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View Diary: Zinn on Independence and Shallow Patriotism (147 comments)

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  •  I like Zinn's Declarations of Independence best (8+ / 0-)

    the subtitle is Cross-examining American Ideology.

    That and Zinn's The Politics of History examine major threads in US history and how they've come down the pike. Both books tackle the question of "objectivity" in depth. His major point is that we all have viewpoints, and let's get that on the table from the gitgo.

    Zinn's viewpoint (and his goal in People's History) is to tell the story of the struggles of ordinary people, the people whose stories are not often told. He sees history through their eyes, and sees ordinary people doing extraordinary things as being the vital force behind change in society. For example, civil rights did not just happen. People made it happen, and the courts and politicians responded because they were forced to respond. The 8-hour day did not just happen. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things made it happen.

    I have learned an enormous amount since truly understanding that all historians have viewpoints. The difference is that many of the older conventional historians did not admit their viewpoints. For example, the turn of the 20th century historians who wrote racist tract after racist rant about Civil War Reconstruction approached their history book-writing from the perspective of and with great deference toward Confederate leaders who led the South into war and secession. These were the rants that dominated history textbooks in school rooms all over the US for at least the first 60 years of the 20th century. With the work of Eric Foner et al., that is beginning to change. The viewpoint of the racist historians dominate the articles on Wikipedia e.g. Reconstruction, scalawags, abolitionists, the ku klux klan, and carpetbaggers, and a whole lot of related articles. (It makes me sick that the Wikipedia article on the Klan is pro-Klan). There's a conservative republican retired college teacher named rjensen who fills up those wikipedia articles with racist drivel from the Dunning School (racist turn of the 20th century) pro-segregation historians, and right now there are not enough progressives there to fight back. History does matter and whose viewpoint it is told from matters a lot.

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    by skywriter on Tue Jul 04, 2006 at 01:37:48 PM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  Well stated, skywriter. (4+ / 0-)

      Thanks for your contributions to this thread.

      civil rights did not just happen. People made it happen, and the courts and politicians responded because they were forced to respond. The 8-hour day did not just happen. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things made it happen.

      So too will a revolution occur in '06 and continue through '08 - because people like us make it happen.

    •  This was selected as one of today's Top Comments (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      va dare

      In tonight's Top Comments diary. Thanks for your contribution skywriter! Much appreciated!

      "The opposite of war isn't peace, it's CREATION." _ Jonathan Larson, RENT

      by BeninSC on Tue Jul 04, 2006 at 10:23:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  BeninSC pointed me to your comment! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      va dare

      Very nice indeed!

      Regarding the struggles of ordinary people:
      I must confess that I loved all school subjects EXCEPT history when a student.  History seemed so long ago and far away and dull to my small mind.  It was not until I became an adult and became interested in who my people were and how they came to be where they were that I became interested in history.  I then wanted to know what forces of history had impacted their lives and caused them to migrate to the places they had.

      Regarding "Ordinary people doing extraordinary things made it happen.":
      Recently on PBS, I watched a segment that highlighted strikes in Lawrence, Mass. (I think it was)at a mill that employed females and young children.  The workers discovered when they received their pay that their wages had been cut.  Most of the workers were recent immigrants, IIRC.  One of the newspaper articles of that period indicated the policemen used billy clubs on the strikers.  One pregnant female was struck in the abdomen by a policeman.  These workers were to become the IWW, a competitor of AFL-CIO, I think.  

      Howard Zinn was interviewed for the segment.  He said he did not study or know about this landmark strike while a college student.  He only learned about it on his own and much later.  

      Based on what you wrote above, I can see how such incidents drew him to the perspective of ordinary people for a study of history.  Yes, our leaders too often affect how the rest of us lead our lives, but occasionally there is power in numbers!

      Regarding the racist historians:
      I still recall a red and blue history book I had while in the ninth grade which tried to soften slavery as an institution and talked about the abuses of Reconstruction.  I think one of the authors was Summersell.

      Again, thanks for your comment and to BeninSC.

    •  we progressives need to clone ourselves (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      va dare

      I am just now finding time (stealing it from my kids) to write on Kos, I had no idea that wikipedia was filled with conservative or worse points of view. All the writers, and brains here on Kos need to clone themselves to do the work that will go out to the average joe that finds wikipedia long before someone shows them the way to Kos.

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