What are the major themes in Chapter 2 of Howard Zinn's A Peoples' History of the United States?

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

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As with most arguments with Zinn, the basic idea that emerges out of the second chapter is the idea of how power and economic control converge in making society and developing the historical narrative.  In Chapter 2 this is seen with the issue of slavery.  Slavery is driven by the economic system of the new nation.  Zinn makes the argument that to sustain this capitalist system of wealth creation in which there is a definite higher and lower class, slaves were imported for the strict notion of greater wealth creation.  Zinn suggests that the need to grow the slave system is one in which the need to make and generate more money becomes the absolute concern of those in the new world.  At the same time, this system is one driven by power, as it sought to keep poor Whites out of it.  In this move, Zinn argues that economic control and power become the driving force behind the American narrative.  This becomes a theme that Zinn sees in the earliest stages of the American discourse and one that he continually comes back to in different contexts.


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