What were the major points in Howard Zinn's book that illustrate his point of view?

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

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One of Zinn's most critical points is the approach he takes in retelling history.  Zinn takes from the Kissinger line that suggests that "history is the memory of states," and develops a more "people's" approach to history. This is seen throughout his narrative.  From using little known Morris Rosenfield's "My Boy" to using Nicola Sacco's letter to his son, Dante, to the words of a cashier at a filling station in 2000 to highlight voter apathy, Zinn's major point is that history should be told from the point of view of individuals who live it.  Zinn is able to do this in using the words of individuals, of people, who are not statesman or those in the position of power.  It is in this light where Zinn's major point is emphasized through his use of historical scholarship whose focus is to give voice to the voiceless.

Another major point in A People's History of the United States is his relentless pursuit of class distinctions in American society.  The traditional narrative in American History is told through a lens where material inequalities are not prominently featured.  Zinn rejects this in detailing a Marxist narrative in American History that focuses on those who have power through economic control and those who lack it. This is a major element throughout Zinn's narrative.  It is shown in different ways and is extremely compelling as he demonstrates his points.  Zinn presents a vision in which economic control and the need to consolidate wealth drives American expansion and identity.  In a globalized world where capitalism is being embraced almost without question, Zinn's point in retelling history in a dialectical materialist manner is very effective and relevant.  Describing American History in this manner illustrates Zinn's point of view in a meaningful way.  It allows one to examine the foundations of the nation in a critical and thought provoking manner.

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