Billie Pritchett's Reviews > A People's History of the United States

A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn
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Jan 07, 2016

it was amazing
bookshelves: favorites, history, united-states
Read in April, 2010

Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States is a look at history from the perspectives of people who in various epochs of the United States were either struggling to be more free and equal or who were under oppressive forces that attempted to strip people of their liberties or exploited them as unequals. The book details U.S. history from 1492, when Columbus was enslaving Arawak people, until 2001--but before the events of September 11, because (at least my copy of) the book was published before then. Zinn admits that his account is biased, and that this is not the only way to tell the history of the U.S. But he regards it as an antidote to previous histories that either romanticized the development of the U.S. or neglected by giving scant detail the serious problems a lot of ordinary people were facing in the U.S. at various times. The book is difficult to read. Take one such period from history: At the turn into the 20th century, before the U.S. government instituted child labor laws, children were worked literally to death, and those that did not die worked in unsafe, confined conditions. In one incident, a fire broke out in a factory of all-girls (I believe) in Chicago, and, because the owners of the factory mandated that the doors be locked so that no girl would go away from her work station too early, the girls were forced to burn alive or jump to their death from the top story. Natives reported bodies of girls piling up on the streets as they jumped from the windows, and the smell of burnt hair. Again, this is not a pretty picture of history, but nor was it a pretty reality that no child labor laws prevented such exploitation from happening, in a time when large groups of poor people were compelled to work low-paying jobs out of economic need. You should read the book.
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