A People’s History – Columbus, The Indians and Human Progress

For those who are interested in reading along but do not have access to a hard copy of the book   History Is A Weapon has the entire A People’s History of the United States online.

And some relevent breaking newsRethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years, a resource book for teachers by Bill Bigelow,  has been banned in Tucson, Arizona schools along with many other books and The Tempest by William Shakespeare.  More here,  here and here.

When I read that Jill and Jenners were doing a group read of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States I thought great, more folks reading Zinn and finding out things they didn’t learn in school.  Then I saw some of the comments and figured I had to jump in.

I felt like I had missed something since I last read this book.  When had people started referring to Zinn as “revisionist”?  Aren’t revisionists those folks who deny the Holocaust or deny the Armenian Genocide?  Then I did a bit of digging and found out there are now two kinds of  revisionism.  Negationism and Historical Revisionism.  I’m not going to define those terms here.  If you are interested follow the links.  My only concern is that people confuse them.

Jill and Jenners have done a wonderful job of writing about the first chapter and quoting from the book, focusing on  Zinn’s reasoning for writing A People’s History and his thoughts on history and education.  I want to do something different.

When I first read this book, 25 years or so ago,  I made every effort I could to read other sources, those that Zinn had suggested and those I found on my own.  For me it was important to find books written by Native Americans,  along with those written by white people.  What follows is a list of some of them, along with a list of  my favorite poets and authors of fiction.  If A People’s History of the United States has peaked your interested, you will find these books invaluable.


All Our Relations by Winona LaDuke

Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee by Dee Brown

Custer Died For Your Sins by Vine Deloria

In the Spirit of Crazy Horse by Peter Matthiessen

The Memory of Fire Trilogy by Eduardo Galeano

Killing Custer by James Welch

Lasting Echoes: An Oral History of the United States by Joseph Bruchac

The Founders of America by Francis Jennings

Voices of Wounded Knee by William S. E. Colman

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann

Authors – Fiction and Poetry

Sherman Alexie

Jimmy Santiago Baca

Louise Erdrich

Joy Harjo

Thomas King

N. Scott Momaday

Simon Ortiz

Eden Robinson

Leslie Marmon Silko

Gerald Vizenor

James Welch

I hope you have a wonderful  Martin Luther King Day.


Filed under Group Read, History

14 responses to “A People’s History – Columbus, The Indians and Human Progress

  1. Gavin, you are just so amazing! Thanks for letting us know that A People’s History is online for us to read. Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee and Custer Died for Our Sins are two books that I want to read this year.

  2. Wow … thanks for all the information and the links and the resources. This readalong could turn into quite a project if we choose to do so. I too was curious about the terms “revisionist” history. I saw that come up quite a few times in the Amazon reviews. There sure are a lot of people out there who don’t like what Zinn is doing with this book. That just makes me all the more determined to read it. Thanks for a wonderfully informative post and for getting this information out there! I so appreciate it and I’m sure the other reading this feel the same!

    • You are welcome, Jenners. I love passing on lists of resources and I think we are going to have some interesting conversations as we read this book.

  3. After reading the first chapter, it’s hard for me to grasp just why this book would upset people so much. I think Zinn offers a very balanced argument. It’s not like he’s rewriting history (the negative version of revisionism)…he just wants to show the other side. I like to think of it as giving people more info to think on.

    And awesome list of resources/supplemental reading! I’d forgotten I have Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee around here somewhere.

    • I agree, Zinn presents a very balanced argument but some folks are so locked into their beliefs that they can’t even listen to the “other side”. Thanks so much for helping to organize this group read!

  4. Thank you so much for the resources! I know I’m going to be referring back to your list throughout the next few months! And how very cool A People’s History is available online! You are quite the resource!

  5. Thanks so much for the list, Gavin! I can’t believe I had no idea Zinn’s book was a more measured approach to American history, but I didn’t. That’s been remedied now, though, and I plan to get hold of it soon!

  6. My chapter 1 is so marked up, I’ll have to buy another copy if I ever want to re-read it…thanks for providing so much extra information to check out…While as a writing teacher I am certainly familiar with the term “revision,” I’ve never heard of the term “revisionist” in either sense you mentioned. Something else to explore :)

  7. This is terrific. Obviously because, I have clicking links and then links and forgot to come back and comment here with a THANKS.

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