme Court refused to allow any reconsideration of the election meant that it was determined to see that its favorite candidate, Bush, would be President. Justice Stevens pointed this out, with some bitterness, in his minority report: “Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule


“Three years before the terrible events of September 11, 2001, a former lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force, Robert Bowman, who had flown 101 combat missions in Vietnam, and then had become a Catholic bishop, commented on the terrorist bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. In an article in the National Catholic Reporter he wrote about the roots of terrorism: We are not hated because we practice democracy, value freedom, or uphold human rights. We are hated because our government denies these things to people in Third World countries whose resources are coveted by our multinational corporations. That hatred we have sown has come back to haunt us in the form of terrorism. . . . Instead of sending our sons and daughters around the world to kill Arabs so we can have the oil under their sand, we should send them to rebuild their infrastructure, supply clean water, and feed starving children. . . . In short, we should do good instead of evil. Who would try to stop us? Who would hate us? Who would want to bomb us? That is the truth the American people need to hear.”

“The democratic principle, enunciated in the words of the Declaration of Independence, declared that government was secondary, that the people who established it were primary. Thus, the future of democracy depended on the people, and their growing consciousness of what was the decent way to relate to their fellow human beings all over the world.”



  • Acknowledge your biases when presenting historical facts, as all facts are interpreted and judged as important or not by the presenter.
  • Question universal terms used to describe the state of the nation, as they often disguise the reality of class interest and inequality.
  • Study history with a critical lens, looking beyond the glib statements made by political leaders and the media.
  • Examine the role of class interest in historical events, including the formation of government and foreign policy decisions.
  • Consider alternative perspectives in history, such as those of GIs, parents who received bad news about their loved ones, and "the enemy" in wars.
  • Recognize the impact of nationalist fervor on educational systems and foreign policies, and challenge the veil of "national interest" or "national security" as justifications for military interventions.
  • Study the ineradicable issue of race in history, acknowledging that nonwhite people have been badly twisted or erased from mainstream teachings and writings.
  • Be aware of omissions in historical accounts, such as neglecting Latino and Latina people in American society or minimally treating gay and lesbian rights issues.
  • Remember that history is not transformed dramatically as calendars change, but continue to recognize the ongoing horrors while also focusing on bubbling changes under the surface of obedience, like growing revulsion against wars, insistence of women for equal rights, civil disobedience against the military machine, and more.
  • Understand that our choice to participate in shaping the future will help determine its outcome.


“I knew that a historian (or a journalist, or anyone telling a story) was forced to choose, out of an infinite number of facts, what to present, what to omit. And that decision inevitably would reflect, whether consciously or not, the interests of the historian.”

“But there is no such thing as a pure fact, innocent of interpretation. Behind every fact presented to the world - by a teacher, a writer, anyone - is a judgement. The judgement that has been made is that this fact is important, and that other facts, omitted, are not important.”

“What struck me as I began to study history was how nationalist fervor--inculcated from childhood on by pledges of allegiance, national anthems, flags waving and rhetoric blowing--permeated the educational systems of all countries, including our own. I wonder now how the foreign policies of the United States would look if we wiped out the national boundaries of the world, at least in our minds, and thought of all children everywhere as our own. Then we could never drop an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, or napalm on Vietnam, or wage war anywhere, because wars, especially in our time, are always wars against children, indeed our children.”


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