A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn

This may be the best history book I have ever read. It most certainly is different than any other. Most tell history from the top down, from the perspective of the leaders and businessmen. This book attempts to look at history from the bottom up, from the point of view of the working man. The author was a self-described democratic socialist, and this comes through clearly throughout the text.

Coming of age in during the Cold War, I was raised and educated to view all things communist and socialist as bad and wrong. And if I had read this book back then, I would probably not have read very far. I am glad that I have a much more open mind now that I am older. Much of what I learned in this book I already knew. For instance, how the United States government violated and broke every treaty we ever made with Native Americans. But there were many details that I was not aware of. For example, not only was the Army segregated during the fight against Hitler’s racism, but so was the blood bank.

In the end, this is not a perfect history book. It definitely gives a fresh and needed perspective. Neither of the political/economic extremes (capitalism and socialism/communism) works particularly well. I would like a political system that better balances the rights and freedoms of individuals with a responsibility to the community at the same time. In order to get there we need multiple viewpoints of American history. And this book is a great step in the direction of balancing the hagiography that passes for most US history.

My rating: 5/5

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