The future of Howard tin documentary history

A History of the American People Volume 1: Colonialism, Racism, and the Power of Money

The time has finally come: more than 25 years after the first edition, SCHWARZERFREITAG is publishing the first German-language edition of Howard Zinn's legendary People's History of the United States. Volume 1, entitled "Colonialism, Racism and the Power of Money," is available now. When the People's History of the United States first appeared in 1980, American author Howard Zinn broke new ground in the history of the United States. Zinn contrasts the concept of history, understood as the war and heroic story of "great men", with a history of the American people, which basically consists of many stories from different peoples and generations of the USA. In language that is unusually catchy for a history book, he does not write from the perspective of the conquerors, but of the conquered, does not speak of the words of glory about victorious figures, but of the losses of the conquered, explains not in the sophisticated style of the rulers, but in the unadorned language of the ruled : the factory workers, women, slaves, African-Americans, Native Americans, representatives of the working class and immigrants. See:

  • Publishing information
    Further information on the book can be found on the publisher's homepageBlack Friday. There are also links to Howard Zinn's homepage and German-language information on Wikipedia. Volume 1 and now Volume 2 are now available in a translation from the American version by Sonja Bonin.
    ISBN 3-937623-51-5; 7.80 EUR

My attitude towards describing United States history is different

2 smaller excerpts from the book A History of the American People Volume 1: Colonialism, Racism and the Power of Money exclusively on LabourNet Germany

(...) My attitude towards describing the history of the United States is different: that we cannot accept the memory of the States as our own. Nations are not, and never have been, communities. The history of every country, presented to us as the history of a family, hides bitter conflicts of interest (which sometimes break out, but mostly are suppressed) between conquerors and conquered, masters and slaves, capitalists and workers, racially or sexually dominated and dominated. And in such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is, as Albert Camus said, the task of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners.

And so on, as good as an individual person, however much he or she tries, can look at history "from the point of view of others".

My aim is not to mourn the victims and accuse the executioners. These tears, directing this anger on the past, is draining the moral energy of the present. And the line is not always easy to draw. In the long run, the oppressor is also a victim. In the short term (and so far human history has only been short term) the victims, desperate and sullied by the culture that oppresses them, seek their own victims.

Nevertheless, in understanding the complexities, this book is skeptical of governments and their attempt to harness ordinary people with the help of politics and culture and under the pretense of a common interest in a gigantic network of the national. I will try not to overlook the atrocities the victims do to one another while crammed into the system's cattle wagon. I don't want to make them more romantic than they are. But I remember a sentence (reproduced accordingly) I once read: "The cries of the poor are not always just, but if we don't listen to them we will never know what justice is."

I don't want to invent victories for popular movements. But the assumption that historiography is all about recapitulating the failures that shape history turns historians into collaborators in an endless cycle of defeat. If historiography is to be creative, if it is to anticipate a possible future without denying the past, then I mean it should reveal new possibilities by uncovering the lost opportunities from the past, if only briefly Wake up, people have shown their power to resist, band together, and on occasion even win. I suppose, or maybe I just hope so, that our future may be found in the fleeting moments of compassion in the past rather than in its perennial centuries of war.

To put it bluntly, that is my approach to United States history. The reader should know this right from the start. (...)

Excerpt from: A story of the American people. Volume 1: Colonialism, Racism and the Power of Money by Howard Zinn, pp. 24-26.

(...) There was one more control that came in handy as the colonies grew and that had crucial ramifications for the continued rule of the elite in American history. In addition to the very rich and the very poor, a white middle class of small planters, independent farmers and artisans developed in the cities who, for modest remuneration for supporting traders and planters, became a solid buffer against black slaves, frontier Indians and very much were poor whites.

The growing cities produced more educated workers, and governments tended to support white manual workers by protecting them from competition from slaves and free negroes. As early as 1686 the Council of New York ordered that "no Negro or slave should be allowed to carry goods into or out of the city as porters on the bridge". In the cities in the south, too, white craftsmen and traders were protected from Negro competition. In 1764 the South Carolina legislature forbade the use of landlords, negroes or other slaves as manual laborers or as skilled craftsmen.

Middle-class Americans have been encouraged to join a new elite through criticism of the corruption of the established elite. The New York Cadwallader Colden attacked in 1747 in his Address to the Freeholders the rich as tax evaders who do not care about the welfare of others (although he was rich himself) and spoke of the honesty and reliability of the "middle class of mankind", to whom the citizens could best entrust "our freedom and property". This should develop into a decisive rhetorical tool for the rule of the minority who spoke to the majority of "our" freedom, "our" property, "our" land.

"Similarly, the rich James Otis was able to reach the Boston middle class by attacking the Conservative Thomas Hutchinson. James Henretta has shown that while the rich ruled Boston, there were political duties open to the men of modest affluence, like" Fass - Dove Inspector, "Coal-Basket Surveyor," or "Fence Inspector." Aubrey Land found in Maryland a class of petty planters who were not "the beneficiaries" of plantation society in the same sense as the rich who were but had the honor of being called planters, and who were "respected citizens with social responsibilities as road overseers, land appraisers, and the like." It helped the Alliance to engage the middle class in "a series of activities; these included local politics, ... dances, horse races and cockfights, sometimes interrupted by drunkenness and fights ".

The Pennsylvania Journal wrote in 1756: "The population of this province is mostly of the middle class, currently about the same level. They are mainly hardworking peasants, artisans or merchants; they have and value their freedom and even the lowest of them finds respect for the greatest value". There was indeed a large middle class that fit this description. But to call them "the population" meant ignoring black slaves, white serfs and displaced Indians. And the term "middle class" hid a longstanding truth about this country, namely, as Richard Hofstadter says, "It was ... a middle-class society largely ruled by its upper classes."

These upper classes, in order to rule, had to make concessions to the middle class without harming their own wealth and power, at the expense of the slaves, the Indians, and the poor whites. That earned them loyalty. And to combine that loyalty with something stronger than purely material gain, the ruling class discovered a wonderfully useful facility in the 1760s and 1770s. It was the language of freedom and equality that united just enough whites to lead a revolution against England without abolishing slavery or inequality.

Excerpt from: A story of the American people. Volume 1: Colonialism, Racism and the Power of Money by Howard Zinn, pp. 106-109.