What is the major theme in chapter 7?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The basic theme of oppression as part of the narrative in American History comes out in chapter 7.  Zinn opens in discussing how women in the time period represented the most "interior" form of oppression, and how the most "exterior" form of repression and silencing voices came in the form of Native Americans.  Zinn argues that the Westward Expansion that was dominant in 19th Century American politics and in its historical development came at a particular price paid by the Native Americans.  The theme of oppression is illuminated with how there was a systematic marginalization of Native Americans in terms that represented both interior and exterior control.  Native Americans were demonized by the American government and their forced relocation represented a way in which White society and government drove the Native Americans away from view.  In this, silencing of voices operated on both interior and exterior levels because the subjugation of an entire group of people was done on a level in which privacy was eviscerated in the name of control.  The repression of which Zinn speaks was one in which the forceable movement of Native Americans represented the dominant theme of oppression on both interior and exterior levels.  This theme is only highlighted by the death of an estimated 4,000 Native Americans on the Trail of Tears.  Detailing the oppression on both levels becomes the main theme of chapter 7.

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jameadows | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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The major theme of Chapter 7 is the white American oppression of Native Americans--what Zinn calls "the most exterior" of all the subjugated groups in American history. Indian Removal made way for American manufacturing and agriculture and caused unmeasurable suffering among Native Americans, but Zinn states that the process of Indian Removal has been overlooked in most history books.

Indian Removal made the American definition of progress possible, and it also created heroes out of Indian fighters such as Andrew Jackson, whose massacre of the Creek paved the way for the extension of the slave-based cotton kingdom into what was then the southwest of the United States. However, history books largely omit any discussion of Jackson's war on, and extermination of, different Native American tribes. The American policy of Indian Removal can be summarized in the words of Lewis Cass, a former Secretary of War who Zinn cites: "A principle of progressive improvement seems almost inherent in human nature...But there is little of this in the constitution of our savages." White Americans did not recognize the connectedness of Native Americans to their land. When the Native Americans resisted removal west, they were subject to state laws (given approval by the federal government under Jackson), used to force the Cherokees west in the 1830s.


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